“I can’t, I can’t sleep at night now. I’m going crazy. I have issues, man. I need to relax. I need to get out for a while. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I feel like I’m going to let everything out now, but I have to keep some of my stuff, some part of my life, personal.” — UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre, at the UFC 167 post-fight press conference
This past Saturday’s UFC 167 main event at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas should be remembered as a great and historic moment for MMA.
It seems that it won’t be, though.
Georges St-Pierre’s defense of the UFC welterweight title against Johny Hendricks was a stellar fight, with Hendricks dominating much of the action: in the clinch, at range, and on the mat.
St-Pierre had his moments here and there. In the third round, “GSP” took charge with the lancing jab and combination striking which have carried him so many times to victory. Several other rounds were close, including the first, where St-Pierre scored an early takedown. Still, many felt that it just wasn’t the champion’s night on Saturday, and that Hendricks had earned the UFC welterweight title at the final bell.
As we all know now, it wasn’t to be. St-Pierre was awarded an unpopular split decision victory by the bout’s judges.
The win was St-Pierre’s 19th UFC win and 12th successful title defense, both UFC records; but no one’s talking about that. It seems the fans have forgotten the close rounds — and only remember St-Pierre’s battered face at the end of it.
So many of those fans are crying robbery now… but was it? Further, is that really what’s most important here?
Do the same fans remember that St-Pierre’s mentor Kristof Midoux had implored him to retire prior to the bout? Maybe Midoux’s word could place a context for St-Pierre’s post-fight comments.
Do they remember Dana White’s callous reaction to the fight? “GSP will not retire,” White said in an interview. “He will not retire after that fight. He owes it to the fans, he owes it to this company, and he owes it to Johny Hendricks to come in and do that fight again.” He would reiterate: “The right thing needs to be done here.”
The right thing? Sure, White knows what will earn his company the most money. But, is it the right thing for his champion?
Did any of these fans read St-Pierre’s book, The Way of the Fight (reviewed here)? In an early chapter, St-Pierre described his goal was to write the greatest book ever written. He included a few brief paragraphs to sum the book up in case anyone who purchased the book doesn’t bother reading it. He describes the nightmare of preparing for every bout. The Way of the Fight offers a portrait of someone obsessive: driven to the breaking point, while thinking out every possible solution.
It would seem a combination of personal problems, with his obsessive personality, along with the stress of seemingly carrying the UFC on his back during his record-breaking championship reign, is taking a serious toll — in addition to a physical one. St-Pierre showed signs of a concussion afterwards, as reported by La Presse. Maybe once the fans stop debating the decision, they’ll recall that St-Pierre is taking more and more damage as his career wears on, and consider how he seems to be slowing down.
Maybe us fans should think about something other than the outcome of MMA bouts, and more about the process. Maybe the promoters should think about something other than the money to be made.
Maybe we should listen to St-Pierre and his closest advisers, like Midoux. Maybe we’d be ready to put UFC 167 in proper context.
Maybe UFC 167 should be remembered as a great moment: the last fight of a great champion’s career. I think he’s had enough, and maybe Mr. White, and the rest of us, should re-think our approach.