Georges St-Pierre has always been a man that has come across as comfortable and in control. He has always chosen his words wisely, and with the rare exception, he has always chosen words that will not evoke rancor from his employer, the UFC. That changed on Saturday night after St-Pierre faced Johny Hendricks.
Moments after having his hand raised in victory, and the UFC welterweight title laid across his shoulder by UFC president Dana White, St-Pierre was corralled by UFC commentator Joe Rogan for an in cage interview.
St-Pierre has never worn the effects of getting punched in the face well, but the lumps, bruises and lacerations that Hendricks left the champion with were infinitely worse than anything we had seen before on the face of the champ. St-Pierre told Rogan that Hendricks hit extremely hard, and also remarked that he had lost some memory of the 25-minutes that preceded St-Pierre's chat with Rogan.
St-Pierre and Rogan continued, going through the autopilot portion of their interview. You know that interview, the same one that follows every one of St-Pierre's title defenses, and as it looked like Rogan was ready to wrap up and move on, until St-Pierre grabbed Rogan's right hand and the microphone.
St-Pierre looked as if he wanted to say something, but then it seemed as if he quickly changed his mind, literally waving off the thoughts that coursed through his brain. Rogan, obviously sensing that St-Pierre had something on his mind, urged St-Pierre to speak. When St-Pierre began, what came out of his mouth was confusing and disjointed, interrupted by stutters and stammers. It was nothing like what we usually expect St-Pierre to cover after a fight:
Listen everyone; there was a lot of talk about what was going to happen. I have a bunch of stuff in my life happening, and I need to hang up my gloves for a little bit, at least. Make a point of my life, and I hope my fans can appreciate [the decision]. Thank you to everyone , UFC and Johny Hendricks.
I have to go away for a little bit at least. There are some personal things happening. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the UFC for giving me this chance, everyone for their support. Thank you very much.
I have to step away for a bit, and that's all I can say right now. I just got punched and everything. Later on I will make a point on that. Right now I got to go away for a little bit, and I want to say thank you to all my supporters, the UFC, and Johny Hendricks. Yeah, I'm very emotional right now.
After the fight, UFC president Dana White responded to St-Pierre's remarks with anger, addressing St-Pierre's words at the post-fight press conference:
He didn't say he was going to retire. He said, ‘I'm going to take some time off.' You don't just say, ‘Hey I'm going to take some time off, maybe I'll be back, maybe I won't.' You owe it to the fans, you owe it to that belt, you owe it to this company, and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again, unless you're going to retire.
There's no ‘I'm going to take a hiatus, I'm going to take a leave of absence', whatever it was he was saying, that's not how it works.
White calmed down after he spoke to St-Pierre, saying at the post-fight media scrum:
I'm in a better mood now. [We talked] about his problems and his problems aren't as bad as he thinks they are.
That statement is bothersome. It's dismissive. It's insulting. It glosses over the fact that, in St-Pierre's mind, he is facing real issues. Issues that are bothering him so much that he is willing to walk away from the sport for however long it takes to sort them out.
White basically told his longest tenured current champion, the media, and the fans, that St-Pierre is making something out of nothing, that he's blowing things out of proportion, that his problems are, more or less, meaningless.
Frankly, I don't care what problems St-Pierre is facing, but I do care that he gets proper help to work through those problems. Giving him a bump on the chin, and a ‘buck up, sport' type of speech doesn't cut it, and could actually do more harm than good.
White doesn't get to decide whose problems are big or small, just like he doesn't get to decide who wins or loses fights. What he does get to do is show full support for the man he has claimed to be the king of his companies pay per view profits. The right answer should have been, ‘whatever problems St-Pierre is facing, the UFC will offer to give him all the help he needs to solve those problems and do what's best for Georges St-Pierre.'
Instead, what we got was a figurative dismissive wave, and a message that said St-Pierre's problems are small potatoes, and he'll be back in the cage doing what's best for the UFC shortly.
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