by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
The fighters of Greg Jackson’s team are no strangers to ritual inside the Octagon.
First there’s the “Jackson nipple tweak,” a bizarre, if amusing, twist of the nipples his fighters often do before fighting, believed to prepare them for intense battle inside the Octagon.
Now, there appears to be a new ritual in Jackson’s camp, and it’s the source of controversy following Georges St. Pierre’s rout of B.J. Penn at Saturday’s UFC 94.
St. Pierre’s cornermen, including Jackson, were at the center of a storm at UFC 94 after officials from the Nevada State Athletic Commission approached them during the fight to investigate allegations that they were applying Vaseline to St. Pierre in between rounds.
Jackson spoke to MMAWeekly.com on Sunday afternoon and said the misunderstanding arose after Phil Nurse, one of St. Pierre’s cornermen, executed a ritual taught by a member of St. Pierre’s team, a “witch doctor” named Steven Friend.
“So in between rounds, (Friend) had this little drill that you do – and Phil Nurse is the one who knows how to do it – he showed Phil, and this is what Georges wanted, so we did that,” Jackson said. “But this is why we were doing it. He rubbed your back and tapped your chest; I don’t know exactly how it works. But anyways, what that’s supposed to do is get your energy in line, or motivated or whatever. So in between rounds, we had Phil Nurse do that.”
Jackson said St. Pierre has worked with Friend for years, since the French Canadian began training at Jackson’s academy in Albuquerque, N.M. Jackson says Friend has also worked with Matt Hughes and Randy Couture in preparation for their fights. Friend was featured in the sixth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” as a guest of Hughes.
“The controversy came because Phil Nurse also was putting Vaseline on Georges’ eyebrows,” Jackson elaborated. “In between rounds, you always want to put on Vaseline on (a fighter’s face). So Phil Nurse put all the Vaseline on his face, so his hands might have had a miniscule amount left over from that, when he went around the side and rubbed a little point on his back, and tapped on his chest.
“At that point, somebody in the audience thought we were greasing George down, and ran over and told the commission that we were greasing his body down. The commission came in and said ‘you can’t grease him down,’ which didn’t work. They said ‘you’re putting Vaseline on his back,’ and Phil’s like, ‘oh, there might be a little on my fingers, but it wasn’t intentional at all, and of course they wiped it right off and it was gone, so it wasn’t a factor in the fight at all.”
Indeed, much of the fight played out with St. Pierre on top of Penn, doling out a vicious ground and pound attack. Jackson said after a little explaining, the commission realized what was going on.
“We told our side of the story, we said didn’t mean to put any grease anywhere,” he said. “If we were trying to grease the back we’d be greasing up and down, we would make it count. We wouldn’t do a little tiny spot in the back. The whole thing doesn’t make any sense, so they were fine with it once we gave our explanation. It wasn’t like we were taking gobs of Vaseline and slathering on his back. They didn’t understand the drill that the witch doctor was having us do, and so it looked that way. It didn’t affect the fight at all.”
At this point, no formal complaint has been filed with the NSAC. The popular trainer chalks the whole incident up to fan paranoia.
“The whole greasing thing is pretty ridiculous,” he said. “You can’t grease somebody up. You just couldn’t do it. They check your body before you get into the cage, there’s an inspector right there. In order for us to grease him up, it would be insane. There are cameras everywhere. We don’t cheat. We don’t need to cheat to win.”
Jackson said he wasn’t aware if St. Pierre’s ritual was related to the infamous “nipple tweak,” as the whole business was “out of his domain.” As long as it made his fighter feel better, he was all for it.
“If it works, we’re going to use it,” he said.