There’s a lot I do not know about the alleged infractions committed by the corner of Georges St. Pierre. While I was at the event and I saw Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer enter the cage to admonish St. Pierre’s corner and I’ve since seen footage of Phil Nurse rubbing St. Pierre’s chest and back between rounds, I have no way of determining if and or how much Vaseline was applied to the current UFC welterweight champion’s body.
You can test for drugs of abuse for a fight but it’s pretty hard to test for body lubricants. Whether or not St. Pierre had Vaseline on his body and whether it gave him a competitive advantage if he did is only something that St. Pierre and Penn can answer definitively. However, where there is smoke there’s fire and during his post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White confirmed that there were some issues that a rose during the course of the fight.
Unlike White, I am not so quick to dismiss the the notion that even if St. Pierre was lubed up that it didn’t make a difference in the fight. I’m not arguing that St. Pierre isn’t the better fighter and fought the better fight but I don’t buy that if Vaseline was applied to the body that it didn’t make a difference. Penn spent a great deal of time on his back during the fight and utilized a high guard on multiple occasions. I’m the furthest thing from a professional fighter but I have spent an ample amount of time rolling and I can say with firsthand knowledge that if a bare shirted opponent’s back is slippery, it does make it a little more difficult to catch them in a triangle.
Would Penn have won if St. Pierre is guilty of the alleged infraction? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean that this incident should be swept under the rug. The fact that NSAC instructed St. Pierre’s corner to stop and that the alleged behavior reportedly continued is alarming. If the presiding athletic body tells a corner to stop doing something, the corner shouldn’t try and defy the commission. A repeat offense committed by a corner should result in a penalty of some kind because if people aren’t willing to abide by the commission’s rulings we then have what amounts to anarchy.
Another argument that I don’t buy is that St. Pierre is somehow not responsible for the actions of his corner. I don’t think for a second that he knowingly cheated and I believe it’s very possible that his corner applied Vaseline without his consent or willing involvement. However, if a fighter uses a supplement that contains steroids is it not the position of the commission that he’s still guilty whether he knowingly consumed the performance enhancing drugs because of the fact that he still had a competitive advantage? If St. Pierre’s corner applied Vaseline to his body then he still potentially had an illegal competitive advantage regardless of whether the application was voluntary or involuntary.
I just can’t buy into a fighter being able to absolve himself totally from the actions of his corner. Phil Nurse was St. Pierre’s designated corner and not some random inspector assigned by the commission before the fight. He was a part of St. Pierre’s team and his actions are representative of the entire camp. St. Pierre has complete and total control over who corners him and he must take responsible for their actions. If Nurse applied lubrication of any kind to the body of St. Pierre then his days of cornering fighters should come to a close. Furthermore, if Nurse committed a second offense during the fight after being admonished by the commission then St. Pierre should have been penalized a point during the fight. What’s done is done and it’s impossible to go back in time and take away a point but to openly defy the commission in public in such a manner should warrant a severe reprimand.
I’ve read the side of St. Pierre’s corner regarding the allegiations and frankly I’m not impressed. In an interview with MMA Weekly, Greg Jackson claims that it was an honest mistake and attributed to a witch doctor ritual.
“So in between rounds, (Steven Friend) had this little drill that you do – and Phil Nurse is the one who knows how to do it – he showed Phil, and this is what Georges wanted, so we did that,” Jackson is quoted as telling MMA Weekly. “But this is why we were doing it. He rubbed your back and tapped your chest; I don’t know exactly how it works. But anyways, what that’s supposed to do is get your energy in line, or motivated or whatever. So in between rounds, we had Phil Nurse do that.”
In the same article, Jackson acknowledged the possibility that Nurse might have still had some residue left on his hands as he was also the same corner in charge of applying Vaseline to St. Pierre’s eyebrows (an acceptable practice in fighting so long as the application is not deemed to be excessive). I can buy that it’s an innocent mistake but it still potentially may have given St. Pierre an illegal competitive advantage. It was unnecessary and it only served to take away from what otherwise was a brilliant victory for St. Pierre. On that note, I think it’s time for all of these crazy rituals performed by members of the Jackson camp to end. I have a ton of respect for Jackson and his fighters but the nipple tweaking and witch doctor rituals only serve to take away from all of the great things that the camp has accomplished inside the cage.