The bad blood between retired boxer Paulie Malignaggi and former UFC fighter Artem Lobov will finally boil over this weekend at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships (BKFC) 6 from Florida.
The long simmering feud originated with Malignaggi and Lobov’s close friend and teammate Conor McGregor after they were sparring partners for a very brief period of time in the lead up too the Irishman’s fight against Floyd Mayweather in 2017.
A lone sparring session where McGregor reportedly got the better of Malignaggi has led to one of combat sports’ most heated rivalries. Now it will result in Malignaggi facing McGregor’s proxy in Lobov in a bare knuckle brawl this weekend on pay-per-view.
While Lobov will be the one swinging punches in the ring, Malignaggi has made it clear that his ire starts with McGregor but it’s not likely he’ll ever get a chance to face him unless the former two-division UFC champion opts out of mixed martial arts and decides to try his hand at boxing again.
As much as the attention has shifted towards Malignaggi facing Lobov this weekend, the one question remaining ahead of the fight is whether or not McGregor will be in attendance to support his friend and teammate?
“They won’t give confirmation yet but if I’m a betting man, I’m betting he’s coming,” BKFC president David Feldman told MMAFighting when asked about McGregor’s attendance at the event. “They’re not going to give confirmation and if they are, they’re not going to tell us so we put it out there ‘hey Conor McGregor’s coming to the fight’ and then he’s mobbed.
“So it’s not going to happen like that but from the conversations I’m having, if I was going to bet on it, he’ll be there but who knows.”
McGregor is known as a master of head games and there might not be a better way to distract Malignaggi in the lead up to his fight against Lobov than having the former UFC champion taunting him from ringside.
“I think if Conor shows up, it’s a huge advantage for Artem,” Feldman added.
Whether McGregor makes an appearance or not, Feldman promises that BKFC is taking every necessary step to ensure Malignaggi and Lobov don’t come to blows before they meet in the ring on Saturday night.
There have already been two physical altercations in the past including the press conference to announce the event where Malignaggi spat at Lobov following a heated face off.
“I talked to Paulie about the spitting. I think the spitting took it a step too far and our company definitely doesn’t condone that,” Feldman said. “The verbal whatever, pushing a guy in the heat [of the battle], that’s all part of face offs and press conferences but spitting took it to a new level.
“We don’t condone that and we really wish it didn’t happen but it did create a lot of hype for the fight.”
As far as a third incident in the days leading to BKFC 6, Feldman says that the company is doing everything possible to keep Malignaggi and Lobov separated so they can finally settle the score in the arena where they are being paid to do it rather than a press conference stage instead.
“We’re going to have ample security at the press conference and the weigh-ins,” Feldman revealed. “They’re staying at different hotels so that’s not going to be an issue but definitely as the press conference and weigh-in where we know they will see each other. I don’t think if they see each other, they’re going to just jump in but when they get in each other’s face and they’re that close and then they start talking, that’s when the problems arise.
“So we’re definitely going to have ample security, more than ample security and I don’t see anything arising. I don’t think either of them want to blow the opportunity for this event and they don’t want to blow their pay either.”
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