The game of cat and mouse between the UFC and the most decorated welterweight champion in company history has just taken an unexpected turn. On Monday, Georges St-Pierre (pictured) claimed his contract with the planet’s premiere mixed martial arts promotion has been terminated and he is now a free agent.
“Right now, I’m a free agent,” St-Pierre told “The MMA Hour” on MMAFighting.com. “You hear it right, I’m a free agent. My lawyer terminated the contract with the UFC.”
According to St-Pierre, he and his management have been in negotiations with former UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta since February regarding a return to MMA. UFC 200 and UFC 205 in New York were initially offered to St-Pierre, but the Canadian felt that UFC 206 in Toronto would best suit his comeback.
It appeared as though the stars were aligning for St-Pierre to end his three-year hiatus, but the UFC was sold to a group led by WME-IMG for a whopping $4 billion and killed all the momentum he had built with Fertitta.
“We were close to an agreement at some point towards the end until big news arrived and the big news was that the UFC got sold to new owners. So we were told everything was put on ice until new owners take charge,” St-Pierre said. “So we waited for weeks without any news from the new owners.
“Finally the new owners said that Lorenzo’s offer was off the table. It was like a shock for us because we felt like we were making progress.”
Fertitta reportedly still owns a very small percentage of the UFC, but he has no say in the company’s day-to-day business.
After WME-IMG erased Fertitta’s offer, St-Pierre’s attorney, James Quinn, who has worked with several NBA and NFL superstars regarding free agency, set a deadline for the UFC to present his client with a new fight. The UFC countered with a showdown with former champ Robbie Lawler, but then Lawler decided to take an extended break to recover from July’s knockout loss to Tyron Woodley that cost him is title.
That’s when Quinn terminated St-Pierre’s UFC contract.
The UFC has not addressed St-Pierre’s status with the promotion.
St-Pierre was sitting firmly atop the UFC welterweight mountain when he voluntarily vacated his title and abruptly walked away from MMA in December 2013 to “take a break.” GSP later revealed that the UFC’s lax drug testing policy was one of his primary reasons for leaving the game at the peak of his illustrious career.
The 35-year-old had stated he would never return to the UFC unless more rigorous drug testing was in place. In July of 2015, the UFC hired the USADA to conduct random, year-round drug tests on all of their athletes.
In June when St-Pierre announced he was back to training full-time and was at his best, a sentiment he reiterated today, he said he was merely waiting on the UFC to make him an acceptable offer. The opponent was important, but so was the money.
Since St-Pierre’s departure, the UFC signed an exclusive sponsorship deal with Reebok that wasn’t beneficial to the majority of the UFC’s roster. St-Pierre claimed that fighting on the terms of his past contract would cost him money because he wouldn’t be allowed to wear Under Armour during fight week and inside the cage.
St-Pierre was waiting for the UFC to make things right on the financial front, but that never came to fruition. Instead, UFC president Dana White continued to publicly question St-Pierre’s desire to return to the sport that made him a multi-millionaire.
St-Pierre doesn’t hold any grudges towards White or the UFC for how this has played out, however. He’s been in the game long enough to understand the business side of things.
“I don’t dislike the UFC. The UFC does what is in the best of their interest,” St-Pierre said. “Dana White, he’s the best promoter in the world. He is the greatest of all time. We wouldn’t make mixed martial arts for a living if it would not be for Dana White. We owe that to Dana White. He did that for all of us. He took the UFC when it was small and he took it and he raised the bar for everyone of us.
“But now in this situation, unfortunately, he’s against me because of the business interests. I don’t dislike Dana White. Because a big part of what I do and what I have earned is because of Dana White.”
At his peak, St-Pierre was the UFC’s biggest draw. If he is in fact a free agent, there will be no shortage of organizations looking to acquire his services. The line will likely start behind Bellator MMA.