Former boxing world champion Paulie Malignaggi has confirmed his promoter Al Haymon has had discussions with UFC President Dana White regarding a fight with Conor McGregor.
Malignaggi, who acted as a sparring partner for McGregor in the build-up to his bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. before leaving his camp, spoke to FightHype (warning: contains NSFW language):
Per Alex Terrell of The Sun, he said: "I know Al Haymon's talking to Dana White. I know they're speaking, so if they want the fight they'll make it. Once I spoke to Al and Team Haymon, and they told me they wanted to make this fight, I knew that the only way this fight doesn't happen is if [Conor McGregor] has absolutely no balls."
Malignaggi believes there is extra incentive for McGregor to make a return to boxing over the Octagon: "This fight will pay him more, this fight will get him more exposure. This fight is a bigger fight than anybody else he has. There's no more Mayweather fight. This fight is the biggest fight there is."
The American also said McGregor should accept the challenge "even if it's not his next fight." The Irishman is obliged to fight Tony Ferguson in a UFC lightweight title unification bout after he won the interim title in McGregor's absence.
There's no love lost between the pair after Malignaggi's spell as McGregor's sparring partner in the summer, and MMA Fighting's Danny Segura was among those at the time to invite a showdown between the two:
Danny Segura @DannySeguraTV
At this point, I rather see McGregor-Malignaggi over McGregor-Mayweather. Beef is definitely more genuine. #TheMMAHour2017-8-7 21:38:25
Magic Man took issue with McGregor's camp posting photos of their sessions that appeared to depict The Notorious getting the better of him, per the Mirror's N. Martin Domin:
N. Martin Domin @martin_domin
Conor McGregor suffers blow ahead of Floyd Mayweather fight as Paulie Malignaggi walks out of training camp https://t.co/ApF654UOus https://t.co/Ga5v8FLcIg2017-8-4 07:03:30
That was not the case, according to the retired two-weight world champion, however:
Paul Malignaggi @PaulMalignaggi
I actually beat his ass, 24 hrsoff a flight 2 lol, which is why Im saying post the vid, I try not 2 be petty but seems it's late 4 that now. https://t.co/vSE2Iw4ffM2017-8-4 01:34:42
Malignaggi revealed he was asked to go the distance with McGregor in sparring with just one day's notice, and he told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour (MMA Junkie's Simon Samano) the UFC fighter is "one of the biggest dirtbags I've ever met in my life."
The feeling appears mutual as McGregor described him as a "f--king rat of a thing," according to Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star (warning: contains NSFW language).
He also said he intends to fight in UFC next: "Look, I've got the UFC title to defend and that means something to me. I will defend that world title. I'm not going to go out with this little weasel."
Given the bad blood between the pair, it may not be too surprising if they were to step into the ring at some point down the line, though it appears a fight with Ferguson is on the cards first.
As Mayweather did, Malignaggi would have the advantage of competing in his natural sport, and he would also be coming back after a spell out of boxing following his retirement earlier this year.
However, while McGregor is still a novice, the Irishman does now have some experience of a professional boxing fight and would have more time to improve on what he can do, so he should not be taken lightly if the pair do face off.