Georges St. Pierre announcement: Stepping away from UFC signals end of amazing era

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

Earlier today, long-reigning UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre announced his decision to temporarily step away from the mixed martial arts (MMA), signalling the end of an era. The MMA world won't be the same without GSP, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

If one thing is certain in this crazy, mixed up world of ours, it's the inevitability of change.

Yesterday's cutting edge technology becomes tomorrow's archaic relic, jet black hair fades to dusty gray and even the most dazzling star athlete eventually calls it a career.

With today's (Dec. 13, 2013) announcement (listen to full video replay here) that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre would vacate his title and take an indefinite sabbatical, the inevitable may have finally come to pass for the mixed martial arts (MMA) world.

For years St. Pierre -- the ultra-popular, consummate martial artist whose initials "GSP" have virtually become a brand name unto themselves -- has been the face of UFC.

Now it appears, temporarily at least, that face is changing.

While it's too early to know if St. Pierre's extended time away from UFC spells retirement or not, it certainly seems like part of a larger trend we've seen unfolding over the past couple years. One by one, all the stars who led UFC's initial boom period between the years of 2006 and 2010 have begun to fade away.

Earlier this year, the man who was synonymous with the 170-pound title before St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, announced his official retirement.

When he's not outright getting lit up like a human heavy bag, such as in last year's bout against Rory MacDondald, B.J. Penn has looked like a mere shadow of his former self in his past few fights.

Brock Lesnar's star burned so bright it seemingly extinguished itself over night, when his career was cut short by the gastrointestinal disorder diverticulitis.

Randy Couture -- who will forever be associated in fans from a certain era's mind with Joe Rogan's effusive call of, "that man is my hero" -- was excommunicated from the church of Zuffa this past winter when he decided to sign a deal with Spike TV and Bellator MMA.

Heck, this past July even Anderson Silva, UFC's other dominant champion during the years most of today's MMA fans began following the sport, lost the title that at one time felt almost like it was his by divine right. What made the loss especially symbolic was that it came at the hands of Chris Weidman -- a guy who had his first fight four years after Silva won the belt in late 2006 and just a few months before the landmark UFC 100 pay-per-view (PPV) back in the summer of 2009.

Now with St. Pierre vacating the belt he made famous, so as to not jam up the 170-pound division while he steps away from the sport, it feels as though we've finally come to the end of a great book we never wanted to put down. Just like finishing an epic novel, it's hard not to be a bit nostalgic. At times like this we always wish we could turn back the clock, or at least hang on to a character we all grew attached to for a little while longer.

But, for all our TMZ-centric culture's thirst to guzzle down the intimate details of celebrities' lives like cheap box wine, St. Pierre isn't a character dreamed up by some author's imagination. Behind the initials of the superstar "GSP" lies the flesh and blood man Georges St. Pierre.

He's a man who, throughout today's conference call, repeatedly returned to the theme of being mentally burnt out and needing to take time off to deal with issues in his closely guarded personal life. If he wants to step away from the limelight and be a private individual for the first time in nearly 10 years, then we owe it to him to respect his wishes.

Not as sports fans who were entertained by his performances -- and for all the backlash about St. Pierre's sometimes conservative style, it's nothing but outright contrarian bullshit to pretend he didn't make MMA a more entertaining sport to follow -- but as civilized adults who are confronted with a fellow human being who is obviously having a difficult time dealing with overwhelming personal problems.

St. Pierre left the door open for a potential return, repeatedly saying he would be "much better" for taking time off in the event he does decide to step back in the Octagon one day. UFC President Dana White sounded almost certain we haven't seen the last of St. Pierre in UFC.

However, St. Pierre refused to outright commit to anything.

"My life is a freaking zoo right now," he cryptically informed the media. Based on his tone, one got the impression St. Pierre himself isn't in a frame of mind at the moment where even he knows whether or not he wants to eventually come back. While time off could reignite the competitive fire that drove him to become a star in the first place, it's also possible he comes to the conclusion that enjoying being an obscenely wealthy 32 year old is a lot more fun than going through the rigors of yet another training camp

As for the sport of MMA, things won't be the same without St. Pierre. However, as White so sagely observed earlier today, "life goes on." UFC will continue promoting fight cards, and perhaps somewhere along the line a new star will emerge who will shine just as bright as GSP once did. Or it could be the MMA world is forced to wait years for another one in a million combination of charisma, talent, work-ethic and charm like St. Pierre.

If the later turns out to be the case, that's probably okay.

After all, every story eventually has an ending -- even a story as great as the UFC career of Georges St. Pierre.

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