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When referee Joe Cortez was brought into Conor McGregor’s sparring practises, he probably didn’t imagine he would have to step in all that much.

But when Paul Malignaggi came to town — a man who had said some fairly disparaging remarks about McGregor — to spar, Cortez was forced to up his game somewhat. In fact, he had to get involved to stop the training from turning in to something else.

“[McGregor] was in there mixing it up a little bit with Paulie and it was the real thing,” Cortez told SiriusXM. “I had to stop the action and I had to say, ‘Alright guys, you guys are getting a little out of control here, you gotta stop this.’ It got a little rough. They were both roughing each other up and I had to stop the action like as 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. Understand?’ I looked at them and they said, ‘Okay, alright.’ And I said, ‘Time in.’

Combine with that the trash talking flowing by both men, and Cortez realised that things had the potential of boiling over.

“I had to put a stop to that as well,” Cortez said. “That’s probably why I had to stop the action.”