Penn and his attorney, Raffi Nahabedian, believe they are fighting the good fight. Both have expressed hope that their complaints will exempt others from suffering the fate Penn did in January at UFC 94. They believe St. Pierre’s corner illegally applied Vaseline to the welterweight champion, affecting the outcome of the fight, but St. Pierre’s team has said his cornermen were not applying Vaseline but instead performing a breathing technique.
While there may be a touch of altruism in the motivation of Penn’s camp, their main focus is overturning St. Pierre’s victory. However, they seemed to have run into a brick wall Tuesday in the form of Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer.
“Anyone can come to me and say, ‘Keith, we think there is a concern here. We think you should look at this,’” said Kizer after a hearing Tuesday that heard testimony from both sides. “And I look at it with the [Attorney General’s] office and decide whether it rises to the level of a disciplinary complaint or not.”
Kizer went on to make it clear that he does not believe there is cause to pursue a complaint.
“I have no plans to bring a complaint against anybody in this case,” he said.
Kizer’s decision to forgo a disciplinary complaint does not close all avenues for recourse to the Penn camp, but it severely limits their options. Now they must hope for a member of the commission to bring a complaint -- something that seems highly unlikely.
It is hard to see, when looking at Kizer’s statements and actions, how the Penn contingent could be successful in achieving their stated objective. Nahabedian vocalized his frustration after the hearing.
“In terms of him being done,” said Nahabedian in regards to Kizer’s decision not to seek a disciplinary complaint, “I don’t know, one, how he could be done, which is kind of a strange thing because I don’t even know what he did to begin with. So how could you be done with something if you don’t even know what you started with? I don’t know that.”
It is the perceived lack of action by Kizer that has Nahabedian searching for answers.
“As an attorney, it’s about fact-finding,” he said. “As a commission member, as an executive director, you would think that his purpose is a fact-finding mission to obtain all the facts, all the evidence and to make an educated legal judgment upon the commission as to your determination. Do I feel he did that? Not at all.”
Vowing to continue the fight, Nahabedian said he and his client will use every means at their disposal to resolve this case in their favor.
“We’re, by no means, done. We have the ability to exhaust administrative remedies and then take the matter into civil remedies as well,” he said. “This is something that B.J. believes in. This is something the Penns believe in. I think it’s something every fan of MMA and every fighter of MMA should take very seriously because it could happen to them.”
NSAC Chairman Bill Brady, speaking with Sherdog.com after the hearing, declined to comment on any action the commission might consider regarding the actual fight and its outcome, but he did state that he felt the proceedings have and will continue to have a positive effect on the sport and the regulatory body.
“Things are already better because of this fight and the questions being raised around it. They’re already better. I’ve seen it. I’ve watched the fights and everybody is aware of it,” he said. “And we as a commission are better, and will get better, because of this. There may be regulations coming forward. As far as how this will affect the Penn-St. Pierre fight, I have no comment.”
Penn illuminated the thought process behind continuing to push for something that has become so unpopular.
“If you have a problem with me making a formal complaint, what does that say about yourself? If you have a problem with me questioning if somebody cheated or not, what does that say about yourself?” he asked. “If [St. Pierre] didn’t cheat, the truth will come out; he will be acquitted. If he did cheat, the truth will come out; he will get in trouble.”
Though Penn and Nahabedian hold out hope for further investigation, it seems the commission has already reached its decision.