It was intended to be a night of celebration for the UFC last Saturday night.
Instead, the UFC 167 fight card -- which was supposed to mark the 20th anniversary of the storied promotion -- concluded in an ominous tone. A controversial split decision lit the fire, and a surprising announcement during a run of the mill post-fight interview fanned the flames.
Se how it all unfolded here.
The last impression of the night's festivities was two fold, and it became the lasting one that would permeate the remainder of the evening. No celebration, no talk of "what a great ride it's been, or looking forward to the next 20 years, or Rashad Evans' dominant performance over Chael Sonnen, or Robbie Lawler defeating the highly-touted Rory MacDonald, or Tyrone Woodley putting Josh Koscheck's lights out.
The shocking decision and a champion's speech on possibly leaving the sport commandeered everyone's head space.
We learned that only one out of the three judges agreed with seemingly everyone on planet earth that Johny Hendricks had dethroned the five-year reign of Georges St-Pierre's welterweight championship, as Bruce Buffer read the announcement to a stunned Las Vegas crowd. If that wasn't enough to digest, St-Pierre then told Joe Rogan that he would be "going away for a little bit" from the sport until further notice.
In one of the more tense post-fight pressers in recent memory, UFC President Dana White was visibly angry and let loose about the shocking decision, and St-Pierre's surprising statement. The man who is always in control and always able to answer any question thrown his way, was clearly caught off guard by the 170-pound champion's announcement, on top of already being incensed about the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) awarding St-Pierre a 48-47 split decision victory.
White called the NSAC "atrocious," and said "I'm f**king scared to come back here and do fights."
Maybe now may finally be the time when the UFC takes action and doesn't put on fights in Vegas. Changes would likely be made if that were the case. Would the world's biggest MMA promotion be willing to turn its back on its hometown in order for progress? That remains to be seen, and by the way, Keith Kizer once again had nothing negative to say about the commission he oversees.
The bigger issue stemming from the night's conclusion was that St-Pierre left everyone with a cliffhanger of a statement on his fighting career.
White has never been one to shy away, or think twice before airing out any of his grievances in front of a live microphone, especially when it comes to judges or referees. He has also never really shown any anger towards arguably the greatest "company guy" in the UFC's history, either. But, he was obviously unhappy at the thought of St-Pierre taking any type of indefinite leave of absence.
"You owe it to the company, you owe it to the belt, and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again," White said regarding St-Pierre's comments on taking a hiatus.
It sounded just a tad bit "holier than though" and extremely insensitive, given the circumstances that nobody, including White himself, had any inkling of what the champion's issues might be at that time. St-Pierre doesn't owe anybody anything at this point in his career. He's been an ambassador of the sport and one of the biggest and most consistent pay-per-view (PPV) draws of all time.
White would even say himself that it's not St-Pierres "fault" the judges gave him the nod, while chastising the NSAC. So why wouldn't he try to figure out what was going on with his welterweight champion, before impugning him for his announcement?
St-Pierre would find his way to the presser several minutes after White's initial rant, and shed some insight on the matter. "I can't sleep at night now," he said. I have issues. I'm going crazy."
He later added, "I need to get out for a while. I don't know what I'm going to do. I feel like I'm going to let everything out now, but I need to keep some things personal." He let some of his feelings out, but the facts remained arcane, and uncertainty still filled the room.
White began the post-fight media scrum saying he was in a "much better mood" than he was at the presser. He mentioned speaking to St-Pierre and saying "I think everything is cool."
"He's freaked out about some things," White continued about St-Pierre. "His problems aren't as bad as they think they are. They're personal problems. One of the things that makes Georges as great as he is, is things drive him crazy. Little things drive him nuts. That whole obsession thing he was talking about, he's very much that way and he's obsessing over something else right now."
White may think they aren't that bad, but what if they are to St-Pierre?
We still don't really know what exactly they are, besides a TMZ report that broke this week claiming he may have impregnated someone, and his father may have fallen ill. Or the reports that surfaced after that, suggesting he is dealing with a lawsuit with a former manager that could potentially cost him millions of dollars.
Taking nothing away from Hendricks, who fought brilliantly over the five-round title fight, but hearing St-Pierre's words after the fight only reaffirms that he wasn't himself in the Octagon on Saturday night. Whether it is his health, or his family, something is going on that needs to be addressed. That, and that alone, should be the number one priority in his life right now, not a rematch with Johny Hendricks, or fulfilling any of the company's needs.
St-Pierre owes it to himself to take care of whatever it is he needs to take care of. Things happen in life, often out of our control, and sometimes everything else needs to take a back seat because of it. This sure seems to be the case in regards to the champion and his words after the fight.
Yes, UFC 167 came and went, and will now only be remembered for its bizarre ending, more so than its nostalgic beginning. Hendricks would've made history and we would most likely be talking about how he should be giving St-Pierre a rematch. But instead, he, along with the MMA world were left shocked by the split decision, while St-Pierre left the building undecided on his fighting future.
Of course, Hendricks deserves a rematch, that isn't in question. The reality of the situation is something far bigger than a rematch or a future fight date.
If the welterweight champion of the last seven years has to step away and do what's best for his health, and his personal life than what is what he should do and he should take however long he needs to do so. The UFC can decide to strip him of the title or whatever the case maybe, and the show will go on with an interim champion or a new one. He has been a consummate professional throughout his career and has nothing to prove to anyone.
Nor does he owe the UFC -- or anyone for that matter -- a single thing.