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Paulie Malignaggi: If McGregor intends to win a fight, he shouldn’t fight anyone that knows how to box

Paulie Malignaggi discusses Conor Mcgregor, if Jim Rome would make a good replacement for Mike Goldberg and more.

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Zab Judah v Paulie Malignaggi Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Conor McGregor had a tremendous 2016. He fought three times and broke PPV records. He walked away from last year having won two belts, and with millions of dollars to spend. Conor wasn’t the only one having a big year, though. The UFC, in general, had its biggest year (at least news-wise), also. Change was the theme of 2016, all the way down to the sale of the promotion. As a result of the sale, we saw several well-known faces leave the WME-IMG property. Among those, one Mike Goldberg, play-by-play commentator.

In a recent interview with Bloody Elbow’s Three Amigos Podcast, multi-time boxing champion and current analyst for Showtime and Sky Sports, Paulie Malignaggi weighed in on Goldberg’s possible replacement (Jim Rome), how Conor McGregor would do in boxing, how important “ignorant” fans are and the MMA fight he found most memorable last year.

Fan ignorance on why he’d lobby for a big $ fight with McGregor

“Fans will be fans. I actually get a comical kick out of it because you can’t expect everybody to understand. They’re gonna watch something and make their own ignorant opinion of it, and that’s fine. I think in the end, the ignorant opinions are probably what sell in combat sports more than anything else. If you didn’t have enough ignorant opinions, there wouldn’t be a lot of sales in combat sports.

I feel like most of the opinions of people that watch these kind of fights are probably ignorant and they don’t know anything, and that’s not even said in a disrespectful manner. You’ll get a lot of stupid people that will buy a lot of fights that aren’t worth the time.

In boxing, people are talking about Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. in May. That’s a waste-of-time-fight, but it will probably get a ton of buys. I think the ignorant opinions are what make the fight game so interesting—you’ll generate buys, you’ll generate hype, you’ll generate an incredible difference of opinion in debates. Once you have debates on a fight, you’ve generated interest, and the interest generates buys and sales and whatnot, so to answer your question, no, there’s nothing frustrating about it.

You mention Conor McGregor, going back to Stephanie’s question about his striking, I think McGregor has some good striking skills. I think the Diaz brothers have some good striking skills, and there’s probably a few other guys, as well.

The striking skills in mixed martial arts are a little bit different than the striking skills you need in boxing. In MMA, you can back yourself up with a Muay Thai clinch, or you can spear the guy and take him down, or a kick or throw. The angles are different when they’re coming from a pure boxing perspective.

A boxer comes to MMA, he’s going to be slipping and sliding a certain way, and he may wind up with a kick to his face. Again, the way you’ve got to throw, the way you’ve got to step to the side—whatever you’ve got to do after you punch—is very different in boxing than in MMA.

I think you’ll find yourself a fish out of water if you try to interchange both sports. I know we saw Holly Holm do it, but that was a rare thing. I think female mixed martial arts is still in a bit of a process to reach the same skill level that the men have. Ronda Rousey was a great judo artist, but that was about it, and I think that showed in the Holly Holm fight.

I think the last time the men were getting by and winning championships with just one skillset was probably the first five or ten UFCs. After that, you started seeing the necessity for guys to have a legitimate mixed martial arts skillset.

If you take a boxer and stick him in the Octagon, it’s just not gonna work, because he’s limited to just his one skill. MMA has evolved to a much different level these days. If you take a mixed martial artist and put him in a boxing ring, it’s going to be the same thing. The angles are different. The movement is different.

I can take a guy who’s never been in a boxing ring and put him in the position I want him to be in without ever having to throw a punch. The way I’m cutting him off, the way I’m moving, the looks I’m giving him defensively will make him move in a certain way that I want him to go, and he won’t even realize he’s being set for a trap because he’s not a real boxer.

