Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre relinquished his belt in early December, citing undisclosed personal issues leading to his sabbatical.
He left it to speculation as to why he was stepping away, other than saying he needed a break from the pressures that accompanied his career choice.
A short time later, however, St-Pierre started doing some public appearances and said that the current state of drug use in mixed martial arts was a key factor, though he didn’t declare it the only one or even the centerpiece of his decision.
Being the champion and being so successful, St-Pierre had constantly had a faction of naysayers that accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs to secure his success.
That is something that St-Pierre said he took as a compliment in the beginning, but now admits that it became an aggravating factor in his decision to step aside, particularly when his moves to help clean up the sport didn’t pan out.
“In the beginning it was not making me mad,” St-Pierre said during at recent interview on TSN’s Off the Record (watch part one here). “I was taking it as a compliment for my athletic ability. But it was always there like an insect and at one point it became annoying.”
When it got to that point, St-Pierre tried to go the independent route and get more drug testing involved in his fights, primarily to “prove a point” that such success could be achieved as a “clean” athlete. But his attempts only served to introduce more controversy and criticism into his life.
At one point, St-Pierre felt he his efforts weren’t supported by his employers.
“I tried to change things, and unfortunately, maybe for money reasons, maybe for image, they were not ready to do that,” said St-Pierre.
His comments left UFC president Dana White perplexed.
“[It] obviously shocked when he came out and said this,” said White in an interview on Fox Sports Live. “He should have said it to my face. I’m not very sensitive. You’re not gonna hurt my feelings.”
St-Pierre, though, said that the issue over drug testing wasn’t an attack on the UFC or even any particular individual. It has more to do with wanting to make a change for the legitimacy of his chosen sport.
“What I want to attack, I want to attack the system, not the individual,” he said. “I don’t want to attack the UFC. I fight for the legitimacy of my sport.”
At the end of the day, however, St-Pierre still insists that drug testing was but a contributing factor to his decision to vacate the UFC welterweight championship with which he had become synonymous.
He really did it to maintain some semblance of sanity in his life.
“I don’t want to have to need a psychologist or help to keep me on the right track,” he said during his Off the Record interview (watch part two here). “The stress [of being champion] was eating me alive.
“When you are a champion, you’re always a target. There is always another guy [gunning for you].”
In his appearances since relinquishing the title, St-Pierre has appeared as relaxed as we’ve seen him in years. Even when talking about controversial topics like drug testing, he doesn’t look as though he’s walking a tight rope across a canyon.
It’s obviously been good for St-Pierre to take a step back and put some perspective on his life.
He’s not, however, ready to say the move is a permanent one.
“It’s not a retirement,” said St-Pierre. “I would call it more of a break because I don’t know if I will retire or not right now. But I just knew I needed a break from competition.”