Following a hard-fought, controversial split decision win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in November, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has decided to give up his title and take an indefinite leave of absence from the sport of mixed martial arts. St-Pierre said that he would vacate the title out of respect for the other fighters and that he might return to competition in the future.

The news was announced during a media conference call with St-Pierre and UFC President Dana White on Friday, Dec. 13.

There was speculation that the Canadian would retire following the win over Hendricks earlier in the year—his ninth consecutive title defense. The pair battled back-and-forth for all five rounds, the seventh straight bout that St-Pierre had gone 25 minutes in the cage. In his post-fight interview, St-Pierre stated that he needed to step away “for a little bit.” However, the 32-year-old did not elaborate any further on his comments until today.

Although the internet ran rampant with various rumors of St-Pierre’s future, including an ailing father and unwanted pregnancy, White was adamant following the bout that he felt Hendricks won the bout and that St-Pierre would return to the Octagon for a rematch. Now, it would appear that White was premature in his statement.

Whether St-Pierre’s absence is permanent or not, the Canadian will go down as one of the greatest fighters to ever set foot in the Octagon. During his nearly 12-year career, he has compiled a record of 25-2. Only six of his bouts have come outside of the UFC and 13 of his 21 bouts in the Octagon have been title contests. The Canadian has earned six “of the Night” bonuses in his career—all of which came with the belt on the line— including “Fight of the Night” honors against Hendricks.

Photo: Georges St-Pierre (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)