Since April 19, 2008, Georges St. Pierre has held the UFC welterweight title in his kung fu grip. Nine title defenses over the course of the past five and a half years against a list of worthy contenders most certainly will take a toll on your body and mind. Which may be the reason why GSP’s ninth title defense at UFC 167 could have possibly been his last. But for those of us who spent time around St. Pierre leading up to the fight, we can’t be too surprised at GSP’s claims of having to “go away for a little bit” after he defeated Johny Hendricks by controversial split decision.
During fight week, St. Pierre’s team had started teasing that some type of announcement would be taking place. Hard-nosed journalists began searching for anything that would uncover the big mystery. After some digging, a few things alluded to the possibility of St. Pierre announcing his retirement.
For one, his ninth world title defense would effectively clean out the division. There isn’t anyone in the division left worth noting that could give St. Pierre a worthy challenge. And with the concept of a super fight with Anderson Silva effectively shot down after Silva was flattened by Chris Weidman earlier this year, St. Pierre was left with very little to prove. Which brings us back to the welterweight division and the only other prospect left that many considered the heir to GSP’s throne, Rory MacDonald. The problem with MacDonald is that St. Pierre is his mentor and the two train together at Montreal’s Tristar Gym. Both St. Pierre and MacDonald had put the idea of them squaring off against one another to rest. Interestingly enough, MacDonald was to face Robbie Lawler at UFC 167 in a fight where the winner would perhaps be considered the number one contender.
So, if the clues are put together properly, the theory goes a little something like this: Rory MacDonald would win his fight with Lawler and be considered the next in line for a title shot. Later that night, St. Pierre would dominate another opponent in Johny Hendricks and, rather than be forced to face his training partner, St. Pierre would retire and allow MacDonald to get his own run as the welterweight champion.
But a monkey wrench was thrown into that plan the moment MacDonald was soundly beaten by Robbie Lawler. To make matters worse, St. Pierre didn’t exactly dominate Hendricks in the main event. It was easily St. Pierre’s toughest challenge to date as the heavy-handed Hendricks left the French-Canadian’s face looking as if were used in a horror film makeup demonstration. Although the judges’ decision was rendered for St. Pierre, the uproar from the fans and media suggested otherwise.
So when St. Pierre uttered that he would be stepping away from the fight game for a while, he appeared just as unsure of his statement as we were trying to understand the logic of it all. It seemed planned but St. Pierre definitely didn’t want to go out like this. He was supposed to beam his big smile and theoretically open the door for his teammate. Nobody would argue if he had dominated like he always has. If anybody has earned a semi-retirement, it’s Georges St. Pierre.
But that’s not how things played out and we are left asking whether GSP has lost his smile.
Aside from the decision drawing the ire of the fans, UFC President Dana White spent his time during the opening minutes of the post fight press conference spouting statements filled with a wicked amount of vitriol. He lambasted the Nevada State Athletic Commission for appointing the judges and then turned his attention to St. Pierre saying that he “owes” it to the UFC and the fans to give Johny Hendricks an immediate rematch. Meanwhile, Georges St. Pierre was supposedly wheeled off to a hospital to have his injuries tended to. But then he showed up at the press conference, suit and all, to address the uncertainty that lingered in the air.
There is no doubt that the welterweight champion wanted to be anywhere but there. However, this is where the company man comes into play. He attempted to field questions regarding his…whatever his statement meant. Journalists prodded him like cattle yet never got the answer they were looking for. “I can’t sleep at night, man. 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,” St. Pierre said. Deciphering what that meant was the hard part but it appeared that his premeditated plan to walk away from the sport graciously was thwarted. Whatever is going on in Georges St. Pierre’s life wasn’t supposed to come out like this. Rather, this was supposed to be GSP bowing out while keeping the demons eating at his soul out of the public eye.
It’s obvious that he needs time to think and every question lobbed his way drew sympathy from Dana White, who finally told the media to stop asking the same question. St. Pierre, who has fought for a UFC record 5hrs 28min in the Octagon, had just been in the fight of his life and was likely still trying to grasp what had just happened. If anybody deserves time off, it’s St. Pierre. Whether it is a full-fledged retirement or just some time to get his personal life back in order, he shouldn’t be pressured to give immediate answers. Although White spoke to St. Pierre shortly after and said that he was confident that the welterweight champion would return to the Octagon sooner than later, nobody can be completely comfortable with that answer. St. Pierre has spent his entire career keeping up a company guise. How was this any different?
The only thing that’s for sure with Georges St. Pierre is that nothing is for sure.