Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.
Unless you’re talking about money, the wrong fight is taking place on Aug. 26. If we’re talking about the fight that makes the most financial sense, then Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor is obviously the way to go. However, when it comes to actual intrigue and a fight that would be far more competitive than what we are about to see, McGregor- Paulie Malignaggi is the fight to make.
From a storyline standpoint, McGregor-Malignaggi makes a ton of sense. After everything that has transpired between them on social media regarding their sparring sessions and Malignaggi’s appearance on The MMA Hour trashing McGregor’s way of handling the sparring, there is undoubtedly more heat between those two than whatever manufactured feud they are trying to process with McGregor and Mayweather; and from a sheer talent perspective, a boxing match between McGregor and Malignaggi is far more competitive than one between the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder and one of the greatest boxers of all-time.
The recently retired Malignaggi possesses the gift of gab to keep the trash talk interesting, but there are other aspects of his game that would make a fight with McGregor quite intriguing. First and foremost, Malignaggi should remain the prohibitive favorite considering that he is a former two-division world champion who has competed with some of boxing’s best. That experience alone should have him as the betting favorite, although it could be expected that the sportsbooks would lean on McGregor.
A couple of things make this fight interesting. First off, Malignaggi isn’t what he once was. The 36-year-old retired after being stopped in the eighth round of his bout with Sam Eggington on March 4. He’s clearly no longer at his peak, but even a Malignaggi at 50 percent would be competitive against a mixed martial artist who has never boxed professionally.
Even better, Malignaggi does not figure to be much of a threat to stop McGregor, as he is far from a power puncher. Unlike Mayweather, who has his fair share of stoppages (26 in 49 fights), Malignaggi has never been known to be a hard puncher. Over the course of his 16-year career, he has only stopped seven of his 44 opponents. For much of his career, he relied on his speed and reflexes to outpoint his opponents. Now that he’s past his prime, those key attributes have diminished, which allows McGregor to make up some much-needed ground in the boxing proficiency department.
Also unlike Mayweather, Malignaggi wasn’t known as a defensive wizard. To ask McGregor to comprehend distance and spacing in boxing against an average opponent is one thing, but to ask him to do it against one of the greatest defensive boxers of all-time is a tall order. This does not even mention that it can ultimately make for a dull fight should Mayweather decide to do just enough to frustrate McGregor round after round and opt to avoid taking any chances. Against Malignaggi, McGregor will have an opponent who is a bit easier to hit. Although Malignaggi would prove to be a better defensive boxer than anybody McGregor has faced in the Octagon, the former champion would give the Irishman far more opportunities to connect with his big left hand.
Regardless of what happens on Aug. 26, if McGregor is serious about a career in boxing, perhaps he should consider a fight with Malignaggi. Granted, the one thing we don’t want to see happen is the UFC lightweight division go into a holding pattern. That means McGregor needs to defend the title he won almost a year ago once his business with Mayweather wraps up. Should the fight go as we expect it to go and Mayweather wins, McGregor should consider finding a way to face his old sparring partner. It wouldn’t pay as much as the Mayweather fight, but it certainly would fetch a decent penny considering their history; and it’s not like Malignaggi would turn down the fight, as he would certainly view it as an easy payday.
It’s unfortunate that McGregor-Malignaggi couldn’t happen before the Mayweather fight. For obvious reasons, McGregor wouldn’t want to jeopardize his massive payday by taking -- and possibly losing -- a fight against someone else. Anybody who is smart enough to see through the circus of Mayweather-McGregor would understand why a fight with Malignaggi is much more suitable for “Mystic Mac.” However, money talks, and given that the Irishman has carried the UFC on his back for the past couple of years and remains MMA’s biggest star, the market for a circus fight is more welcoming than ever before.