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Artem Lobov: Paulie Malignaggi might make it two rounds with me

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Artem Lobov and Paulie Malignaggi are selling a fight, but Lobov has to win first on Saturday.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Gdansk-Lobov vs Fili Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

The Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships has made solid impact in a single year of being in the game; last June they had their first event and on Saturday, the outfit will run a card, their fifth since forming, in Biloxi, Miss.

Promoter David Feldman was turned down by 28 states, but is now being embraced more and more. He signed current Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi, who held crowns at 140 and 147 and retired from boxing after losing to Sam Eggington in March 2017.

Feldman came on the Everlast Talkbox podcast, and said he has momentum because, among other reasons, he’s offering good money to come to BKFC.

He was joined by Artem Lobov, a Russian-born hitter who is pals with Conor McGregor, the quite notorious Irishman who is enjoying solid sales for his whiskey, but also staring at dealings with law enforcement and some pretty hardcore allegations against him. Lobov is 13-15-1-1 in MMA, and decided to try his hand at the bare knuckle fighting, with an eye on matching himself with Malignaggi. If Lobov gets the better of Jason Knight in Biloxi, he will likely fight Paulie in June.

“I always loved fighting, always,” Lobov told us. His mom back in the Soviet Union made him do ballroom dancing, because she wanted to steer him away from a desire to fight. His mom was afraid he’d break his nose, and guess what? He told us he’s never had that nose broken in his years fighting.

“But I don’t care, bring it on, take the nose, just show me the money,” he said.

Lobov said he and McGregor “came up together, our friendship is based on blood, sweat and broken bones.”

Back in Ireland, the Russian was in the gym and he raised his hand when Conor asked who wanted to spar. They’d spar with no coaches around, just rumble, and indulge in what their blood destined them for.

I think you have to do a little bit crazy to do this, to truly do this,” Lobov said. “If you aren’t a little crazy then you get those fucking boring fights, when the two guys are holding each other. What the hell is this? When I fight, I just see, this motherfucker just insulted my girlfriend, and I have to come up to him and put him through the wall. What am I going to hug him for the next 15 minutes? ‘Oh honey, I got him back for you!’ No, you have to punch a hole through his face.”

Yes, Lobov was on a roll, and knew he was OK with using the F-bombs. 90-year-old Art Lovely watched in fascination and it was clear the vocab choice was not to his liking.

Feldman said Lobov brings “flavor,” and “he wants to stand there and bang. After this fight, I want to put him in there with the squared circle with Paulie Malignaggi.”

Feldman told listeners that he did a podcast in Vegas, and Feldman gave Paulie a ride back to the hotel. Paulie pitched him on commentating, and Feldman re-directed him toward fighting.

We then talked about peoples’ motivations. We don’t know Paulie’s business, but I’m assuming he still wants to fight, because that’s in his blood. What does Lobov think?

“He’s fat and lazy, Paulie Malignaggi is coming back at 38 years old because he’s broke,” Lobov said. “If he wasn’t broke, do you think he’d be commentating week after week? He’s eating shit, and maybe one day he was in the pound-for-pound rankings, right now he’s in pound-for-extra-pound rankings. It’s an easy fight for me!”

Lobov said the brain shrinks as you get older and that will make it easier for him to KO Paulie.

“I get to take out a big name who used to be a big name in boxing and get paid for it, so what’s not to like,” said Lobov.

Lobov was asked how good a boxer he is? He said he’s put in the rounds in training, and done excessive sparring when living in Ireland.

“There’s no other way to do it,” he said.

He’s fighting Euro champs, he added. “I am so ready for this. I never got a chance to show my true standup potential,” he said, because in UFC, too many guys want to grapple and “cuddle.”

He might even get into pro boxing with Feldman backing him, he shared.

Next I asked him to pretend I was Paulie.

“My message to Paulie is,” Lobov said, calling Paulie a “fat mess,” staring double daggers at me, “wrap yourself in bubble wrap, and don’t let anything happen to you until I get my chance to get my payday, and then both of us get paid, and he can retire happy. He might not be able to walk after this, he might not be able to talk after our fight, but he will have the money at least.”

I wondered about the Paulie/Conor dynamic. Lobov said “it was a one-way street” when Malignaggi sparred McGregor before the #Maygregor bout.

He said he was there and Conor pounded Paulie’s face into ketchup. He kept on keeping on with the hype attack; in boxing, people just pad their records, not so in MMA.

“I never padded my record,” he said. He said Paulie like most boxers padded his record early on.

“They are selling tickets to fake fights, the outcome is pre-determined,” Lobov said. “I am not impressed by Paulie’s record, and I want to expose him, and I will expose him,” he said.

Paulie has brittle hands, and just has a jab, so he isn’t worried about Paulie’s power. “No man on this planet can say that he made me tap,” he declared, speaking to his chin and toughness.

And might Conor McGregor come to BKFC?

“We didn’t really talk about this just yet, but there’s one thing I tell you about Conor, he’s a true fighter,” Lobov said.

Message being, don’t assume that Conor will leave UFC or MMA or stay sidelined. (Indeed, 10 days after “retiring,” he posted a Tweet which indicates he will be fighting in UFC soon.)

“Bare knuckle suits him right down to the ground. Conor would do great in it, that’s what he loves, true fighting,” Lobov said.

Jason Knight is a tough fighter, Feldman told us, and you can watch for $29.99 on PPV, from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. Ex-UFCer Chris Leben is on his card, as well.

June 22, that should be when Paulie fights in the northeast, said Feldman. He thinks they will get approved in the tri-state area but they do have one New England state locked in for the June scraps.

Right after this interview, Lobov, after saying “I hope the fat bastard doesn’t die of a heart attack,” went to Mendez Gym and he and Malignaggi jawed. Paulie gave Lobov a slap with his left hand and yes, it got very heated.

McGregor, in answer, posted stills from his sparring sessions with Malignaggi on his social media. He was landing shots and Paulie’s face looked swollen in the stills. Malignaggi has insisted that McGregor didn’t get the best of him.

Lobov left us with a prediction: he thinks in Lobov vs Malignaggi, “Paulie might be able to make it to the second round, he might.”

My three cents: It worked. This interview session whetted my appetite to see Lobov’s fighting skills.

Listen to the whole Lobov interview here.