Somebody told me about Conor—he had a handful of amateur fights and whatnot—if he’d won anything in the amateurs, I’d know about it. The level he fought at is first year of boxing stuff. I’ve learned a lot since my first year of boxing. It’s like night and day. It’s really almost a ridiculous comparison. As long as the fighters know it’s a ridiculous comparison, because fans are going to be dumb anyway. The fact that anybody that thinks it would be a risk for me to fight Conor McGregor in a boxing ring—I get a good laugh out of it. Ultimately, I think the fighters understand that, and because they understand that, I don’t think I ever see Conor McGregor boxing in my lifetime.”

If Conor made the switch to boxing, what level would he be at?

“The only way he’ll take a risk in boxing is if it’s a $100M risk. You may take a beating, but it’s worth it because of the money you’re doing it for. It’s going to totally destroy him. No matter who he boxes, it’s going to ruin his image.

That’s the thing about Conor McGregor; he’s got this amazing image, so people think he’s this incredible fighter and that will carry over even if he transitions to another combat sport. That image—you don’t want to wreck it if you’re Conor Mcgregor or Dana White. You don’t want to wreck that image, because it can never be rebuilt if he gets embarrassed.

I think Conor is no dummy. I think he knows he can’t be striking the same way in the ring that he does in the cage. You can’t be jumping in with those left hands any way you want to. No Superman punches are gonna land in boxing. As a matter of fact, you try a Superman punch in boxing, not only are you gonna miss, you’re gonna get countered heavily. It’ll probably be the last Superman punch you throw in the boxing ring.

I don’t know that Conor even knows how to adapt, because I’ve seen the sparring videos, and I’ve watched him moving in directions that he shouldn’t have been moving in and putting himself in positions that could be dangerous, where he doesn’t even know where he’s going. In his mind, he’s just moving around the ring. There’s no particular reason behind what he’s doing, and if you put him in with a capable boxer, they’re going to take advantage of that and put him in dangerous positions.

If you put him in boxing, you probably have to treat him as a prospect, just like these 20-year-old-prospects that turn pro and get put through the normal phases. You have to start Conor from the beginning. There’s no other way to put it. If Conor McGregor intends on winning a fight, he probably can’t fight anybody that knows how to box, even relatively speaking.”

Memorable Fights – Good Strikers

“As far as memorable fights go, I’m friends with Chris Weidman, so I’m always looking forward to him trying to come back from the little bit of negative spell he’s had this year. The good thing about the UFC is that you can bring yourself back in one or two fights. We saw that with Michael Bisping. People had kind of written him off and then he comes back and wins the title off Luke Rockhold. That was a fight that was both surprising and a feel good story.

I think with guys like Weidman and Showtime Pettis—another guy I’m friendly with—they show there are opportunities in the UFC that aren’t in boxing, where you can jump right back into the mix real fast. With one or two key wins, you’re right back where you need to be. In boxing, you’ve sometimes got to get to the back of the line.”

Possibly replacing Goldie with Jim Rome

“Listen, Jim is a great TV personality. He’s a guy that can speak in a way, using fascinating terminology, to make it entertaining for the fans, but I do think the UFC has its own entertainment brand, as is. I think Jim Rome’s brand fits the UFC in that he has a bit of an outlandish personality and people will take to that.

That said, I think the play-by-play announcer should be done by a play-by-play guy. Myself, for example, I’m very capable as an analys, but I could never take my colleague, Mauro Ranallo’s job. He’s my play-by-play guy and he does an excellent job. I see the way he does it, and that’s just a skill I don’t think I could pull off. I prefer my own role, and that’s as an analyst.

So, I think you probably want a play-by-play guy doing the blow-by-blow commentary. Then you have your analysts, like Joe Rogan and a couple other guys like Kenny Florian. I think having a set play-by-play / blow-by-blow guy is very important, and they should have experience in that department.”

There was much, much more in this excellent interview, and you can listen HERE at the 54:35 mark of the audio or via the embedded player below. Remember, if you're looking for us on SoundCloud or iTunes, we're under the MMA Nationname. Follow our Twitter accounts: Stephie Haynes, Three Amigos Podcast, George Lockhart, Iain Kiddand Mookie Alexander or our Facebook fan page, Three Amigos Pod.

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