During a media appearance in Montreal yesterday, former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was uncharacteristically candid about his motivations for stepping away from the sport, and how he felt about the UFC not supporting him when he attempted to arrange enhanced drug-testing prior to his UFC 167 title fight against Johny Hendricks.
“It bothered me enormously,” St-Pierre said (in a translation by MMAFighting.com). “That’s one of the reasons why I stopped fighting. Not really to teach them a lesson, because that would also punish me. I wanted to do something for the sport. I love the sport. I see the direction it’s going, and I don’t think it makes any sense. This is stupid.”
“I tried to do something to change the sport,” St-Pierre continued. “Unfortunately, there were other people, for different reasons, maybe for money, in fear of losing money, because if you canceled the fight because someone tested positive there are millions of dollars [lost]. Also, the sport’s image…If you start testing everyone, how many will get caught? I don’t want to say in public because I don’t want to accuse anyone, but the sport’s image will be hurt. Don’t forget, I have internal information. I’m an athlete. I know what goes on, so that disappointed me greatly.”
Later, St-Pierre described the UFC as a “monopoly,” and suggested that he wouldn’t return to competition until the promotion’s drug-testing policy was improved:
“This is a relatively new sport. There’s one organization that has a monopoly, so the fighters don’t have much power. They can’t really talk because if one says what he thinks, he will get punished.
“If we want the sport to be accepted worldwide, like baseball, hockey, football, soccer, I believe [drug testing] is the thing to do. I think it’s just a matter of time before it happens, it’s just that I tried to make it happen now. Maybe they didn’t like the idea because if I did it now, it would lead to others doing it and maybe that’s not something they wanted to happen.
“It disappointed me. You know that there are things I can’t say. I’m holding back. I’m a public person…
“No wants to talk about [drugs in MMA], but I think we need to talk about it. It’s a problem. I wanted to remain diplomatic, but unfortunately there were people who weren’t ready to change things. I’m certain it’s a question of time. And maybe if things change one day, I’ll return.”
Understandably, the UFC’s top brass is upset that the formerly reserved and obedient St-Pierre is putting the promotion’s business out on the street — and subtly threatening to drop more bombshells in the future. After St-Pierre’s comments were first published, UFC CEO Lorenzo “The Body” Fertitta immediately went on defense, saying he was “shocked” and “disappointed” by what GSP had said.
“We’ve always had an open line of communication with him and I’d like to know why he feels that way,” Fertitta told Yahoo!’s Kevin Iole.
“It was extremely disappointing to hear Georges make those comments because I don’t think any organization has embraced drug testing as we have,” Fertitta said. “We have not only agreed to pay when the commission has said it wants to do enhanced testing, we’ve encouraged it. We have no problem with testing. When we serve as the commission [in areas out of the country where there is no commission], we test everyone on the card so we are thorough and there can be no claims of bias.
“Whatever a commission would want us to do in terms of testing, we would embrace it. We’ll do as many as they want. I think perhaps Georges’ people didn’t communicate to him in detail everything we’d do as they tried to arrange the testing for the fight with him and Johny.”
“Obviously, we know there are some athletes that do cheat, but we are catching them,” Fertitta added in an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “Hopefully, because the penalties for being caught have gone to the extent they have — monetary, suspensions, revocations of licenses — it’s convincing these guys it’s not worth it.”
St-Pierre is right about one thing: It’s not in the UFC’s best interest, financially speaking, to have every drug-cheater on its roster caught and exposed. But does the promotion have a responsibility to employ stricter drug-testing than what it has generally relied on through athletic commissions? And has GSP become a permanent enemy of the UFC by publicly suggesting that?