It should have been one of the greatest fights in the annals of MMA. It had the potential of a history-making fight, where one man could leave the octagon holding the titles of two different weight classes, simultaneously. Instead, the long awaited rematch between Georges St. Pierre and BJ Penn became an embarrassment for both of the fighters involved.
After the first time these two men fought, Georges St. Pierre spent the night in a hospital; bloody, bruised, and battered. His face looked like it was on the receiving end of a Barry Bonds home run swing. BJ Penn on the other hand, headed to his after party at some Las Vegas nightclub, not looking to have ever broken a sweat. It was St. Pierre however, that eeked out a much disputed split decision at UFC 58 in March of 2006.
A rematch was inevitable and UFC president, Dana White, turned to old faithful, Spike TV, to get the hype machine rolling. Following in the footsteps of HBO and their documentary "24/7" chronicling the moments leading up the De La Hoya/Mayweather fight, Zuffa and the UFC produced a three part series titled "UFC: Primetime." The show followed the two fighters as they trained for the upcoming title bout and often featured interview segments. Judging the from the copious amount of trash talk spewing from Penn's mouth, the fans would be in for an absolute battle.
There certainly was a battle, just not the one(s) the fans expected. BJ battled for air as his feet battled to maintain guard on an extremely slippery GSP. Penn antagonists are quick to bring up BJ's lack of cardio and the seemingly non-dedicated attitude he portrays. BJ made a point to dismiss these critiques on UFC: Primetime, running underwater while carrying large rocks and even making not-so-subtle remarks, offering to slap Dana White for questioning his training regimen. His performance on January 31st, proved that talk is indeed, cheap. Penn looked fatigued and mentally beaten after the first two rounds of the fight. After spending the better part of three rounds underneath a stronger, more determined GSP, Penn's corner threw in the towel. Quite a hypocrisy considering Penn previously called St. Pierre a "bitch" and a "quitter."
As disappointed as I was with Penn's performance in the fight, I'm even more disappointed with GSP and his camp. After round one, it was brought to the attention of the Nevada State Athletic Committee that cornerman Phil Nurse applied vaseline to St. Pierre's shoulders and back while allegedly performing a breathing ritual in which he places his hand on GSP's chest and simultaneously rubs his back. The NSAC removed the vaseline and attempted to wipe down St. Pierre's back after round two but the damage had already been done. Head trainer, Greg Jackson, claims that his fighter and his camp did not cheat. If there was any vaseline placed on the fighter's back it was done unintentionally and without cause. Penn's camp had issued a request for investigation but no formal complaint has been filed to date.
It's not clear at the moment whether or not Georges St. Pierre will be stripped of his belt. Proving that he, himself, knew that he was being rubbed with vaseline will be harder to prove than whether or not the act itself was premeditated and done intentionally. Since this fiasco has come to light, former GSP opponents Matt Hughes and Matt Serra have claimed that they found St. Pierre to be rather slippery in their bouts as well. Of course that's easy to say now. As a fan of St. Pierre, I hope that this was a one-time misunderstanding that doesn't tarnish his championship. As a fan of MMA, I hope the NSAC looks into this and makes sure it never happens again. As a fan of BJ Penn, I hope he answers Greg Jackson and Georges St. Pierre's challenge and shows us that he really is one of the best fighters in the world.