As fans know, the UFC’s welterweight belt is up for grabs and as of the result of the division’s long-running champion, Georges St. Pierre, vacating the title.

For reasons unknown, “Rush” has chosen to put the belt down and walk away from his beloved sport. He has, however, left the door open to returning at some future date.

Of the situation, all that fans have been able to gather is that the champ is tired and would like to step out of the spotlight, and away from the pressure and grind of being champion. Beyond that, fans have been informed that he has some personal issues that he’d like to resolve. As to what the issues are, no one is saying, but UFC President Dana White says they’re not that big a deal. That said and as White also stated, the issues are nonetheless a big deal to Rush and at the end of the day, GSP’s opinion is the only one that matters. Simply put, if St. Pierre thinks the issues are a big deal then they are and there’s nothing else to discuss. As such, the champ vacated his belt to deal with the issues.

However and as it turns out, St. Pierre has been talking about this on and off for quite some time, now; as according to Firas Zahabi, his long-time friend and trainer.

When asked about it on the MMA Hour today and whether or not he knew of the decision in advance, Firas said “Yeah.”

However, his council after Rush’s initial UFC 167 post-fight announcement, was to take a vacation, clear his mind and not to make a judgement in the “heat of the moment.” He stated that when the champ came back from holiday and reaffirmed the decision, Firas “trusted” that his friend had made the “right one.”

In terms of when Rush started entertaining thoughts of taking time off, it was apparently during the Carlos Condit, UFC 154, camp. As such, it means that GSP came off his surgery and yearlong rehab, feeling burnt out doubting if he wanted to continue on. For his part, Zahabi said he would always “cut him off”, telling him that the middle of a camp wasn’t the time to talk about it. As Rush went from rehab, to three camps and fights in a row, while already questioning his desire to continue, fans shouldn’t be shocked that he’s finally packed it in; particularly with UFC President Dana White haranguing him for an immediate rematch with Johny Hendricks.

As Zahabi tells it, it was a case of never having any time to have a “deep discussion on it. We always just kind of said okay, after the next fight, after the next fight and it just happened, three times in a row. But he was always on the fence about it and talking more and more about, what he’s going to do with the rest of his career, his life, personal life, etc. and everything was always put on hold until the fights are over. So, right after the fight and I think he was still on the fence, I don’t think he was sure until right after the fight.”

Was it all too much, too fast?

To that Firas remarked, “I don’t know, ya know. I think he wanted to make everybody happy. He wanted to make the fans happy. Maybe it wasn’t a slow and steady pace, you know and I don’t think it was a super-fast pace, but it was fast. I can’t say it was abusive or anything, but it was fast, ya know. I think it was fast.”  

As to the actual news of it, Firas said he realized Rush was serious right after the fight, when he made the announcement. He said he thought to himself the Rush would be taking some time off.

However, as Firas said of Rush:

“Personally, I think Georges is a very competitive guy. Unless he finds something else that he’s super passionate of, he’s going to come back. If he doesn’t find anything that he’s super passionate about, I think he’s going to come back to fighting. So, who knows?

As to whether or not he sensed GSP’s lack of motivation during his camp for Johny Hendricks, Zahabi gave the same answer he gave earlier, which is that he’d just cut Rush off any time he’d raise the subject, telling him now is not the time.

In terms of why Rush has done this, Firas said the “foundation” of it is personal and that he wouldn’t be getting into it.

As Zahabi said, “he’s been putting his life on hold. Why, what’s deteriorating, I don’t want to say, but his social life is deteriorating, his family life is deteriorating, not physically, but just in terms of him spending time with his loved ones, that’s it; period. The guy lives a military life; he’s a soldier…there is no time for enjoyment, personal times, there is none of that. And then you look back and you see, what is happiness in life? Is it winning fight after fight or is there more to it? The answer to that is that there’s more to it…I think he wants to balance his life out. It’s that simple.”

When asked whether or not he tried to talk him out of it, Firas said he didn’t and that he’d support Georges in any decision he’d make; fight, don’t fight, Firas backs him. As Zahabi said, “he doesn’t owe me anything.”

After listening to the interview, fans might draw the conclusion that this really is just time off and that Rush will be back. Indeed, twice in the interview when talking about the time off, you can almost hear Firas reaching for the word “year”, but catching himself before uttering it.

All things considered, it might be a reasonable bet that fans have not seen the last of Georges St. Pierre in the UFC’s Octagon and that as much as anything, he might just be burnt out from a year of surgery and rehab, followed up by three tough fights in a year. As Firas said, it was a “fast pace.”