What was supposed to be the biggest fight in UFC history has somehow mushroomed into the biggest controversy in UFC history, whether we like it or not.
During the main event of UFC 94 'St. Pierre vs. Penn 2,' cornerman Phil Nurse applied Vaseline to the back and shoulders of Georges St. Pierre, which is prohibited under the current rules of the sport. Ringside officials noticed the petroleum jelly on the backside of the Canadian and sprung into action, wiping him down with towels after rounds two and three.
"Rush" isn’t giving excuses for the incident, saying it was just a minor mistake caused by the between-round frenzy and was part of a breathing technique. UFC President Dana White — who is taking the issue very seriously — has since blamed "stupid" cornermen (Greg Jackson and Phil Nurse) for the infraction.
Lightweight champion BJ Penn — who was dominated by the Canadian for four straight rounds before he was unable to answer the bell for the fifth and final frame - recently requested that the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) investigate St. Pierre and his corner for "greasing" during their main event fight.
The letter to the NSAC states the application of Vaseline put Penn at a serious disadvantage during the fight because as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist, "The Prodigy" relies on his ability to apply techniques and strategies designed to immobilize or cause potential injury to his opponent.
In light of the controversy and some gray areas regarding what is allowed and what is not, UFC officials are considering a change in the rules for cornermen.
A few of the proposed changes courtesy of SI.com:
- Cornermen associated with the fighters will no longer be allowed to handle the Vaseline used in between rounds to treat and prevent cuts.
- The UFC will now provide one cut man for each corner for the fight.
- Only two people are allowed to enter the Octagon between rounds so if a cut man is necessary to apply Vaseline or work on a cut, one of the other cornermen working with the fighter must exit the cage to allow the cut man to work.
Penn and St. Pierre have been engaging in a very public war of words over the incident. St. Pierre vehemently denies any cheating allegations and promises the results would be the same in a third fight - even going so far as to offer to fight him again.
Penn has accepted his challenge and wants Dana White to set it up for the summer of 2009.
Unfortunately outside of Penn and St. Pierre, not too many people want to make a possible third fight a reality. Whatever hype and excitement that existed prior to January 31 is now long gone thanks to a greasy back and week of finger pointing.
If the cornermen involved in the controversy are facing disciplinary action, then hopefully it comes quickly and quietly so that we can get back to the business of cage fighting.
No matter where you stand on the issue, I know there are at least two other people, like me, who want this matter to be resolved in a timely manner.
Their names are Kenny Florian and Thiago Alves.