Georges St-Pierre officially announced an indefinite leave of absence from UFC Friday, and will surrender the welterweight championship he has held for the last five years.
In a conference call with members of the media, St-Pierre — who defended the 170-pound title with a close split decision victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 — said he might come back one day but, for now, he needs a break from fighting.
St-Pierre first won the title from Matt Hughes at UFC 65 in November 2006, but lost it to Matt Serra at UFC 69 in April 2007. He won the interim championship from Hughes at UFC 79 in December 2007, and then won the undisputed championship from Serra at UFC 83 in April 2008.
The 32-year-old Canadian said he is going to keep training and improving, and that he will still help his teammates at Tristar Gym. St-Pierre said he knew he was planning to take a leave of absence prior to UFC 167, but it continued to build before he made the official statement.
“Definitely one day I will come back,” he said. “It has to be on my terms.” St-Pierre said he will either fight a few times before taking a shot at the title, or he will go straight into a title match. He also said he was content with his legacy.
“I wanted to be the greatest. Also, I said before, I said I wanted to do things to be remembered, to make a difference in a sport, make the sport reach another level,” he said. “I tried to do it in my last fight; unfortunately it didn’t work…I tried my best. I tried to do everything possible.”
UFC president Dana White announced that Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler will fight for the title at UFC 171 in March, saying the match would be “an absolute gunfight.” White also praised St-Pierre, calling him “the greatest welterweight ever,” and said he “handles everything like a professional.”
Former light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort also praised Georges St-Pierre on Twitter:
@GeorgesStPierre I admire you posture. You are a true champion I will miss your fights. go enjoy life u deserve champ
— Vitor Belfort (@vitorbelfort) December 13, 2013
UFC 171 will take place March 15 in Dallas. The card was initially supposed to be headlined by Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira, but that match has been moved to UFC 172, which will take place at an undisclosed location and venue.