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Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Mixed Martial Arts--- Detailed Summary of St. Pierre vs. Penn Vaseline Incidents, Including Possible Influence on Round 2
by Ivan Trembow

Much more information has come out in the past couple of days about the incidents in which vaseline was allegedly rubbed on Georges St. Pierre's back by one of his cornermen in between the rounds of his fight against BJ Penn at UFC 94 on Saturday night. Rubbing vaseline anywhere other than on a fighter's face would be illegal.

There has been a lot of noise on all sides of this issue, including from many fans (and even a few journalists) who are taking the “bury your head in the sand” mentality of just wanting this story to go away, regardless of whether or not any wrongdoing was committed.

The statements from Penn's side about what happened are naturally going to be slanted in one direction, and the statements from St. Pierre's side about what happened are naturally going to be slanted in the other direction.

This makes the quotes from Keith Kizer, the Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, especially relevant because he's not on the Penn side or the St. Pierre side.

So, based on video evidence and numerous statements made by Kizer, here are the actual facts as we know them.

First of all, the video of the cornerman, Phil Nurse, rubbing St. Pierre's face with vaseline and then immediately thereafter rubbing St. Pierre's back is now on YouTube at this URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKuJSQJOiwM. This occurred between Rounds 1 and 2.

There is also confirmation in numerous interviews with Kizer that this was not the only time during the fight that vaseline appeared to be have been rubbed on St. Pierre's back by his cornerman. Kizer has said in multiple interviews that he saw it happen with his own eyes between Rounds 2 and 3, at which point he entered the cage and started yelling at St. Pierre's cornermen.

Here are quotes from MMAWeekly and Sherdog articles about the two separate vaseline incidents.

From MMAWeekly:

"After round two, I watched him like a hawk," said Kizer. "I've only entered the ring maybe three or four times (in my career) during a fight, but I did this time.

Watching the pay-per-view, Nurse is clearly seen on camera applying Vaseline to the face of St. Pierre following round one. It is difficult to tell the amount of residual Vaseline on his hands, but he does clearly rub St. Pierre's shoulders and then reach around to touch his upper back. The extent to which such actions affected the actual in-ring action are unclear, but what is clear is that such action was a violation Nevada's regulations.

"They didn't take a big glob and throw it on his back. After putting Vaseline on (St. Pierre's) face, he put his hands on his body. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but it was improper," Kizer continued, who confirmed that an inspector did use a towel to wipe St. Pierre's back between rounds two and three, and three and four."

From Sherdog:

[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.”


“I told them I was disappointed and that they may have tainted Mr. St. Pierre’s victory…Whether it was intentional or not, I don’t know. It was improper.”

An important detail that has come out in multiple interviews with Kizer is that while the first application of vaseline to St. Pierre's back appeared to happen between Rounds 1 and 2, it wasn't until after the second round that the NSAC intervened.

This would mean that if vaseline was applied to St. Pierre's back after Round 1, it would have still been on his back throughout Round 2.

There is confirmation of this important detail from Kizer in various interviews, but perhaps most clearly in this one from MMA Junkie in terms of the timeline of events:

[Kizer said] "The first round, one of the inspectors that was on the outside of the cage came over to me and said it looked to him that when the cornerman, who I think in that case was Phil Nurse, put the Vaseline on Georges’ face then rubbed his shoulders — which you see the guys rubbing the other guy’s shoulders to help him out — he didn’t wipe off his hands between doing that. I said, ‘Well, I’m going to watch very closely after this round.’”

Kizer watched intently to see if the questionable actions would be repeated as the second round came to a close.

“At the end of the second round I watched, and then another cornerman who I believe was Greg Jackson, he put the Vaseline on Georges’ face, and then he put his hand on his back to do the breathing thing they always do,” Kizer said. “As soon as I saw that, it looked like there was still some Vaseline on his hand. Not a lot, but still some.

“Tony Liano and I immediately yelled at him, and I don’t think he heard us because of the noise. So I actually went into the octagon, and I said, ‘Take your hand off of his back. What are you doing?’ We wiped it down. We made sure it was wiped down after the third round as well. This was after the second when I was in there. I was very upset. I don’t know if they were doing it intentionally or not. Either way, they shouldn’t have done it.


[Kizer said] "His cornerman should have been more careful if it was an accident. If it was intentional, that's even worse. Just very, very disturbing."

Now, with all of these facts and statements in mind, look at these five animated GIFs from the Underground Forum of five different times in Round 2 that Penn's legs slipped on St. Pierre's back while Penn was trying to utilize his rubber guard techniques from the bottom:


Again, Round 2 was after St. Pierre's cornerman rubbed his back immediately after applying vaseline to his face; and Round 2 was also before the athletic commission intervened to towel off St. Pierre's back, which did not happen until after Round 2.

Based on all the facts, quotes, and video evidence, it does look like it COULD have aided St. Pierre in Round 2. I don't think the outcome of the fight would have been any different, but as for whether it COULD have aided St. Pierre in Round 2, the video evidence is pretty overwhelming that it could have.

Although the outcome of the fight would have likely been the same even if St. Pierre did have an advantage in Round 2, that does not make this a non-story. It has been amazing to see some people saying, "It didn't affect the outcome of the fight, so it's a non-issue that we should all stop talking about!" That is such backwards logic.

They are two different situations, but the stand-up agreement in the fight between Seth Petruzelli and Kimbo Slice didn't affect the outcome of that fight because Petruzelli won by knockout anyway in 14 seconds. Were people saying after that fight, "It didn't affect the outcome of the fight, so it's a non-issue that we should all stop talking about"? Of course not, and if they were, that would have been an equally ridiculous argument.

As for where this goes from here, there is a possibility of fines and/or suspensions for any of St. Pierre's cornermen that the athletic commission deems to have broken the rules.

Perhaps just as significantly, St. Pierre's brilliant performance in the fight may be tainted in some fans' eyes. As Kizer said in his interview with MMA Junkie, "This may have tainted [St. Pierre's] victory in the eyes of many fans, and it's his cornerman's fault for that. It doesn't take away his victory, but it does take away from his victory in the eyes of many fans, I believe."

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