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Penn asks commission to investigate St. Pierre

Fighter's lawyer asks that alleged wrongdoing be 'properly dealt with'

Image: BJ Penn, Georges St. Pierre
Eric Jamison / AP
BJ Penn has filed a letter asking the Nevada state athletic commission to investigate Georges St. Pierre and his cornermen.
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By Mike Chiappetta
NBCSports.com
updated 4:28 p.m. ET Feb. 4, 2009

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Mike Chiappetta

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BJ Penn has sent a formal request to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, asking them to investigate Georges St. Pierre and the actions of his cornerman during their UFC 94 bout last Saturday night.

The letter was sent by Penn's lawyer Raffi Nahabedian to Nevada state athletic commission executive director Keith Kizer. In the correspondence, which was given by the commission to NBCSports.com, Nahabedian states that the letter is not a formal complaint, but asks the commission to ensure that St. Pierre and his cornermen are "properly dealt with."

The controversy stems from St. Pierre's fourth-round TKO over Penn Saturday in the UFC welterweight title fight. During the bout, Penn complained to his corner that his legs were sliding down St. Pierre's back. Afterward, Penn's corner said they would file a protest after St. Pierre was toweled down by athletic commission members, who witnessed cornerman Phil Nurse applying vaseline to St. Pierre's body.

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Cameras caught the action as well.

Kizer told NBCSports.com on Wednesday that he has received a DVD copy of the first three rounds of the fight from the UFC, with angles that focus on St. Pierre's corner in between rounds.

"There's not a lot you can do after the fact but make sure that it doesn't happen again," he said. "But we can put them before the commission to talk to them, if warranted, and give them a chance to respond."

In reviewing the Nevada state athletic commission's regulations governing "unarmed combat" sports including boxing, kickboxing and MMA in the state, "greasing" a fighter's body is not explicitly outlawed in the state athletic commission's regulations.

Under the commission's rule numbered NAC 467.598 and covering physical appearance of combatants, it states, "The excessive use of grease or any other foreign substance may not be used on the face or body of an unarmed combatant. The referees or the Commission’s representative in charge shall cause any excessive grease or foreign substance to be removed."

Kizer, however, told NBCSports.com that while the written regulation doesn't outlaw greasing the body, fighters at MMA events are verbally told by both the commission and the promoter that it is not allowed.

Asked whether the rules should be amended to include not greasing the body, Kizer said, "Not necessarily, but it wouldn't hurt. The reason for rules is to give notice as to what's illegal, and they have notice of that."

Vaseline and other grease-like products are often used on a fighter's face to stop bleeding and prevent scrapes from combatant's gloves. While it would serve little purpose to grease a boxer's body, adding grease to a mixed martial artist's body would make him much more difficult to control in securing a dominant position or submission.

In Nahabedian's letter to the commission, he wrote, "Simply put, by lubricating GSP's body, a highly slippery surface was created that completely neutralized an innocent participant's abilities and strategy to the advantage of GSP." It goes on to add, "More importantly, by neutralizing Mr. Penn's Brazilian jiu-jitsu abilities through the use of illegal and improper means, Mr. Penn was subjected to a life-threatening and career-ending environment; an environment that the Commission was armed to protect against."

Nahabedian claims that Penn's camp told the commission prior to the bout of the possibility of St. Pierre greasing. During the fight, commission members did towel down St. Pierre, but Penn's letter makes it clear the UFC welterweight champion was still too slippery.

Kizer said Penn's cornermen Greg Jackson and Phil Nurse could face a fine or suspension, but would have a chance to answer for their actions before any penalty was handed down.

Unlike Nevada, the California state athletic commission rules explicity outlaw applying grease anywhere but on the face. The rule in Chapter 2, article 6, section 305 reads, "The excessive use of petroleum jelly or other similar substances shall not be permitted and such substances shall be applied to the face only."

St. Pierre improved to 18-2 with the victory while Penn fell to 13-5-1.

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