Conor McGregor sparring footage changes everything and nothing

Conor McGregor trains during a media workout Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Las Vegas. McGregor is scheduled to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing match Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

At long last, the world finally caught a glimpse of what Conor McGregor and his team of mad scientists have been working on for the better part of the last year. After months of buildup for a highly anticipated boxing superfight against pugilistic kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr., audiences across the globe were finally given access to the skill set the Irishman possessed as a member of the squared circle.

Kind of.

UFC president Dana White unveiled two brief clips Friday night, dropping the sort of bombs he knew would make a sizable impact on a fight he has a vested interest in. The first featured McGregor landing a blistering straight left hand onto sparring partner-turned-embattled rival Paulie Malignaggi, who somehow managed to stay on his feet despite getting crushed by what has always been considered “The Notorious'” greatest weapon.

The second video, though, is easily the more interesting of the two. After about a week of speculation and discussion, White released the video behind the most explosive photograph leading up to this fight — McGregor standing tall in the ring while Malignaggi’s back was on the canvas.

Everybody’s first thought, even if only for a brief second, was “knockdown.” Those with more sense, however, would have taken the time to justify the position with a shove. With no video evidence to solidify either side’s case, McGregor’s camp argued it was the former, while Malignaggi entertained media interviews across the globe to make his case for the latter.

Along came White to settle the argument.

This solves nothing.

Depending on the predispositions a viewer may have, this was either a clear-cut knockdown for McGregor, or, as Malignaggi put it, a shove. If nothing else, the video provides a foundation for the original dispute, solidifying a case to be made for both sides.

But White and his team of marketing geniuses surely aren’t banking on that sort of internal dialogue from general fan bases. They realize a majority of those who come across the clip will watch and realize two things: McGregor’s hands land, and Malignaggi hits the canvas — paying no attention to the subtle nuances of Malignaggi’s balance while it all transpires.

These two videos, in the eyes of those who will make up the bulk of potentially record-breaking pay-per-view buys, change everything. They suddenly make a contender out of a man making his professional boxing debut, distancing McGregor from the “puncher’s chance” category and thrusting him into one that makes him a viable candidate to hand Mayweather his first professional loss in 50 tries.

This all but guarantees a higher buy rate for the biggest fight in combat sports history. The videos all but indicate McGregor isn’t as big a pushover in the ring as many originally expected.

That’s the thing, though. We still don’t know he isn’t, and have a good amount of reason to believe he will be when he shares the ring with Mayweather on Aug. 26.

McGregor and Malignaggi went a total of 20 rounds together, locking horns for two separate sparring sessions of eight and 12 rounds before the latter broke ties with the UFC champ’s camp over promotional disputes. That, for those unfamiliar with how long boxing rounds are, equates to an hour inside the ring.

In 60 minutes, these are the two clips, totaling about 17 seconds, White and his team decided to drop. There’s no arguing that McGregor was the better of the two in the brief window we were given to examine the sparring session, but there’s also virtually no way of telling just how competitive McGregor was for the remaining 59 minutes and 43 seconds.

Did he gas out as the fight wore on, as Malignaggi claimed in a slew of interviews? Or did he look this impressive for a majority of his time in the ring with a former IBF and WBA champion? There’s no way of knowing until the full footage is released — assuming it ever is.

Until then, this changes nothing for those who understand what purpose these videos served, and how selective the UFC was when dropping these particular videos in the first place. This especially changes nothing for those who realize what differences exist in the defensive arsenals of Malignaggi and Mayweather.

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