Originally Posted by SI
Returning to the Aloha State after the worst defeat of his career, B.J. Penn, still the UFC lightweight titleholder, has much to contemplate.
Priority No. 1, according to sources in his camp, remains whether or not to lodge a formal complaint with the Nevada State Athletic Commission alleging Georges St. Pierre's corner knowingly and illegally used Vaseline on the UFC welterweight champion's body to gain an unfair advantage Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Should Penn decide to move forward and attack the integrity of St. Pierre and his camp, chances are the Hawaiian will want to fight again. That, surprisingly, is not an automatic. Though the answer seems obvious considering Penn, who is only 30, appears perfectly capable of carving himself a meaningful legacy at 155, no one close to "The Prodigy" knows for certain if he'll return.
"Before we got to Vegas we were talking," Penn's chief trainer, Rudy Valentino, said Sunday evening after returning to Hilo. With a win over St. Pierre "he wanted this to be his last fight."
Saturday morning Penn woke to a sun-drenched Sin City with plenty on his mind. Half a day away from vying to become the first mixed martial artist to hold two belts in the UFC at the same time, Penn "had come to a realization," his longtime trainer and mentor recalled.
"If I win, I win. That's the destiny of this fight," Penn told Valentino. "If I lose, it's because G.S.P. is the better man."
"This fight was a really big pressure on him, the most pressure he ever had in his whole life," Valentino said. "He just wanted to express himself when we were walking and talking."
It didn't take long against St. Pierre to realize the evening was not going to end the way Penn and his many supporters had hoped. With the champion outweighing Penn by nearly 20 pounds, St. Pierre put on a technical and tactical clinic that left the challenger battered and bloodied. For Penn's closest friends, the result was stunning. Never before had they seen him beaten in such a fashion. Even against Matt Hughes, when Penn lay exhausted taking elbow after elbow to his head, the Hawaiian didn't absorb the kind of punishment St. Pierre delivered during their 20 minutes together.
Nothing seemed to work. Standing, Penn took stiff shots, leaving a spigot where his nose was supposed to be. On the ground, the centerpiece of his game plan for the highly anticipated rematch, Penn was overwhelmed. His vaunted guard busted open like it belonged to a rookie Brazilian jiu-jitsu player.
As they shared an ambulance afterwards, Penn (13-5-1) voiced to Valentino how slippery he thought St. Pierre felt. The trainer said he noticed it early in Round 2. After the 27-year-old French-Canadian, now 18-2, landed the first of many takedowns, Penn tried to employ the rubber guard. When he couldn't maintain any semblance of a high guard, Penn's corner became suspicious.
"After the first round, two commissioners on our side noticed Vaseline being applied to the neck and the back of Georges St. Pierre," Valentino said. "They went over, told the other commissioners and spoke to [referee] Herb Dean."
Nevada State Athletic Commission inspectors watched closely while veteran trainers Greg Jackson and Phil Nurse worked St. Pierre's corner.
Nurse, a 30-year veteran of martial arts and a well-respected Muay Thai trainer based out of New York, was tasked with two things: apply Vaseline to the brow, cheekbones, bridge of the nose and temples of the champion's chiseled face, and utilize a pressure-point holistic technique that apparently delivers an energy boost.
What the world saw was Nurse, the back of his left hand acting as a palate for a finger of Vaseline, massage grease into the champion's face, shoulders and back. NSAC inspectors, reacting to people at ringside who took the application as an attempt to give St. Pierre an unfair advantage, scolded Nurse between the first and second, and the second and third rounds.
"I was in the Octagon and they came in screaming: 'On his face! On his face!' I really didn't know what they were saying," Nurse said of NSAC inspectors. "I see it now. In the heat of the moment, I've got a minute to get in there, keep him calm, do my energy work on him, elevate his legs and then he listens to Greg. What they were screaming at me about, I didn't know. Had they said 'You're putting Vaseline on his back' it would have put two and two together."
Valentino said Jackson, a highly respected trainer of many champions, including St. Pierre and UFC light heavyweight titleholder, Rashad Evans, came into their locker room afterwards and apologized for the mistake. Penn's camp took it as an admission of guilt. But that was not the message Jackson intended.
"It certainly wasn't intentional and the commission was all over us and wiped it off," Jackson said. "I don't think it was a fight-modifying thing. I just think it was Phil doing one thing and then realized he needed to do another thing. Completely unintentional."
"If we were going to cheat we wouldn't rub him with Vaseline in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and cameras all over," he quipped. "That wouldn't make any sense at all. Give me some credit. If I was going to cheat, I'd be a little smarter than that."
As the sting of defeat wanes and Penn searches for perspective, he'll try to determine whether Jackson is sincere or simply trying lay down some cover.
Late Sunday, Penn's representatives decided against filing the complaint, which has already been drawn up by the Hawaiian's family attorney, first thing Monday, a reaction perhaps to some initial communication between the camps. Distance from the fight will also yield breathing room to make a decision on the rest of his career. But considering how his fight transpired, and with the apparent controversy over tactics in St. Pierre's corner, Valentino believes Penn could have a change of heart.
"I'm not making excuses for B.J.'s fight," he said. "What happened, happened. St. Pierre was a better fighter. But B.J. couldn't get his ground game off because his legs were slipping off. His hands were slipping off. He couldn't get going. It wore him out. That could have been a factor in the fight.
"After what happened I think he might have something to prove again. He might jump up and go at it again. I don't know."
The only one who might, it seems, is Penn himself.