A sparring session is one of the most interesting aspects of MMA other than the actual fights themselves. It helps the fans see how far the fighters have come with their improvements, and, on some special occasions, it also helps start a rivalry or two.
Here are a few behind-the-door sparring sessions that fans would have loved to see:
5) Conor McGregor sparring against Paulie Malignaggi
Conor McGregor is one of the most famous fighters on the planet. However, not everything he does becomes public. For instance, his sparring footage with Paulie Malignaggi is still uncovered.
It all happened during the build-up to the Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather fight as Malignaggi went into McGregor's camp to spar with him. However, this was preceded by the Irishman challenging Malignaggi to fight him, and they subsequently sparred twice.
Malignaggi was retired at the time, and it showed as some footage appeared of Conor knocking him down. Malignaggi was furious about the footage being released and never sparred with him again.
Since then, the pair have continued to recall different accounts of what happened in their sparring sessions and engaged in a war of words. Fortunately, there's a Netflix documentary in the works, which might finally help fans see the whole video.
4) Darren Till sparring against Mike Perry
The story of Till and Perry's relationship is wild from start to finish. The controversial middleweights had multiple verbal spats before they engaged in a sparring session together.
They didn't have two pairs of boxing gloves, so they sparred with each one wearing a glove on one hand. That in itself is something people would love to see. Perry and Till recently squashed the beef and are now friends.
3) Luke Rockhold sparring against Michael Bisping
This sparring session goes way back to 2012. Rockhold was the champion of Strikeforce, and Bisping was a star in the UFC middleweight division. Bisping claimed he was the unofficial Strikeforce champion after the sparring bout, indicating that he had won.
When Rockhold finally joined the UFC, they had an intense rivalry culminating in Bisping winning the UFC middleweight belt by beating Rockhold.
2) Colby Covington sparring against Tyron Woodley
Woodley and Covington finally fought in 2020 after a long war of words that started with sparring sessions. Covington was brought in as a sparring partner for Woodley ahead of his title fight against Kelvin Gastelum.
Both Woodley and Covington claimed they won the sparring sessions and embarrassed the other guy. Ultimately, Covington had the last laugh by beating Woodley in their match.
1) Cody Garbrandt sparring against TJ Dillashaw
This is a rivalry that has transcended all others. Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw were best friends and teammates back in 2014 and 2015. They had multiple sparring sessions together, but no one thought much of it.
That was until Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male (Garbrandt's team) and was booked in for a title shot against Garbrandt. Cody brought up the time he knocked Dillashaw out during a sparring session and mentioned that he had the video.
However, the fight didn't go well for 'No Love' as he lost to Dillashaw via knockout and lost the rematch too. Since then, he has redeemed himself and was a top-five contender in the bantamweight division before he lost to Rob Font at UFC Vegas 27.