First there was “glove-gate.” Now, another mini-controversy has emerged surrounding the UFC 158 main event between welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz and the athletic commission overseeing it, and Diaz’ legal team is now requesting that a rematch with St-Pierre take place or St-Pierre should vacate his title.
A hidden camera video taken backstage prior to the weigh-ins for the March 16 event at the Bell Centre in Montreal has revealed a suggestion of some impropriety involving the official weigh-in results prior to the fight, which St-Pierre won by unanimous decision, taking all five rounds on all three judges’ scorecards.
In the video, the UFC’s Senior VP of Business and Legal Affairs Michael Mersh is heard talking to Diaz’ camp and saying that he and St-Pierre would be given an extra hour to make weight if necessary and that they would not have to make the exact 170-pound weight limit for the title fight but could be up to 0.9 pounds over the mark because the Quebec commission doesn’t count the decimal.
A full transcription of the dialogue was provided by MMA.tv:
"Here, they're going to allow you and Georges to have an extra hour," Mersch says. "Just in case somebody doesn't make it."
"But the good news is, they don't count the decimal. If you're 170.2 it's 170. If it's 170.9. it's 170."
A member of the Diaz camp responds, asking "why didn't we know that before?"
"Should be fine, hopefully, other than that. Just so you guys are in the loop, if there's …"
Again, a member of the Diaz camps responds, asking "why didn't you tell us that yesterday?"
"Well, no," he says. "It's just something to keep in mind. That's kind of an off the record type of thing. But keep that in mind. As long as he's under 171, we should be good.
"But, there is a time period afterwards, for you and Georges only. All the other fighters have to make it the first time. Just letting you guys be in the loop, okay?
A member of the Diaz camp quips, "that's a loophole... A Canadian loophole."
The video was available to view on YouTube, but on Tuesday afternoon was removed with the message: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by UFC."
It also casts a questionable light on Quebec's athletic commission, which is overseen by the Regie des alcools, des courses et des jeux. There is no known allowance in the Unified Rules of MMA for a fighter to be even an ounce over the contracted limit for a fight, nor would it be viewed kindly should such weigh-in results be treated differently "off the record."
MMAfighting.com's Ariel Helwani tweeted Monday that he spoke to the Regie's director Michel Hamelin, who said "this has always been a rule in Quebec and that no funny business, so to speak, was in play to favour anyone on the card."
"I'll tell you this," Hamelin added. "The one thing we always do is respect our rules."
He said the commission will be sending out an official statement this week to explain the situation in greater detail.
A phone message left by sportsnet.ca with the Régie's communications director Joyce Tremblay was not returned Tuesday.
However, Tremblay provided the following statement in an email to MMAFighting.com: "I wish to inform you that, during UFC 158, no contestants exceeded the weight determined in their contracts. Currently, the Régie does take into consideration the maximum weight determined by contract when it carries out the weight-ins (sic) before a bout. However, our regulation on combat sports does not take decimals into account. Their consideration is a question of interpretation likely to be debated between the two parties under contract."
It's worth noting that the commission is the one that sets the weigh-in rules for combat sports in its jurisdiction -- thus, such rules cannot be said to have been "broken" by the commission in place for the given event.
However, the commission's statement has not satisfied the Diaz camp or his legal team, who are now using this as the latest attempt to get a rematch with St-Pierre.
Vancouver-based lawyer Jonathan Tweedale, Nick Diaz' legal counsel, released a statement Tuesday, which opens with: "The Quebec Commission's statement is a disappointing admission that the March 16 event was not conducted under the rules applicable to a UFC title fight -- or under the rules the fighters contractually agreed to, upon which rules Mr. Diaz was entitled to rely under his bout agreement."
The statement ends with: "In the circumstances, Mr. St-Pierre remains legally and ethically obligated to fight Mr. Diaz at 170 pounds or else vacate the belt in favor of those prepared to fight at welterweight."
(Read the full statement here.)
No evidence was provided that St-Pierre did in fact weigh in over 170 pounds; regardless of this allowance, whether official or not, St-Pierre may have been within the limit anyway. Without evidence to the contrary, it would appear that the Diaz team would have no grounds to have their request granted.
This isn't the first suggestion of some form of commission favouritism toward St-Pierre by the Diaz camp. On the night of the fights, an issue was raised by them as to the way St-Pierre's hands were wrapped. Jake Shields, who was the member of Diaz’ team permitted by the commission to inspect St-Pierre's gloves, left after initially being present for it, but a second member of Diaz’ team returned later looking to inspect them again. They were denied access by the commission; Shields later claimed the gloves looked "shady."
Then, during the post-fight press conference, Diaz seemed to suggest as well that it was improperly wrapped, saying he didn't feel like St-Pierre hit very hard but that one punch felt harder than it should when he was hit above the eye and suffered a cut.
Diaz has also suggested that the commission has not been diligent enough in ensuring that St-Pierre was free of banned substances for their fight.
In addition to Diaz saying on a Sportsnet 590 The Fan radio appearance two days prior to the fight that he believed St-Pierre was on steroids and the UFC was helping to cover it up, his camp plans to file an official complaint regarding the handling of their post-fight drug test. They said nobody was present to supervise Diaz' providing of a drug sample -- thus assuming St-Pierre’s was unsupervised as well.
Included in the Tweedale statement was the following: "Further serious irregularities including, inter alia, the Quebec Commission's failure to supervise fighters' provision of samples in connection with testing for Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods (under sections 71.1 to 71.6 of the Regulation), will be set out in an official complaint that will be filed imminently.”
Diaz is also not the first fighter to accuse the St-Pierre of some form of cheating. Former UFC champion B.J. Penn alleged St-Pierre had applied grease to his torso just prior to their UFC 94 fight in Las Vegas in January 2009 -- grease can only be applied to the face to alleviate cuts. Penn filed a formal complaint to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, but it was denied.
St-Pierre said the rubbing of his body was part of his pre-fight routine and that if any Vaseline that got onto has body, it was accidental. The incident was referred to as "grease-gate" and did lead to new rules allowing only the official cut-man to apply Vaseline to fighters.