LAS VEGAS – One of the most emotional nights in UFC history ended with Georges St-Pierre appearing on the verge of a breakdown, Dana White telling him not to answer a reporter's question and both White and Johny Hendricks feeling the contender was jobbed out of the welterweight title.
St-Pierre retained the belt and scored his UFC-record 19th career victory by capturing a split-decision victory over his hard-hitting challenger in front of a sold-out crowd at the MGM Grand Garden in the main event of UFC 167.
The UFC's 20th anniversary show won't soon be forgotten.
St-Pierre entered the post-fight news conference after a brief trip to a local hospital for stitches. He was clearly in physical pain, but more than that, he appeared to be in emotional pain as well due to something in his personal life he did not want to talk about.
"I understand from the point of view of the UFC, it's bad for them if I leave like this," St-Pierre said. "I need to ... I can't sleep at night now. I'm going crazy. I have some issues. I need to relax. I need to get out for a while. I don't know what I'm going to do.
"I feel like I left everything out now, but I have to keep some of my stuff, some of my life personal. I need to get out for a little bit. That's it, you know? I gave everything I had tonight. Like it, love it, that was me at my best. I gave everything. It's all I can say."
Later, he appeared to be tearing up and said, "I left my soul in the Octagon."
But it didn't appear to be enough to retain the belt. White felt Hendricks won and went on an extended rant about the Nevada Athletic Commission. He called on Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to fix it.
"I'm blown away that Georges St-Pierre won that fight," White said before St-Pierre arrived at the news conference. "Listen: I'm a promoter. He's the biggest pay-per-view star on the [expletive] planet tonight for me, and I still don't think he won that fight. I want what's fair and that wasn't fair.
"I think the Nevada State Athletic Commission is atrocious. I think the governor needs to step in before these guys destroy this sport like they did boxing. The alternatives are that the governor needs to step in and fix the incompetence that is happening in the state of Nevada that used to be the best commission in the world. It's absolute 100-percent incompetence. It needs to stop. I'm [expletive] scared to come here and do fights."
Hendricks landed the harder shots and caught St-Pierre with a left in the second round that nearly finished the fight.
St-Pierre wobbled and staggered back to the cage. It was one of many times during the fight that St-Pierre was hurt.
Yet judges Sal D'Amato and Tony Weeks each scored it 48-47 for St-Pierre, giving him Rounds 1, 3 and 5. Glenn Trowbridge had it 48-47 for Hendricks, giving him Rounds 1, 2 and 4.
St-Pierre's face was grotesquely beaten and swollen.
"His face is worse than I've ever seen it," White said. "The only face I've ever seen worse than his [after a fight] was Junior dos Santos [after one of his two losses to Cain Velasquez]."
When the fight ended, Hendricks raced to the cage and celebrated. He was clearly stunned when ring announcer Bruce Buffer read the scorecards.
"I really didn't hit him that hard," Hendricks said of the left when he staggered St-Pierre in the second. "I wasn't really trying to knock him out. I knew it was going to be my first five-round fight and so I was putting about 70 percent on him. It was enough. Seventy percent of my power was enough."
That prompted one of the few light moments of the night. White, standing to Hendricks' right at the dais, interrupted and said, "It wasn't enough because you left it in the hands of the judges. It wasn't enough. You better do 100 percent next time."
That prompted a chuckle, but there wasn't much else to laugh about at the news conference.
White briefly left the news conference to speak with St-Pierre after the fighters were excused. When he returned, he seemed confident that whatever was bothering St-Pierre isn't a big deal and won't lead to his retirement.
"He's cool," White said. "He's freaked out about things that aren't that big of a deal."
Before he left, St-Pierre said he thought he won three of the five rounds, but he said it was hard for him to talk about the fights or his plans because he'd been hit so hard so often in the fight.
Asked directly if his words were a retirement, St-Pierre again became emotional.
"I just came out of a fricking war," St-Pierre said. "That guy hit like a truck, you know? My brain got bashed left and right inside my skull. I need to think and see what's going to happen. I got very emotional. I'm going to have a talk with the guys and see what is going to happen."
White was confident that St-Pierre would return and defend his belt in a rematch against Hendricks, but it was a strange way for the UFC's 20th anniversary celebration to end.
It was hard not to feel badly for St-Pierre, who has always been so classy in his dealings with the UFC, its fans and the mixed martial arts media.
Fights are always emotional for fighters, but it was over the top later for St-Pierre.
White's right more often than he's wrong, and since he spoke privately with St-Pierre, our only choice is to take him at his word and assume what's troubling St-Pierre won't cause his retirement.
He's been one of the great athletes of recent times, but his veneer of invincibility was pierced on Saturday.
It was yet another five-round decision, his seventh in a row, but it was a vastly different Georges St-Pierre this time around.