After Georges St. Pierre edged Johny Hendricks via split decision to retain his welterweight title at UFC 167, it was clear something needed to change.
In the Octagon that night, the Canadian superstar said that he needed to “step away for a little bit.” A few weeks later, “Rush” made it official, as he vacated the 170-pound belt and took an indefinite leave of absence. Nearly three years later, St. Pierre is finally ready to make a comeback, and UFC 206 in Toronto appears to be a target date — provided he and the Las Vegas-based promotion can come to terms.
Back in November 2013, St. Pierre’s triumph over Hendricks marked his seventh consecutive triumph via decision in the UFC. On the upcoming documentary “The Hurt Business,” St. Pierre admitted that he had lost some of his motivation (the interview was filmed before he announced his intention to return).
“Critics said I was fighting more to win instead of finishing the fight. And it’s true,” St. Pierre said. “Towards the end I didn’t have the same anger, I didn’t have the same drive to hurt a guy and to finish it. It’s a fact. I tried to get it back but it’s very hard.
“I think the best way to get it back for me was to step out. Because it’s more of an emotion thing. I was fighting more for winning instead of going through the guy. I needed to step out to let my hunger go up.”
St. Pierre’s initial feelings following UFC 167 prompted a tirade from Dana White at the evening’s post-fight press conference.
“There’s no, ‘Listen, I’m going to go on a cruise and I’m going to be gone for two years. I’m going to take a hiatus. I’m going to take a leave of absence,’” White said then. “Whatever the hell he was saying, that’s not how it works. You owe it to the fans, you owe it to the 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.”
These days the UFC president is more subdued when it comes to St. Pierre, but he has repeatedly expressed skepticism regarding the fighter’s desire to compete again.
“Dana White makes a lot of comments. But Dana White always will do what serves him best on a business standpoint,” St. Pierre said. “Because he didn’t want me to leave. He wanted me to come back to get people to tune in, to make me come back. But it was time for me to take a break.”
"The Hurt Business" is slated for a Sept. 29 premiere in theaters. The film, which “examines the rise of mixed martial arts fighting through the eyes of today’s top stars, is narrated by Kevin Costner and directed by Vlad Yudin.