Georges St-Pierre‘s impromptu conference call turned out to be incredibly significant after all. The UFC welterweight champion announced today that he is taking an indefinite break from MMA competition, and has vacated his welterweight title. As he explained during his opening statement on the call:
“I’ve been fighting for a long time at a very high level. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of criticism, and I decided to take time off. The UFC is a business, they can’t wait for my little self. I vacate my title for the respect of the other competitors, and one day when I feel like it, I might come back.
“It’s a lot of pressure. Every fight, I’m carrying weight on my shoulder, and every fight you add weight on your shoulder, you add weight, and add weight, and add weight — it becomes so heavy that I can’t carry it myself. Physically I am 100%, but mentally I cannot go through another training camp right now, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to.”
When Yahoo! reporter Kevin Iole asked St-Pierre if concern about physical damage or head trauma factored into his decision, GSP repeated that his decision had nothing to do with that. “I need to have a normal life for a bit, and that’s it.”
“I believe that one day I will come back,” St-Pierre said later, “but I don’t know [when].”
St-Pierre’s competitive future has been a question mark ever since his controversial UFC 167 victory over Johny Hendricks. Following the win, an emotionally distracted St-Pierre made a vague statement about needing to go away for a while — which drew the immediate wrath of Dana White in the post-fight press-conference. But now that St-Pierre has given more closure to the situation, White is completely supportive.
“This is fighting, and you have to be 100% mentally, physically, and emotionally,” the UFC president explained. “If you’re not, you should wait on the sidelines until you get your stuff cleared up…He was classy enough to say, ‘I’m not going to jam up the 170-pound division while I deal with these things.’ He’s going to deal with his stuff and come back…He’s the greatest welterweight of all time, and he’s the gold standard in everything…I think this is the right move for Georges St-Pierre.”
St-Pierre also gave more insight into the daily pressures he felt as a UFC star:
“I’ve never been a victim. I choose to do this. But as much as I choose to do it, [now] I choose to not do it. [Fight] promotion, Primetime, the cameras, trash-talk, everywhere I go in restaurants [fans] talk to me about [fighting] all time, it’s completely insane. Right now I need to take a pause…My life, it’s a freakin’ zoo right now.”
Beyond that, GSP was tight-lipped about his future plans, or possible time-frame of return: “You’re not gonna get anything personal out of me, and that’s all.”
That might be all for him right now, but his absence from the UFC means that the welterweight division just got a boost of necessary excitement. After St-Pierre had exited the call, Dana White announced that UFC 171: Jones vs. Teixeira (March 15th, Dallas) would also feature Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler fighting for the UFC’s vacant welterweight title. [Update: Jones vs. Teixeira has been shifted to UFC 172 in April. Hendricks vs. Lawler will headline UFC 171.] White added that he’s trying to get Carlos Condit on the card as well, though not against the recently-injured Matt Brown. (“We’re going in a different direction,” White said when asked about Brown’s immediate future. Ugh. Tough break, Matt)
In frantic fight-promoter mode, White described Hendricks vs. Lawler as a “gunfight” and a “dogfight,” on the level of “Haglar vs. Hearns.”
So that’s pretty much where we’re at right now. Please pick your jaws up off the floor and tell us how you’re feeling in the comments section.