Georges St. Pierre vacates title, plans on indefinite leave of absence

Georges St. Pierre’s bizarre post fight interview following his victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 has been a hot topic of conversation in the mixed martial arts community.

As he basked in the glory of his split decision victory, “Rush” dropped a bombshell on fight fans everywhere and announced he planned of taking a break from the sport of MMA.

“I can’t sleep at night, man,” St. Pierre told fans after his controversial win . “I’m going crazy. I have issues and I need to get out for a while. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I feel like I’m leaving everything out now, but I need to leave part of my life personal. I need to get out for a little bit, and that’s it.”

Questions quickly started to swirl as everyone began to wonder what would happen to 170-pound division now that their longtime champion was leaning towards retirement.

But all these questions were answered during a media call with St. Pierre and UFC president Dana White last Friday.

“I’ve been fighting for a long time,” St-Pierre said. “I’ve had 22 fights in the UFC and 15 of my fights were for a world title. I’ve been fighting a very long time for a high level. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of criticism, and I’ve decided I need to take time off. I know UFC is a business, and it can’t wait for one person. They have to keep things rolling, so I’ve vacated my title for the respect of the other competitors.”

St. Pierre’s win over Hendricks marked his 11th straight UFC title fight, meaning the Canadian superstar has been in the spotlight for a little more than half a decade. In that span of time the man known, as ‘Rush’ emerged as one of the most beloved athletes in all of combat sports while becoming the single biggest pay-per-view draw in the history of the UFC.

But it was all the responsibilities that came with being a champion and the weight of an entire country on his back that pushed St. Pierre over the edge, leaving a company without it’s biggest superstar and a the fight world without one it’s greatest ambassadors.

“Nobody can understand the situation that I am in. It’s all this pressure, all this weight I carry on my shoulders has been building up over a long time.

“People are like, ‘You only fight maybe every four months.’ But what they don’t understand is there’s so much promotion going with it. It’s the press tour, the Primetime, the cameras, the this, the trash talking, the build-up. Everywhere I go in restaurants and as soon as I step out of my house now in Quebec, because the sport now is popular, everybody says, ‘Hey, good luck with fight. Hey, the fight this. Hey, the fight that. Hey, what are you going to do to that guy?’ They talk about me, about this, all the time, and it’s completely insane. It’s everybody day of my life. So nobody can understand this pressure.”

But where many would begin to panic at the thought of losing their biggest moneymaker, White explained he understood where St. Pierre was coming from and would support his champion to the very end.

“Georges St-Pierre has always been 100-percent professional. I couldn’t say enough good things about him. It is what it is. It’s actually, at the end of the day, it’s really not that big of a deal. The guy’s got some things that he needs to deal with. He was classy enough to say, ‘I’m not going to jam up the 170-pound division while I deal with these things. I’m going to step aside and handle my stuff, and then I’ll be back.'”

When pressed if his departure from competition was permanent, St. Pierre said he could envision putting the gloves back on but could not give a specific timeframe for his possible return as he did not want to put anymore pressure on himself.

“If I give you a date, I immediately put myself back into a date, into pressure, (and) I’m going to start thinking about it,” said St. Pierre. “It has to be on my terms. I don’t know when, I don’t know if. I don’t know, I think I will. I can’t say 100-percent. But right now I don’t want the people thinking about me.

“I believe one day that I will come back. The problem is I don’t know how long. I cannot put myself in another training camp right now. I feel like mentally I need a break. That’s why I don’t want to make anybody wait. I just want to do it when I feel like it, and I’ll become stronger when I will. It’s going to be up to me.”

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