twitter google

Editorial: Penn’s Argument Running Dry

When I was a junior relay runner on my high school track team, I flubbed a handoff in the state meet that cost our squad a school record and probably a medal.

I was down in the dumps for at least a day before I started latching onto excuses. The race was run in a light rain, after all, making the baton slippery. And it was near twilight in a stadium with no lights. And, without glasses, my eyesight was really bad in dark conditions. And …

Eventually, though, I had to accept the cold, hard truth: I stunk that day.

B.J. Penn and his camp should submit to a similar stance in their crusade against Georges St. Pierre.

They shouldn’t file anymore complaints or deliver anymore testimony or have Penn’s mother plead to anymore athletic commissioners in an attempt to prove that Georges St. Pierre was overly-jellied during their UFC 94 welterweight title fight on Jan. 31.

Instead, they should take a towel to “Greasegate.” Just wipe it from their memories like that official wiped down GSP’s torso between rounds on the night in question.

Just move on.

After listening to both sides at a hearing on Tuesday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t seem interested in pursuing the matter further or trying to have St. Pierre stripped of his victory. The commission didn’t even think enough of the complaint to require GSP’s presence at the event, which, in a bizarre moment, included a statement read by Penn’s mother, who says she feared for her son’s safety and urged strict punishment of St. Pierre.

Apparently, the proceedings weren’t as convincing to the NSAC as the dismantling St. Pierre handed to Penn in the actual bout, which ended in a corner stoppage before the fifth round.

Penn, however, won’t abandon this cheat chase. His attorney told that they will continue pushing for more of an investigation. They already have gone to great lengths to state their case, producing a video that was posted on Penn’s website to support his claims.

It made the Internet rounds and raises legitimate, yet biased questions.

You see GSP’s cornerman, Phil Nurse, applying Vaseline to the fighter’s face, then rubbing his chest and back after the first round (an act that assists breathing, according to Nurse). You’re reminded, repeatedly, that Vaseline is “slippery on skin.” You see Penn’s legs sliding off GSP’s shoulders when the Hawaiian was on his back, going for submissions in the second round. You see and hear quotes from past GSP foes like Matt Hughes and Sean Sherk, each of whom recall the French-Canadian as being “slippery.” You hear UFC President Dana White say, ringside after the fight, that St. Pierre was in trouble with the commission because of the improper Vaseline application.

The video is a textbook piece of propaganda that demonstrates there might have been some kind of illegal activity taking place in GSP’s corner.

But, it also reminds me a lot of the day following my relay gaffe. I grasped at straws and tried to explain away the disappointing outcome, when it really started and ended with me.

Sure, there were other factors that contributed to the result (the weather, the darkness), but they were largely extraneous.

Sure, St. Pierre may have been inappropriately lubed (whoa, that phrase sounds like some kind of pornography violation) by Nurse, but focusing on that is to neglect the fact that “Rush” was clearly the stronger, faster, better fighter.

No matter what kind of legal posturing Penn’s camp promises, this appears to be a fight that he won’t win. NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer was pretty explicit in his comments.

Regardless, the episode can’t be chalked up as a total loss, because it has put a microscope on the rules and regulations for greasing, likely improving policies on the violation for the entire sport.

But Penn still maintains that St. Pierre cheated, and therein lays the issue. Did GSP, Nurse and head trainer Greg Jackson conspire to apply Vaseline – blatantly, in the middle of an anticipated title match, with cameras at point-blank range – for a competitive advantage?

Or was this just a coincidental mistake that, once made known, Penn decided to use as a soapbox to save his battered face?

Regardless, the reputations of both fighters are dinged by this flap. Now, St. Pierre is an accused cheater whose shimmering body will provoke questions every time he appears in the Octagon, while Penn may be perceived as a whiner.

It’s hard to say who comes out looking better, but I’d argue that Penn has cost himself more than he has saved in this drawn-out process. And it further illustrates his fixation with St. Pierre, a larger champion he lobbied to rematch despite a number of talented challengers awaiting a shot at his lightweight belt.

Penn chased down a second meeting with GSP, trash-talked his way through the unprecedented pre-fight buildup, and couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain in what was billed as a historic bout.

Was that because of some extra Vaseline, or was it because St. Pierre was simply the better man?

(For the record, “Rush” quickly came out and said he has never cheated and promised an even worse ending for Penn should they have to meet again. In today’s world of Rafael Palmeiros and Marion Joneses, though, athletes’ statements of innocence have been devalued.)

Yes, GSP’s team admitted it made a few obvious infractions that deserve some sort of reprimand. But that big soapbox might be getting in the way of the truth for Penn.

And unless solid proof of cheating is unearthed, we don’t need to see a third go-round between the two — especially since it’s impossible to determine what exact influence the extra grease had at UFC 94.

Penn should just look in the mirror, own up to his defeat and put it in the past despite a hint of wrongdoing on his opponent’s part.

The blame game is lame.

At the end of the day, remember, I was the one who dropped that baton.