Last month, former UFC welterweight king Georges St-Pierre submitted Michael Bisping unconscious to capture the middleweight crown.
Fast forward just 33 days and arguably MMA’s GOAT is once again gold-less. St-Pierre willingly vacated the middleweight title, making interim champ Robert Whittaker the UFC’s undisputed middleweight champion.
“My fight at UFC 217 was one of the greatest nights of my life but I now need to take some time to focus on my health,” St-Pierre expressed in a statement issued by the UFC. “Out of respect to the athletes and the sport, I don’t want to hold up the division. I will be giving up my belt and once I’m healthy I look forward to working with the UFC to determine what’s next in my career.”
Whittaker will now defend his hardware against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221.
UFC president Dana White revealed last week that St-Pierre was recently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and would be sidelined for a while.
Speaking of White, he told a group of reporters last month that he would be none too pleased if St-Pierre didn’t defend his freshly-minted belt in his next bout, which was his contractual obligation after agreeing to end his four-year “break” from MMA.
“I don’t want to hear that. That’s not what I want to hear,” White said of St-Pierre moving back to welterweight. “I want to hear he’s going to defend his 185-pound title. That’s the agreement we made. That’s the deal we made when we made the deal … I’m going to be super-pissed.”
It will be interesting to see how White treats the most decorated welterweight champion in UFC history after his about-face.
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 at the peak of his illustrious career. 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 36-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.
St-Pierre and the UFC then needed to iron out a new contract because the UFC signed an exclusive sponsorship deal with Reebok during GSP’s absence, which St-Pierre claimed would “cost him money” to fight because he was no longer allowed to wear Under Armour during fight week.
The UFC eventually made St-Pierre an offer he couldn’t refuse, but he was forced to agree to defend the middleweight belt in his next outing if he beat Bisping.
However, after the submission victory, St-Pierre expressed hesitation in returning to the 185-pound division because he didn’t feel it was the correct weight for his frame to carry.
St-Pierre joined BJ Penn, Randy Couture and Conor McGregor as the only fighters to hold two different UFC belts. After today, St-Pierre becomes the only UFC athlete to vacate two titles.