Just In What are Paulie Malignaggi and Artem Lobov really selling, and are we seriously going to buy it? MMA Life

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There’s still a month left before they actually fight, and already Paulie Malignaggi has his dial cranked up to 11.

Seriously, you saw him at Monday’s Bare Knuckle FC press conference, right? Or you at least read the quotes afterward? This guy showed up in a nifty blue suit and hat, tried to bop Artem Lobov on the head with a microphone, then threatened to urinate in his mouth (live on pay-per-view, naturally) after knocking all his teeth out in their June 22 bout.

Oh, he also reiterated plans to put Lobov in a coma or possibly even a casket, which he somehow managed to frame as something akin to a public service.

See, in Malignaggi’s mind, there’s an ongoing dispute between the worlds of MMA and boxing, and the core issue is a disagreement over which sport is more dangerous. Nevermind that almost no one else seems to be actually having that argument along those terms, Malignaggi is still intent on winning it by maiming Lobov. And isn’t it nice when the obvious course of action is the thing you want to do anyway?

“At the end of the day, no matter what happens to you guys, (tapping) assures you you’re gonna see that guy next week,” Malignaggi said at Monday’s press conference. “(Tapping) assures you you’re gonna see that guy in a few months. In boxing, you don’t have those assurances, so there’s a respect level even to the trash talk that we have, and it’s being surpassed now, it’s being overcome with this garbage that we have from this other community. For me, I think the way you solve it, seeing one of their own in a coma, seeing one of their own in a (expletive) coffin. Then you say, ‘You know what, this (expletive) is not a joke.’”

Yes, of course. That’s exactly what we need. If only some fighter would get seriously injured or killed, then maybe fighters and fans would show everyone the proper respect. Just take it from the guy who’s threatening public urination into someone’s mouth as a victory celebration.

For BKFC, this is apparently about as good as it gets. This is the bare-knuckle Ali-Frazier, the ungloved fight of the century, or so all the promotional efforts would have us believe.

What’s on offer here is pretty clear. It’s your classic grudge match blown all out of proportion, with the thinnest possible connection to a superstar who remains forever just offstage, but never far from anyone’s mind. Conor McGregor is the link that makes this fight what it is, even if what it is feels increasingly gross and ridiculous.

Malignaggi seems to have two main goals here. First, he wants attention and money, and he figures spitting on people in the lead-up to a bare-knuckle boxing match will get him at least one of those things. Second, he wants a lucrative form of revenge against McGregor, and he’s apparently seen all the same movies the rest of us have, from “Rocky IV” to “Kickboxer.”

You want a fight with a certain individual? Maim or murder his friend/brother, and then the guy will have no choice but to fight you. Works every time. Even if it doesn’t usually end well for the maimer/murderer.

So that’s Malignaggi’s interest here. Lobov’s is a little more simplistic. He needed a job, BKFC gave him one, and this former boxing champ who hates his friend is now the biggest fight he can get. When it comes to the theatrics, he seems to get enraged right on cue, but he also seems occasionally baffled at the stupidity of it all, just like the rest of us.

“Look at this guy; he’s a loser,” Lobov said this week, trying his best to join the trash talk party. “He spits on people’s work. He spat on a mural, someone’s passion, someone’s hard work. Now again, what kind of behavior is that?”

Say what you want about Lobov’s skills as a fighter, but let us remember him as a man who respects artists and the work they do.

So what are we in it for, to the extent that we care at all? Well, it’s a spectacle. It’s big and loud and too obnoxious to ignore. There’s a promise of extra brutality and intensity and even a weird intimacy, thanks to the bare-fisted aspect. Maybe there’s even some sick part of us that wants to find out if Malignaggi’s ludicrously excessive behavior will carry over into fight night.

It’s not an appeal to our most dignified selves. It’s more like a sales pitch to our more reliable impulses. If you want to get our attention, it helps to give us something so overwhelmingly absurd that we can’t look away.

It’s just, they might want to pace themselves. When you’re threatening to pee in someone’s mouth a month before the fight, there’s really only so many places you can go from there – and every single one of them is awful.

For more on the upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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