It was early November of 2013, and Georges St-Pierre had just beaten Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 by unanimous decision—his twelfth win in a row. Joe Rogan came over with his microphone to give the standard post-fight interview, to which most fans expected GSP to be his normal bubbly self. Instead he was a bit more somber, saying that Hendricks had been the toughest fight of his career before hesitating a bit and stepping away from the microphone.
Rogan nodded in approval, telling Georges to say whatever it was that was on his mind. George took a moment, and then dropped a bomb.
“There was a lot of talk about what was going to happen. I have a bunch of stuff in my life happening, and I would like to hang up my gloves for a little bit…”
“Are you retiring right now?” Joe asked.
“I have to go away for a little bit, at least,” George responded. “There are personal things happening and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the UFC, who gave me a chance, and everyone for the support … I have to step away right now and that’s all I can say..."
The noise from the crowd was a mix of cheers and boos as the visibly emotional GSP stepped off the canvas for what everyone, despite his explanation, suddenly feared was the last time.
Ever since his abrupt departure from the sport, a vision of the mythic Canadian has lived in the back of MMA fans’ mind—maybe somewhere in Asia, doing the splits with Jean-Claude Van Damme, meditating in search of his ultimate purpose as a martial artist. Waiting for the right moment to fight again.
He made it clear that his absence wasn’t permanent. He hadn’t really retired. He just had to take some time off. Right?
No one ever discovered the specific reasons, but over the last three years any sighting of GSP, be it on a film set, or training at the gym, injected a bit more hope that Georges would soon come home.
In the beginning on November, the MMA birds started chirping again when famed boxing coach Freddie Roach spoke about a possible return in an interview with Fight Hub—the first real news about the missing champion.
"So we came up with a process. He's going to train for a fight. He's going to have a six-week training camp, and at the end of the six weeks, if he feels like he's ready to fight, and he's hungry for it like he always has been, he's going to do it. He’s going to fight one more time," Roach proclaimed.
Then, this very week, Georges long-time jiu jitsu coach, Renzo Gracie, went even further and told Ariel Helwani, that the return is upon us.
“That boy, the best thing he does is fighting. Look how long he’s been a champion. He overcame so many obstacles. […] A champion is not just born, he’s forged into it. And Georges has all the tools to become champion again, and for sure, he’s now 100 percent healthy. I saw him. He’s in unbelievable shape, and for sure he will be announcing soon to be back in the game,” said Renzo, adding that whoever is the welterweight champion should face GSP first.
And again, today, more evidence surfaced as Kenny Florian, speaking to The Fighter and the Kid podcast, confirmed the news.
If he does come back for a fight or two, Georges homecoming will be interesting—especially in the more modern state of the UFC where the USADA-driven anti-doping campaign is now priority, something GSP had been pushing for in the later parts of his career.
Check out these related stories:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.