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Ref Joe Cortez says McGregor and Malignaggi’s sparring ‘got a little rough’ and ‘out of control’

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Joe Cortez says he had to break up Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi during sparring.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Victor Ortiz Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Hall-of-fame boxing referee Joe Cortez was hired by Conor McGregor’s camp to prepare for Floyd Mayweather. He was brought in to help the UFC champ acclimate to boxing rules, and to oversee sparring and have fight simulations with a designated referee.

It was in one of those sessions with Paulie Malignaggi where Cortez says he had to step in and stop the action as it was getting too heated.

“He handled himself pretty good with Paulie. That guy can pop. He was in there mixing it up a little bit with Paulie and it was the real thing,” he told Sirius XM. “They was no messing around. In fact, I had to stop the action and I had to say, ‘Alright guys, you guys are a little out of control here, you gotta stop this.’ It got a little rough.”

The hosts then asked if it was McGregor getting the upper hand and roughing up Malignaggi.

“They were both roughing each other up and I had to stop the action like in a regular fight. They were holding too much, they were trying to punch each other. I mean, it got a little bit out of control where I had to call ‘Time!’

“(I said) ‘Alright guys, you gotta stop this right now. I want a good clean round. Give me sportsman-like conduct. Understand? I don’t want to take any points from either one of you. Do you understand??’ I looked at them and they said, ‘Okay, alright.’ And I said, ‘Time in.’”

Malignaggi mentioned in the past that the smack talk between him and Conor during sparring was pretty intense, and Cortez confirmed it as well.

“I had to put a stop to (the trash talking) as well,” said Cortez. “That’s part of why I had to stop the action.”