St. Pierre Team Files Response with NSAC

By Loretta Hunt Feb 26, 2009
Georges St. Pierre’s team is treating allegations of improprieties as seriously as it takes its training duties.

The UFC welterweight champion’s training staff filed a thorough 17-page written response and video on Wednesday to a letter filed by B.J. Penn’s attorney on Feb. 3 with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Penn’s letter, which could be deemed a step shy of a formal complaint, requested that the regulatory body investigate accusations that St. Pierre’s two cornermen, Phil Nurse and Greg Jackson, had improperly applied Vaseline to the fighter’s shoulders and back after the one-minute break between the first and second rounds.

Cornerman are allowed to spread Vaseline on a fighter’s facial area surrounding the eyes between rounds under commission observation. St. Pierre, Jackson, and Nurse have publicly denied the allegations, stating that the hand placement had been part of a breathing technique originated by holistic therapist Dr. Steven Friend. Friend has worked with former UFC champions Matt Hughes, Randy Couture and Sean Sherk, as well.

St. Pierre wore down, then brutalized the grounded UFC lightweight champion over four rounds before Penn’s corner signaled to an attending physician that their fighter could not continue into the final round. St. Pierre was also victorious against Penn via a close split decision in their first bout at UFC 58 in March 2006.

However, the popular Hawaiian’s team cried foul play after they learned that NSAC officials had allegedly observed the French Canadian’s two cornermen applying the lubricant to the fighter’s shoulders and back. Penn’s reps claim the action gave St. Pierre an unfair advantage against Penn, the first non-Brazilian to win the black belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships.

Last week, Penn’s group distributed a video that showed the Hawaiian’s legs slide down St. Pierre’s back when Penn tried to establish a high guard.

In their response, St. Pierre’s corner fired back with their recollection of the events surrounding the night in question, which included signed affidavits from Nurse, Jackson, Friend, and the fighter’s grappling instructor John Danaher.

A joint opening letter signed by Jackson and Nurse refuted the claim that there had been a pre-conceived intention to apply the Vaseline to create an unfair advantage for St. Pierre, as Nurse had been given the responsibility only a few minutes before the team entered the cage. The letter also stated that “at no time was more than a small amount of Vaseline being used between the first and second rounds,” so it couldn’t have effected the outcome of the bout.

“If any Vaseline was left on [Nurse’s] hands… it could have only been a miniscule amount and clearly within the limitations of [statute] NAC 467.598,” read the document.

Of particular interest was Danaher’s affidavit. The well-known Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach tackled the allegations from numerous angles.

Danaher, a highly sought after instructor at Renzo Gracie’s famed academy in New York City, argued that St. Pierre stood to lose just as much positional control from the alleged lubricant application as Penn did.

“In the course of the match Mr. St. Pierre scored with numerous sophisticated grappling techniques, takedowns, pins, guard passes etc. Lubricant doesn’t discriminate,” wrote Danaher. “If lubricant made Penn’s grappling ineffective, it should have also made St. Pierre’s grappling technique ineffective.”

Danaher explicitly described St. Pierre’s team assessment of Penn’s ground technique and their game plan to combat it, and noted that Penn has never won an MMA contest from his own guard position, but from top and back control.

Danaher also stated his belief that a lubricant’s spreading is unavoidable in any fight.

“Once Vaseline is applied to the face, it’s only a matter of time before it ‘migrates’ to every other part of the body,” he wrote.

Complimenting the written documents, a two-minute video demonstrated Friend’s breathing technique used on St. Pierre at UFC 83 in April 2008, at UFC 87 in August 2008, and in B-roll footage captured during St. Pierre’s warm-up in his locker room at UFC 94, as well as its application on Sean Sherk during his fight with Penn at UFC 84 in May 2008.

NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer, who began his own review of events a few days following the Jan. 31 event, will present both fighters’ submissions to commission members at a future meeting for possible action. The NSAC could vote to change the fight's outcome to a “no contest” based on findings of wrongdoing.

And those who think the saga of “Grease Gate” is nearing its slippery conclusion should be prepared for a few more twists and turns.

J.D. Penn, the fighter’s older brother and manager, told on Monday that a formal complaint is currently being drafted and will be submitted to the NSAC shortly.
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