Turns out the temporary leave of absence proposed by UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre may be very short-lived.
St. Pierre announced he would be stepping away from the sport immediately after retaining his belt with a highly controversial split decision over Johny Hendricks in the cage at MGM Grand on Saturday night.
Providing few details and refusing to use the word “retire,” the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest pay-per-view draw indicated personal issues were weighing so heavily on him that he needed to take some time off.
By the time reporters left the arena early Sunday, there were indications a rematch may happen in the near future.
UFC president Dana White had been irate in the immediate aftermath of the fight, which he felt was wrongly awarded to St. Pierre by the judges. Most of his venom was spewed at the Nevada Athletic Commission and its executive director Keith Kizer, but there was also some passionate words directed at St. Pierre before the champion arrived in the room.
“He didn’t say, ‘I’m gonna retire, I’m hanging it up. It’s been great everybody. Thanks a lot for all the years. See you later.’ He said, ‘I’m gonna take some time off,’ ” White said. “First off, that decision that happens, you don’t just say, ‘Oh I’m going to take some time off. Maybe I’ll be back, maybe I won’t.’
“You owe it to the fans, you owe it to the belt, you owe it to this company, and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity for him to fight again.”
St. Pierre was about 20 minutes late for the news conference due to having his badly battered face stitched up, and when he finally did appear, the 32-year-old champion was once again elusive about his plans.
“I can’t sleep at night, man,” he said. “I’m going crazy. I have issues, and I need to get out for a while. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
White seemed more sympathetic after hearing St. Pierre’s reasoning and even came to his defense when several reporters tried to dig deeper into St. Pierre’s personal problems.
When the news conference ended, White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta met with St. Pierre behind closed doors for about 10 minutes. White returned to the media room for his customary post-news conference interview with reporters and said he believed St. Pierre would be ready to have a rematch with Hendricks in a few months.
“He’s obsessing over something right now that he thinks is the end of the world, but it’s not,” White said of St. Pierre. “He wants to fight. It’s a personal problem that has him very, very upset right now, and I’m confident he’s going to work it out.”
There is certainly no timetable as to when St. Pierre would be ready to fight again, much less a location. White strongly hinted that he’s going to think twice about bringing events to the company’s home state in the future, though similar comments have been made before by White without affecting the amount of UFC dates in the state.
“The governor needs to step in and fix the incompetence that is happening in the state of Nevada that used to be the best commission in the world. It’s absolutely, 100 percent incompetence, and it needs to stop,” White said, later adding he feels the biggest problem is in the selection of judges and referees.
White seemed to take a shot at Kizer individually.
“There’s a huge ego there that would rather stick it to us than do what’s right.”
Kizer did not respond to a request for comment. The UFC is set to return to Las Vegas for UFC 168 on Dec. 28.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.