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Midnight Mania! Malignaggi and McGregor’s second sparring session a 12-round gym war

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Paulie Malignaggi, contrary to the closed lips he claimed he would have as a sparring partner to Conor, is giving some interesting insight into McGregor’s boxing training. He sparred the two-division UFC champion twice now. According to MMAFighting.com, the first session they fought was an 8-round war, to the point where the referee hired to familiarize Conor with a boxing ruleset, Joe Cortez, had to break them up.

“They were both roughing each other up and I had to stop the action, like it was a regular fight,” said Cortez.

“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, alright guys, you’ve got to stop this now. I want a good, clean round. Give me sportsmanlike conduct, understand?’”

One of McGregor’s teammates, Tiernan Bradley, said that he thought Malignaggi should have been more careful with his comments about McGregor’s power after that first sparring session. Many interpreted Malignaggi’s comments as damning with faint praise.

“You can see he’s still a class operator, and it was an interesting spar to watch – more a full on fight actually. Conor told us all when Paulie came into camp ‘this is not a spar, I want to fight him. I’m ready for a war’.”

Paulie was talking to him in between rounds, trying to give him advice, but then he was getting slapped in the face,” recalled Bradley.

“I saw what he said about Conor’s power, and he’s playing a bit of a dangerous game because he still has more spars to go with Conor, and Conor will be out there to knock him out. He’ll want to show him he has ‘oh my God’ power.

Well, today they sparred again, this time for 12 rounds, and according to Malignaggi, the intensity has been ramped up from the first session. Via ESPN.com:

"I think the intensity Conor's reaching is starting to show in the hard work he's put into camp," Malignaggi told ESPN. "I think he's getting better and better. I really felt improvements from two weeks ago to now ... I do see a guy who is implementing more and more of what they want to do in their game plan."

But was it really a gym war, or is that hyperbole? Apparently not. It wasn’t just McGregor who was looking for a fight the first time they sparred- Paulie went in with something to prove as well.

"Lot of violence," Malignaggi said. "I went in there to prove a point. I didn't like the fact I had to fly across the country on Monday, and they have me scheduled for 12 [rounds] on Tuesday. I thought it was a little bit of a setup.

"Usually all sparring is private. I show up at the UFC headquarters and [former owner, Lorenzo] Fertitta is there. [UFC president] Dana White is there. So, I'm thinking these guys are thinking they'll catch me right off the flight, set me up for him to look good in front of his audience. I didn't like that. I kind of went in with a chip on my shoulder."

He confirmed the story of boxing referee Joe Cortez that it got pretty rough, especially yesterday. Conor may be using some clinch tactics from MMA as well, throwing Paul to the canvas.

Conor wants his presence to be felt. He's coming to win, right?" Malignaggi said. "He wants you to know you're in a fight. He doesn't want you to think it's a picnic. So, any time he's in the ring, he's trying to make it as rough as possible -- be it roughhouse tactics, be it trying to land hard shots.

"There was a pushdown yesterday. Conor on the inside, he can get a little rough. He shoved me down, you know, but no knockdowns. Obviously, 12 rounds, you're gonna see there's a mark on my face. Very, very hard work for both of us. I was starting to get in a groove in the middle rounds, starting to land some good shots. Conor really came on strong in the end. It was back and forth."

It seems they haven’t fully settled the beef they had before they stepped into the training ring- but they seem to have a little more respect for each other

We're like, I think the gist from Conor is we're like 'frenemies.' I think somewhere in the middle," he said.

"I don't think we're going to be best friends any time soon, but there was a lot more mutual respect after that kind of work last night. It was a lot more intense than the first one."

More intensity can only be a good thing for McGregor, who still faces a ridiculously monstrous task ahead of him in Floyd Mayweather, undefeated at 49-0 as a professional.


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