The sweat had not yet dried when accusations began to fly against welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre after his lopsided victory against B.J. Penn in the UFC 94 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Not long after his win, St. Pierre and his corner, including trainer Greg Jackson, came under fire for allegedly using a “greasing” agent between rounds. Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer on Monday confirmed improprieties had occurred in the champion’s corner after the first and second rounds.
“After the first round, one of my inspectors came to me and told me he thought he saw one of the cornermen -- I believe it was Phil Nurse … after putting Vaseline on [St. Pierre’s] face, he saw him rub his shoulders, and it appeared as though he might not have wiped off his hands,” Kizer said. “After the second round, we observed Mr. Jackson putting Vaseline on Mr. St. Pierre’s face and then putting his hand on his back.”
At that point, Kizer attempted to get Jackson’s attention from outside the cage.
“I don’t think he heard me because of all the noise in the arena, so I immediately walked into the Octagon myself -- I’ve probably done that two other times in my career -- and told him to take his hand off Mr. St. Pierre’s back,” he said. “We took a towel and wiped off his back. After the third round, we went in again and made sure his back and shoulders were wiped off to ensure a level playing field.”
Kizer informed Penn’s camp of the situation after the bout ended. Penn’s manager and brother, J.D., told Sherdog.com on Sunday that the Hawaiian’s camp planned to file a complaint with the NSAC, but, as of Monday afternoon, Kizer had not heard from Penn’s representatives. Penn has 10 days to file.
Nevertheless, Kizer admonished Jackson and Nurse after the match.
“I told them I was disappointed and that they may have tainted Mr. St. Pierre’s victory,” he said. “I told them if it happens again, it will probably be the last time they work a corner in Nevada. Basically, they said, ‘Look, we’re sorry. We’re not trying to do anything. It was an accident.’ Whether it was intentional or not, I don’t know. It was improper.”
According to St. Pierre’s trainer, Greg Jackson, the controversy surrounding the bout has been blown out of proportion. Jackson addressed the accusations on the Monday edition of the Savage Dog Show on the Sherdog Radio Network.
“The controversy came because people didn’t know what they were looking at,” he said. “Steve Friend, ‘The Witch Doctor,’ he works with a ton of these guys, and he has this energy stuff [he does]. In between rounds, Phil [Nurse] put Vaseline on Georges’ head; then he’s supposed to reach around and rub something or tap something … I don’t know how it exactly works. On the outside, it looks like, ‘Why is he rubbing his back?’ And you don’t know why. ‘Oh, he’s putting Vaseline on. That’s got to be it.’”
St. Pierre punished Penn for four rounds, as he took him down numerous times and passed his guard with unthinkable ease. By the end of the fourth -- after Penn had absorbed a lethal dose of ground-and-pound -- the Hawaiian’s corner motioned to the cage-side doctor to stop the fight.
“On B.J.’s side, you just got beat, and you got beat pretty well,” Jackson said. “You gotta have something to hold onto. There’s gotta be a reason I got beat. They have to hold onto something, and I think they’re holding onto this.”
Jackson -- who also trains UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans -- vehemently denies any intentional wrongdoing took place in the corner in between rounds.
“We certainly don’t need to cheat to win,” he said. “If we were going to put Vaseline on his back, it wouldn’t be like a tapping little thing. We’d take some Vaseline and make it count, you know what I mean? We don’t do that. We don’t cheat.
“It’s really a non-issue to me because there are cameras everywhere; there are inspectors everywhere,” he continued. “I’m not the smartest guy, but I’m not a moron. I wouldn’t grease someone between rounds.”
One of the sport’s most visible and respected trainers, Jackson thinks St. Pierre’s performance may have worked against him in terms of giving the controversy legs. No one had ever defeated Penn so soundly before.
“When you’ve got a guy as good as Georges and people are looking, like, ‘How can this guy be so good?’ People are going to find controversy somewhere at some point,” Jackson said. “Georges was, like, ‘What are you talking about? That’s ridiculous. I worked really hard.’ It’s nice for us because we know we didn’t cheat. We know what happened that night. To me, it’s not really a big deal when you have the truth on your side.”
Not surprisingly, the Jackson’s Submission Fighting founder indicated the otherworldly St. Pierre would invite a third fight with Penn if there was doubt about the legitimacy of his victory.
“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind fighting B.J. a third time if they’re that concerned about it,” Jackson said. “I’m sure everybody would make a lot of money, and we’d certainly welcome that fight again.”
Jackson expects the furor surrounding their rematch to die down soon.
“There’s not a lot of validity to it,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t a close fight where people were like, ‘Oh, if it wasn’t for all the cheating they did …’ I think it will just blow over once people realize what the truth was.”
Kizer was uncertain as to whether or not the incidents impacted the match. The first time St. Pierre and Penn met, the outcome was far less one-sided, as the French Canadian took a split decision at UFC 58 in 2006.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “I don’t think it takes away the victory, but I think it takes away from the victory. You’ve got to be better than that.”