Former longtime UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre turned the MMA world upside down when he chose to step back from the sport after his highly controversial split decision win over Johny Hendricks in the main event of last November’s UFC 167.
A rampant windfall of speculation as to why St. Pierre was stepping out soon followed, with reasons ranging from him becoming a father to his own father being gravely ill. St. Pierre confirmed that none of it was true, however, and that he was just ready to take a break from the extreme mental exhaustion of being champion.
And while the direct aftermath of his debatable win over Hendricks may have been a questionable moment to unveil his decision, St. Pierre believes the time had simply come. He spoke up to the Edmonton Sun to discuss his mindset:
"At the time I thought it was the right time for me to do it. I had a lot of pressure. You know, when you do something for a long time, you have a lot of pressure. People don't realize how much pressure I have. It's a lot of expectation. You take a lot of risk. You get so nervous because you care about it. There is so much on the line. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. But I want to inform you, that sometimes makes you go a little bit on the edge, you know.
"So I needed to take time off to relax, to feel better and to have fun to do it again if I ever wanted to come back. It's only mentally. I lost fun doing it a little bit and I wanted to get it fun.”
The sheer magnitude of his long stint as essentially the face of the UFC had begun to wear on GSP, taking the fun out of fighting and turning it into an all-consuming grind. During his hiatus he’s already had the time to do several things that he normally would not have, like spending time with his family over the holidays. He touched on the good things that some time away from the sport is doing for his life:
"I just took a break. I spent Christmas time and New Years, with my family. That's something I haven't done for a long time. This is the first time I've really had nothing on my schedule. It was perfect. It was fun. It's the first time it felt so good. I'm 32-years-old and this is the first time I have my Christmas with my family. I spent some time but I never really had free time, total free time like I did. It was time for me to do it. I'm very happy I did it and I don't regret any of it.”
"So Christmas was incredible and now for 2014 we'll see what's going to happen. I have some projects in mind. I can't talk about it, unfortunately."
It sounds like St. Pierre doesn’t have any regrets about leaving the cage behind, at least for now. He’s still not all that old, and even though he has taken an increased amount of damage over the past couple of years, overall he’s absorbed way less damage than most fighters his age. The door will always be open for GSP to return to the Octagon. Will he ever choose to walk inside it?
Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie for USA TODAY Sports