There is a general consensus among Georges St-Pierre’s coaching staff that UFC 167 may have indeed been the last time the reigning welterweight champ ever steps foot into the Octagon.
After winning a controversial split decision over Johny Hendricks a little over a week ago, St-Pierre told UFC commentator Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview that he would be hanging up the gloves and going on an indefinite hiatus to deal with personal problems in his life.
Immediately after the interview, an enraged UFC President Dana White blasted the champ for his post-fight comments. During the UFC 167 post-fight press conference, White claimed that St-Pierre owed it to the UFC, the fans and Hendricks to step up and do a rematch. It was certainly one of the most uncomfortable press conferences in recent memory, as a bruised up St-Pierre sat in silence taking in all the criticism.
Things have cooled off significantly since UFC 167, and White remains confident that St-Pierre will ultimately return to fighting and give Hendricks a rematch.
Despite White’s unrelenting assurance, a different tone is coming from the St-Pierre camp. Most have chalked St-Pierre’s post-fight comments up as gibberish spoken by a man who had taken far too many “H-bombs” from Hendricks, but St-Pierre’s manager, Rodolphe Beaulieu, told MMA journalist Ariel Helwani the champ meant every word that he said:
I spoke to Georges manager, Rodolphe Beaulieu, just a couple of days ago, and he told me that it is quote, unquote possible that that fight on Saturday night was Georges last in his entire MMA career, Helwani revealed during Wednesday's episode of UFC Tonight. …He said that everything Georges said inside the Octagon and after on Saturday night, he meant it. This wasn’t something that just came out of nowhere. It had been building up over time. …Right now, that rematch is not set in stone.
There have been subtle hints in the media regarding St-Pierre’s impending retirement dating all the way back to his November 2012 bout with Carlos Condit.
Firas Zahabi, St-Pierre’s head coach, admitted to fans at the Gentleman’s Expo on Saturday, via MMA digest, that St-Pierre had indeed been off and on about retiring since returning from his ACL injury to fight Condit:
He was thinking about stopping after Condit, then Diaz called him out and he had to come back for Diaz. He had to do the Diaz fight. Then after Diaz they said, ‘If you leave, you’re ducking Hendricks.’ So he had to do Hendricks. Now he has to do a rematch with Hendricks, and if he loses, he’s got to do a rubber match.
If he wins that, he’s got to fight some new young gun that knocked out somebody that Georges can’t duck. It never ends. It’s been like that for seven or eight years, and I think it’s time for him to sit back and think about himself for a while because I think he’s paid his dues. I don’t think anybody can disagree that Georges paid his dues.
If St-Pierre is still in debt to the UFC, then the same would hold true for every fighter that ever stepped into the Octagon.
St-Pierre holds both UFC records for wins and time spent in the Octagon. The UFC hasn’t shied away from the fact that St-Pierre is the promotion’s breadwinner.
White has stated on multiple occasions, including the UFC 167 post-fight presser, that St-Pierre is by far the biggest pay-per-view draw in the UFC.
From purely a promotional perspective, it makes a lot of sense for St-Pierre to come back for at least one more fight. A rematch with Hendricks would be big enough to warrant a stadium show and draw gargantuan pay-per-view numbers.
As for St-Pierre, what more does he have to prove?
He is without a doubt the best welterweight in UFC history and arguably the greatest fighter of all time.
Most would argue that St-Pierre owes Hendricks a rematch based off the mere principle of a close fight. If this were the case, Hendricks owes both Josh Koscheck and Mike Pierce rematches considering those were also controversial split decisions.
Bottom line, it will never be over for St-Pierre as long as he keeps fighting. There will always be another big fight for him to take. Fighting has already taken a toll on him mentally and physically.
On The Opie & Anthony Show, Rogan pointed to St-Pierre talking about missing time and being abducted by aliens as clear evidence he needs to hang up the gloves. After the Hendricks fight, St-Pierre told fans at the post-fight presser he couldn’t even remember a large portion of the bout after taking multiple blows to the head.
St-Pierre’s mentor, Kristof Midoux, told Le Journal de Montreal, which was translated by BloodyElbow.com, that he can no longer sit idly and watch St-Pierre put himself in harm’s way. If St-Pierre decides to keep fighting, Midoux will no longer be in the champ’s corner:
I think Georges will abandon his belt and there will be a world championship without him. The decision is up to him and I expect him to come back from vacation to sit and talk with him. But he is aware that he needs to rest. It must leave room for anything else in his heart.
…I think he made the biggest career in this sport, but if he decides to return, for any reason, I will not be in his corner. I do not want to see him suffer more, having accomplished what all dream to accomplish. He has another life awaits. I think he has many other things to do, instead of trying to find out who is the strongest in the world, because he has proved that it was him.
As a fan, it’s rare to get an opportunity to witness true all-time greatness unfold before your very eyes. Fans of this generation have been lucky to see guys like St-Pierre and Anderson Silva compete in the same era. If this truly is the end for St-Pierre, it makes the massive amount of drama he was subjected to after UFC 167 even more unfortunate.
The entire MMA world will certainly miss him when he’s gone.