At this point, there appears to be very little mystery left in Georges St-Pierre’s indefinite leave of absence from mixed martial arts.
In case you didn’t hear him the first time, the former UFC welterweight champion said on Monday he thinks major changes are still needed in how the sport conducts its drug testing.
Without them, he won’t return.
“Personally, I’m not interested in coming back if there’s nothing done in that regard…,” St-Pierre said during an appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. “The only thing I regret now is…I should have (made these demands) before this. Because this has been bothering me for a long time and I never said anything.”
When St-Pierre first relinquished the 170-pound title and announced he would take a sabbatical from MMA three months ago, a lot was said (and not said) about his unspecified personal problems. There seemed to be no end to speculation about what could be troubling him so much that he’d be willing to give up the welterweight championship and walk away from the sport that made him.
The more we hear from him now, however, the more obvious it is that those private issues (whatever they were) weren't the only thing bothering him. He also wanted comprehensive independent drug testing for himself and his future opponents.
On Monday GSP sounded rested and relaxed, even a little bit thrilled that last weekend he got the chance to watch UFC 171 in the company of personal hero Arnold Schwarzenegger. He didn’t seem irked or jealous that Johny Hendricks is the new champion, and near the end of the conversation got a chance to personally wish Hendricks well when Helwani patched him in via phone.
“Stick around for a bit,” St-Pierre said to Hendricks. “Keep the title and we’ll see what happens in the sport. If some things change maybe we’ll get together again.”
The personal issues? They seemed like old news, making it feel more likely than ever that St-Pierre’s much-ballyhooed private crisis amounted to little more than simply needing a rest after spending the last decade of his life walking the razor’s edge of UFC competition.
St-Pierre told Helwani he’d “never been happier” than after four months away from the cage and without the pressure of another big fight on the horizon. He says he’s not stressed and is at work on some business ventures to “build a better life.”
Drug testing, it appeared, was the one issue left that stuck in his craw.
That’s a different story than the one we heard during his awkward in-cage interview after his narrow decision win over Hendricks at UFC 167. It’s different than what we heard from him at the post-fight presser or the numerous bits of gossip that floated to the surface immediately following his retirement.
When St-Pierre first put some of the blame for his exit from the sport on ineffectual drug testing in January during a press event in Montreal, UFC officials said they were shocked by the comments. They said the topic didn’t come up with him when he told the company he was vacating his title in late December.
On Monday, St-Pierre told Helwani he’d privately discussed the issue with both UFC President Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta following UFC 167 and didn’t see how they could be surprised to hear him talk about it again. He reiterated that he doesn’t want to hurt the fight company, but only wants to “elevate the sport” by changing the system by which fighters are drug tested.
What was less clear was specifically how St-Pierre wishes to change the system. He made a point of saying his beef wasn’t with state athletic commissions or the UFC, but repeated again and again that his objections were with the mechanism itself, which he believes is unsatisfactory.
At least now we know: The personal issues made for nice fodder for whispers and innuendo, but they are no longer what's keeping St-Pierre from returning to the cage. Now, the problem is drug testing and how to fix it.
If we ever want to see him in action again, it sounds like somebody better figure out a way to make some changes.
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