On Friday, George St-Pierre joined a short list of fighters that have relinquished their UFC titles. Fighters have been stripped of their belts, like Josh Barnett, B.J. Penn, Randy Couture and Frank Mir, but only Frank Shamrock and now St-Pierre voluntarily vacated their titles while champion.
The difference between Shamrock and St-Pierre is Shamrock gave up his title to retire, at least temporarily, and he never returned to compete in the organization. St-Pierre stopped short of announcing a retirement and left the door open for a future return.
“I’ve been fighting for a very long time, at a very high level,” said St-Pierre during a hastily organized media conference call on Friday. “It’s a lot of pressure. I know that UFC is a business. They have to keep things rolling; so I vacate my title.
“One day, I may come back, but right now, I need a break… but I don’t want to make other people wait,” added the 32-year-old.
While St-Pierre stated that a future return is a possibility, UFC president Dana White believes that a St-Pierre comeback is definite.
“He didn’t walk away. He’s going to come back. He has some things he has to handle. He did the classy thing and vacated the title. He did the right thing,” said White during the UFC on Fox 9 post show on Fox Sports 1 on Saturday. “He’s going to be gone a while. Somebody will win that belt and then he’ll be back.”
Just how long that might take, White wasn't sure.
“As long as it takes for him to clear out that zoo,” he quipped.
Whether St-Pierre returns or not, the organization and the welterweight division is moving on. On the same call that the former champion announced that he was at least temporarily leaving the fight game, White announced that Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler will fight for the vacant title at UFC 171 on March 15, 2014, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.