In McGregor's Corner: Why insults, like Paulie Malignaggi calling me a 'bum', come with the territory
“The sparring partners he has there, the only decent one was Dashon Johnston who is basically a journeyman junior middleweight and they weren’t even using him in the end. The guy he’s using is some no-name amateur and a couple of MMA guys”
SEE the ‘no-name amateur’ there in the last line, I’ll give you three guesses who that is?
Just when you thought Paulie-gate had died down, up he pops again, talking away to anybody who will listen.
Last week’s column looked at the whole fall-out from his brief time in camp, the fabled second spar, the knockdown and the trash talk afterwards.
The reaction to my version of events, having been in Paulie Malignaggi’s corner for both his spars with Conor, brought a serious amount of reaction on social media. Much more than I would have expected.
Some of the comments were funny, some nice, some not so nice - it divided opinion right down the middle and the story really grew from there.
Lots of people have been asking whether Paulie got in touch afterwards; of course he did. You think Paulie Malignaggi could hold his tongue if he thinks someone’s having a go at him?
At the end of last week he sent me a WhatsApp message, and if I was to print it all there wouldn’t be much room for anything else.
There were a couple of digs about me suggesting he had been genuinely knocked down by Conor, about siding with Conor in public and being the only one in the so-called ‘crackhouse’ (his words, not mine) to do so.
Then at other times he was saying ‘I know where you’re coming from, you’re still young, I’m all for young fighters doing well in their lives and I understand why you’ve taken Conor’s side’.
It was all a bit confused but we ended up on decent terms. We said we’d see each other on fight night and hopefully have a laugh about the whole thing.
Since that exchange he went on the MMA Hour programme on Monday night and called me a ‘no-name amateur’ and ‘a bum’. Never mind having a laugh on fight night, maybe we should see if we can get on the undercard? There’s still time!
Seriously though, those kind of comments are like water off a duck’s back. At 20 years old, I’m comfortable with where I am in my career, and grateful for the opportunity I’ve been afforded here. I know how lucky I am.
Plus, you very quickly learn that abuse comes with the territory. Ever since I joined this camp, I’ve had people on social media asking who the hell I am, saying I’m not experienced enough to be working with Conor, telling me I’m a nobody.
The strength of feeling, both positive and negative, that Conor McGregor generates means you get some pretty extreme views – and the comments aimed at me were nothing compared to those directed at Dashon Johnston, Conor’s other sparring partner.
He was subjected to racial slurs, called a slave, an ‘Uncle Tom’ - really disgusting stuff. It makes you wonder what goes on inside some peoples’ heads. At the end of the day it’s a fight – a huge one, no doubt – but there’s bigger things going on in the world.
As for Paulie… Paulie talks, and Paulie will continue to talk. That’s who he is, lots of people love him for it, so you wouldn’t want to change that.
I may be young, but I’m a big enough boy to take what he said on the chin - just like he took Conor’s left hand on the chin on his way to the floor.
At the end of it all, what happened in that spar, whether it was a knockdown or not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s what happens on August 26 that matters, nothing else.
IT was funny to watch Conor at the media day last week – he just lives and breathes for those kind of occasions.
When I arrived at the UFC Performance Institute, I couldn’t believe the amount of reporters, cameras and TV crews present. They were all initially stationed on the run above the ring, looking down on us. It was like being in a zoo.
As soon as Conor came in and started to get his hands wrapped by Tommy McCormack, they all descended on him.
I can honestly say that, in all the time I’ve spent with Conor, that was the most comfortable and the most at ease I’ve seen him.
It sounds odd, but away from the cameras he’s very chilled, very focused. Ultra professional. Don’t get me wrong, he does have confidence and he’s good craic, good company, but it’s not like he’s taking the piss out of everybody 24/7.
He’s not strutting around the gym in a polar bear coat roaring expletives, tapping your head, gyrating in front of you, throwing bottles and talking trash. Well, not all the time…
But you cans see he just comes alive when there is an opportunity to perform, and he had the media in the palm of his hand.
There’s a saying in the camp ‘pressure makes diamonds’, and you can see that when the heat is on, when others would feel intimidated, that’s when Conor McGregor shines.
A lot has been said and written about his bag work and his warm-up in the ring, most of it fairly critical - but there is a method to the perceived madness.
The loose-limbed exercise that inspired so many GIFS over the weekend is a simple warm-up routine Conor does with Ido Portal, the renowned movement coach who has been part of his team for years.
I’ve been lucky to join in a couple of sessions with Portal, and the man is a genius. For example, when you’re shadow boxing he’ll be telling you to position yourself in different ways to transfer power better without putting too much pressure on other areas.
It’s not boxing training, but a lot of what he teaches goes hand in hand with the sport. The main aim is to show you how best to use your body.
Those who laugh are sheep, happy to stick only with what they know. Conor has always approached combat sports with an open mind, and it has already taken him to the top of the MMA world.
In 10 days’ time we’ll find our how far it can take him inside the ring. Watch this space.
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