UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre held onto his belt at UFC 167 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night, if only by the skin of his teeth. But perhaps as surprising as the decision was the champion’s post-fight comments, not exactly retiring, but saying he had to “go away for a little bit.”
St-Pierre opened aggressively, taking the fight to Hendricks, and scoring an early takedown. On a subsequent attempt, however, Hendricks landed some vicious elbows to the champion’s head, slowing him down. Hendricks out-dueled St-Pierre for the remainder of the opening frame, landing the more impressive strikes and controlling the clinch.
Hendricks didn’t let up to start the second stanza, keeping after St-Pierre with his power shots. St-Pierre eventually got his jab and low leg kicks going late in the round, starting to chop away at Hendricks. It was a very close round, and could be the one that swung the scorecards in St-Pierre’s favor in the end.
Round three was one of St-Pierre’s better rounds, as he found much success with his jab and low kicks. Hendricks noticeably slowed down in the round, the power in his punches losing some of their steam.
St-Pierre kept up his jab and low kick attack – a key part of his game plan – in the fourth round.
“He was very good at countering my game plan. My game plan was to make him fight going backwards (to take away his power),” said St-Pierre.
But just when the momentum was all swinging his way, he tangled up his own legs as he moved away from Hendricks and hit the canvas. Hendricks followed him down and landed several hard elbows that busted the champion’s face up a bit. They returned to their feet for the remainder of the round, but Hendricks had effectively taken St-Pierre out of his rhythm. It was another close round.
The fifth and final round was nearly all Hendricks. St-Pierre came after Hendricks aggressively, but just couldn’t land many damaging blows. Hendricks kept tying him up and outwrestling St-Pierre, keeping control of the fight, and once again landing with power when he unleashed his powerful paws.
Many in the crowd seemed to feel Hendricks had walked away with the decision, but when the judges’ scorecards were read, they reached a split conclusion. Two judges scored the fight for St-Pierre, while the other judge scored it for Hendricks.
St-Pierre admitted it was his toughest fight to date, but felt he earned the right to keep his belt.
“Without a doubt my toughest fight,” said the champ. “I lost memory a little bit during the fight, I couldn’t see with one of my eyes. He really messed me up.
“I wasn’t surprised (at the decision), but like I said, I lost a little bit of memory of what happened.”
Hendricks, however, was extremely surprised.
“I thought I clearly won the fight,” said the challenger. “Georges is a great competitor. It sucks, but I’m coming back. I’ll get that belt.
“I won. I don’t care. I want that belt. It was taken away from me. I swear to God it won’t happen again.”
Although he held onto the gold, St-Pierre gave in to the rumors that have been swirling for weeks that he might retire after the fight.
Or did he?
“There was a lot of talk about what is going to happen. I am going to hang my gloves up for a little bit and make sense of my life,” said St-Pierre, still standing in the middle of the Octagon.
But when he was pressed if that meant he was retiring, St-Pierre wasn’t quite ready to fully commit to the idea.
Perhaps he had planned to retire when he headed into the fight, and the emotion of the moment held him back from making a finite decision. Whatever the case, he only alluded to some personal issues and the need to deal with them.
“I have to go away for a little bit at least. Personal things are happening. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the UFC,” he continued.
“I have to step away for a bit, that’s all I can say right now. Later on, I’ll make a point about that. Right now I have to go away for a little bit.”