UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre vacated his title Thursday afternoon during a special conference call.
St-Pierre, who made first mention of the possibility of his leaving MMA for the time being after defeating Johny Hendricks earlier this year, cited a desire to step away from the sport for the time being.
“I talked with Dana (White) and Lorenzo (Fertitta) about it,” GSP said. “I’ve been fighting for a long time, 22 fights in the UFC. I’ve been fighting for a very long time at a high level with a lot of pressure and I decided I need to take time off.”
St-Pierre said the decision to vacate the title was out of respect to the UFC and his fellow fighters, adding “I know the UFC is a business and they can’t wait for one little person. They need to keep things rolling.”
He did leave open the possibility of a return down the road, stating “one day, when I feel like it, I might come back. (But) right now I need a break.”
St-Pierre, 32 years old, is the winner of the only UFC champion vs. UFC champion match in promotion history, having bested rival BJ Penn in 2009. He is owns a UFC-record 19 wins and has spent over five hours competing inside the Octagon – also a record.
“I agree with Georges 100-percent,” White said. “He sat down and talked with us. This isn’t baseball or some other sport, this is fighting. You have to be 100-percent mental, physical and emotionally (there to compete). I think it’s the right move.”
ESPN honored him as a nominee for Fighter of the Year in 2008, ’10 and ’11, while Rogers Sportnet named him the Canadian Athlete of the Year three times (2008, ’09, ’10).
St-Pierre defeated both Penn and Matt Hughes in 2006, becoming the UFC welterweight champion for the first time. He dropped the title to Matt Serra in 2007 via first round TKO, but won it back later that year on an interim basis.
In 2008, he stopped Serra in Montreal via second round TKO to unify the belts and has held the title since, topping the likes of Jon Fitch, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields and Carlos Condit.
Following his victory over Hendricks earlier this year, GSP stated a desire to take some time off from competing, addressing retirement rumors at that moment.
“Thank you to everyone in the UFC, Johny Hendricks….I have to go away for a little bit at least. I have some personal things happening and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said in the Octagon after the fight. “I have to step away for a bit. That is all I can say. Later on (I) will make a point on that, but right now I got to go away for a little bit. I am very emotional right now.”
St-Pierre said he plans to continue training and live a “little bit more of a normal life.” He believes his “one day” he will be back competing.