Georges St-Pierre became a two-weight world champion at UFC 217 following his victory over Michael Bisping in Madison Square Garden
Just one month later, GSP vacated the title.
“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 said via a statement released 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.”
St-Pierre confirmed that his decision to drop the belt was related to his recent diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. The Canadian informed the UFC that he would be vacating the title earlier this week, which led to the promotion naming interim champion Robert Whittaker as the UFC’s undisputed middleweight champion. Whittaker will engage in the first defense of his title in front of a home crowd against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 on Feb. 10 in Perth, Western Australia.
St-Pierre recently told TSN that he believes his illness pertains to his move up to middleweight:
“After the fight, I thought first it was the stress that caused it and it would go away, but it did not go away,” St-Pierre said. “So what happened is even after the fight it persisted and I knew something was wrong so I let a few days pass by and after that I went to see a specialist. And I’ve been diagnosed with colitis, ulcer colitis, but now I have the medication and since I started medication it goes very well. So I’m almost 100-percent now.
“I feel much better now than before and also it’s a lot less blood so it’s good. It was a more scary and stressful situation for me than the actual reality. There’s different levels of colitis, I don’t think mine is very severe. Some people are stuck in a situation where it’s more severe and it can affect their well-being much more, but mine is not that bad.”
UFC President Dana White claimed that he was expecting St-Pierre would fail to defend the 185-pound title against Robert Whittaker. White claimed recently that he would be “super pissed” if St-Pierre refused to defend against Whittaker:
“Get in there and see who you can f*cking beat. You wanted to f*cking come back? Welcome back, it’s ugly.”
White approached the situation in a different manner on Saturday, going as far as to claim that he had expected “Rush” to vacate the title:
“I thought I would be (super pissed), but I’m not. I expected it,” White said. “Listen, I had him sign a contract that said he would defend against Whittaker for a reason — because I knew he wouldn’t.
“He doesn’t want to fight anybody at welterweight,” White continued. “That’s why he fought Bisping. He didn’t want to fight (Tyron) Woodley, he didn’t want to fight (Stephen) ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. He didn’t want to fight any of those guys. He wanted to fight Michael Bisping, and he did, and now he’s off again. So, listen, I’m not shocked, I’m not mad. It is what it is.”
White may be pessimistic at the thought of St-Pierre returning to the octagon and this will no doubt be a sentiment held by fans, especially given the Canadian legend’s diagnosis. St-Pierre returned to the sport following a four-year absence, putting in an impressive shift against Bisping much to the delight of many fans. There are some who believe that the Tri-Star Gym’s star pupil had effectively targeted Bisping for a pay-check.
St-Pierre never denied that his return to the sport was in some way motivated by money and, if the UFC 217 pay-per-view figures are indicative of his star power, the UFC probably need him more than he needs them at this point. Rather than hold on to the title and use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations for another big-money bout, St-Pierre’s decision to vacate has been praised by many fighters. While he has indicated that he is not yet done with fighting, he has also demonstrated that he is not interested in fighting unless the timing and opponent are on his terms.