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Grease Gate’ still a slippery subject

Formal conclusion still uncertain after NSAC advisory hearing


Sam Morris

Georges St. Pierre gets talked to between rounds of his welterweight title bout against B.J. Penn at UFC 94 Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The talk is still just as slick as ever, but that’s the only certainty in the controversy surrounding Georges St. Pierre’s championship fight against B.J. Penn at UFC 94.

Despite two intense hours of testimony, a review of video footage from the bout and additional evidence entered by both fighters’ camps, the Nevada State Athletic Commission appeared no closer Tuesday in gaining closure for a case that has comically been called “Grease-Gate” than when the subject first arose Jan. 31.

By the end of the advisory hearing held at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, it was clear that no formal action would take place against St. Pierre or his camp for illegal greasing misconduct — but both parties seemed cloudy to the case’s future path.

“It’s definitely not going to end today,” said Penn’s lawyer, Raffi A. Nahabedian after he, Penn, Penn’s mother, and cornerman, Jason Parillo, gave their accounts of what happened during Penn’s loss at the MGM Grand.

“The commission has made it very clear that they are waiting for us to provide them additional information, which we will do immediately and go from there.”

NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer said the new information could steer the issue a couple of different routes, but said he has “no plans of filing a (disciplinary complaint),” which means that unless another committee member brings such a complaint forward, St. Pierre’s victory status would not be changed to a no contest.

Nor could other severe sanctions, such as loss of licenses, unless Penn’s camp plans on pursuing future hearings in accordance with NSAC statues allowing him to appeal the decision.

“It’s up to the commission to decide how much further they want to formally go,” Kizer said. “They could make regulatory changes, they could issue some sort of directive to me or the inspectors or referees to handle situations differently,” he said.

While Penn said part of his goal in the appeal process is to “clean up the sport,” and ensure a future controversy of this nature doesn't occur — ultimately he said he wants a fair fight against “GSP.”

“The ultimate vindication would be a rematch and to kick his butt," said Penn, who also lost to St. Pierre by split decision in 2006.

"A good vindication would be a fair rematch and if he beats me fairly, I'll be the first to shake his hand."

Penn said he doesn’t care if a number of UFC fans view him as a “sore loser” for a fight that St. Pierre dominated and forced a referee’s stoppage after four rounds.

“If you have a problem with me making a formal complaint about cheating, then what does that say about your self,” Penn said.

Meanwhile on the other side of the table, St. Pierre’s trainer, Greg Jackson, and cornerman Phil Nurse, who applied the Vaseline, maintain that any mistake made on their behalf was completely unintentional.

“I’m sorry that it’s come to all of this,” said Nurse, a veteran trainer, who admitted to the five-member panel that the video evidence made him look suspect.

“It looks like I was putting Vaseline on him,” continued Nurse, who after legally applying the petroleum substance to aid with cuts to St. Pierre’s face, illegally moved his hands that still contained an immeasurable amount of Vaseline to the champ’s chest and back to perform an energy/breathing technique between the first and second and second and third rounds.

“I’ve been in martial arts a long time, and the integrity is a very big thing in my life, and I would never do that to the fighters, and I would never do that to myself.”

Jackson also shouldered the blame, but insisted his camp did not cheat.

“We certainly didn't intend to cheat or break any rules or anything like that,” Jackson said.

“It was kind of a last-minute deal. In hindsight, I probably should have done the Vaseline if (Nurse) was going to do the energy technique, but we were a little rushed to the cage. It will never happen again, believe me. We're not even bringing Vaseline into the corner anymore.”

Perhaps the only real advantage to come from the hotly debated issue is if the NSAC decides to implement precautionary steps in the future to avoid such slippery situations. Commission members questioned the attendees to what they thought about allowing only sanctioned corner personnel to apply Vaseline, monitoring pre-fight showers with universal cleaning products or post-fight swab tests in addition to the mandated blood exams that could trace illegal greasing agents on the skin.

"It's actually beneficial for me," Jackson said of not having to be responsible for applying Vaseline. "It's one less thing I have to worry about, and we wouldn't have any controversies like this."

Penn’s mother, Lorraine Shin, also read a passionate statement where she scolded the commission for “not taking the necessary procedures to protect my son from being seriously injured or killed.”

St. Pierre’s attorney, Steve Pacitti, closed his client’s side of the issue by saying the hearings had already exceeded their scope, and the final finding has already been reached with the innocent mistake on the part of St. Pierre’s cornermen.

“The simple fact is that there was nothing done that was explained that would violate the existing rules of the commission," said Pacitti, who clarified that St. Pierre did not attend because the commission had not requested him to do so.

"If there was an advantage, it was merely Georges size' and skill on that night."

The meeting concluded without any concrete resolution and a vague suggestion by NSAC Chairman Bill Brady that the matter could be revisited at a future commission meeting.

“At some future time there might be something that comes forward — and there might not be," Brady said. "It may already be settled."

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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