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Georges St-Pierre vacates UFC title

Georges St. Pierre left, reacts following his UFC

Georges St. Pierre left, reacts following his UFC 167 mixed martial arts championship welterweight bout versus Johny Hendricks. (Nov. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

Georges St-Pierre vacated his UFC welterweight title and will take a break from competitive fighting.

The long-time champion and UFC's biggest pay-per-view draw made the announcement Friday afternoon.

"I've been fighting for a long time," he said. "A lot of pressure, a lot of criticism. Yeah, I decided I needed to take time off."

He never once mentioned retiring.

"I vacated my title for the respect of other competitors," St-Pierre said. "One day, when I feel like it, I might come back. But right now, I need a break."

UFC president Dana White said that Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler will fight for the vacant welterweight title at UFC 171 in March in Dallas.

GSP first hinted at this moment in his post-fight interview after winning a split decision against Hendricks at UFC 167 in November. That vague moment left people wondering if he was retiring or just taking a vacation.

St-Pierre said that night that he has a number of personal issues weighing on his mind that caused him to reach this decision. He re-iterated that point Friday on a conference call with reporters.

"I need to do stuff and that's personal," St-Pierre said. "My life, it's a freaking zoo right now."

The 32-year-old Montreal native was deft at avoiding any further explanation into the issues causing him so much stress.

"I know you guys are trying, but you're not going to get anything personal out of me," he said in that polite GSP tone.

St-Pierre first won the welterweight title on Nov. 18, 2006, when he stopped Matt Hughes in the second round. He lost his first title defense to Long Island's Matt Serra on April 7, 2007, by first-round knockout. St. Pierre regained the interim title eight months later with a second-round submission of Hughes, then unified the title with a second-round stoppage of Serra in April 2008 in the first UFC card in Montreal.

Since then, St-Pierre hasn't lost a fight -- a streak of nine straight title defenses. An ACL injury in 2011 put him out for 18 months. In that time frame, an interim welterweight title was created, won by Carlos Condit.

Upon St-Pierre's return, he beat Condit by unanimous decision to unify his title once again.

"If I have to do it a fourth time, believe me, I feel like I will do it," St-Pierre said.

While that may imply St-Pierre expects to return to fighting once he clears up his personal issues, that may not be the case. St-Pierre did not explicitly say that was his plan. In his time on the conference call, he gave both "if" and "when" indications.

St-Pierre (25-2) was specific on one key point: physically, he feels fine. In his last fight against Hendricks, St-Pierre took more damage than in any of his recent fights. It's not so much the body, St-Pierre indicated, but the mind right now.

"It's a lot of pressure," St-Pierre said. "It's like every fight, I'm carrying weight on my shoulders. It's like every fight, you add weight to your shoulders."

That weight could be heard in St-Pierre's voice as he answered questions. When he first began the call, there was a sense of heavy emotion from St-Pierre. As he spoke more, the internal tension eased a bit.

"You can tell by the way he talks that the issues he's dealing with outside of the octagon are driving him nuts," White said. "He needs to button up some things in his personal and then you'll see him again."

New York Sports