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John Kavanagh Thanks Paulie Malignaggi, Happy With Conor McGregor's Prep

John Kavanagh Thanks Paulie Malignaggi, Happy With Conor McGregor's Prep
Photo: © Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
For FloCombat via A.G Fight

On August 26, worlds collide when UFC champion Conor McGregor faces boxing champion Floyd Mayweather inside the boxing ring.

And while the spectacle will most likely break records at the bank, combat sports pundits are naturally skeptical regarding the match between a pound-for-pound great and a boxing novice.

McGregor's longtime coach John Kavanagh is aware of that and won't even try to talk the experts into believing in his star pupil.

"I think that whatever response I give, it's not going to change their minds," Kavanagh said. "So, I hope to change their minds on August 26."

That's when McGregor and Mayweather will take to the ring inside Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena, where McGregor earned one of the biggest triumphs of his career when he defeated Nate Diaz via majority decision in their August 2016 rematch at UFC 202. While the setting might be the same, what happens under the bright lights this time will follow different rules.

"No elbows, no knees," Kavanagh laughed when asked about the differences in preparing for their first professional boxing match. "I'm kidding. As you know when you're training mixed martial arts, you've got to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling and Thai boxing. So, this one has been fun to do, just one martial art.

"It's only with the hands, so we were able to put a lot more time into just one martial art, which feels like a luxury. Because, obviously, Conor is a very good boxer. If you watch his MMA fights, he wins a lot of his fights with boxing techniques, but we of course have to work our wrestling defense or jiu-jitsu on the ground. So, it's been fun to only train one martial art."

In order to excel in that one discipline in just a limited amount of time, the McGregor camp brought in experts from the noble art.

"I've watched him spar a world champion, and I was very happy with how that went," Kavanagh said. "That confirmed to me that he'll do just fine on August 26."

The person this statement most likely refers to is Paulie Malignaggi.

And while the former IBF and WBA champion, according to Kavanagh, put in some good rounds with McGregor, their training relationship blew up when a sparring photo and video was leaked that suggested McGregor had knocked down Malignaggi.

The boxer of course didn't like the way he was portrayed and promptly left the camp, starting a public feud in which he claimed that the fall was the cause of a pushdown rather than a knockdown. Whatever it might've been that placed Malignaggi on his glutes, the situation took on a life of its own online and on TV.

Kavanagh doesn't understand where all the chaos is coming from.

"If you follow Conor at all, the lead-up to a fight, it's social media frenzy," Kavanagh said. "You sign the agreement to be a part of the team. You're going to be on social media, that's just… Fighting has changed over the last few years, and Conor has been a big part of fighting changing. And things like Instagram and Snapchat and all these social media things, they're still quite new, and I think MMA fighters might be a little bit more used to that than boxing fighters.

"But yeah, I didn't see any big deal in a photograph going out. I will say that I haven't really followed what Paulie has been doing afterwards. I've just followed what happened in the ring and I've been very happy with Paulie. I thought he was a great sparring partner. I enjoyed the brief company I had with him and I'm very grateful that he agreed to be a part of it, because we got a lot of good rounds out of him and it confirmed to me that a lot of the strategies and techniques we're going to be using will cross over and will work fine in the boxing ring."

Even without the renowned boxer as part of camp, Kavanagh is confident they've got McGregor prepared for Mayweather. That is even without being able to accept the "very generous offer" that WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko recently put out to assist McGregor in camp.

The Ukrainian had offered to replace Malignaggi in the gym, but while Kavanagh made it a point to make it clear it would be "a great honor" to work with him in the future, bringing in a new partner just two weeks out from the fight would've made little sense.

Kavanagh, though, finds solace in believing that while it's hard to find training partners for a fight against Mayweather, the undefeated former champion will find it much harder to find training partners who can mimic McGregor.

"Of course, you're never going to get someone who mirrors perfectly, and Mayweather is obviously very good at what he does," Kavanagh said. "But, I still would find it a lot easier to find somebody to somewhat mimic Mayweather than [it is for] Mayweather, [who] will find it impossible to find someone to mimic what Conor is going to do.

"Nobody knows what Conor is going to do. We're really the only ones who've seen what he's going to do in the fight. And whoever he has brought in to be his sparring partner, it will not be the same as what he's going to get on fight night, so that's going to be interesting to see, how that plays out."
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