What a difference a month makes.
Less than 30 days after losing to welterweight champ George St. Pierre in a controversial title bout at UFC 167, former Oklahoma State wrestling champ Johny Hendricks will have another shot at the belt.
At a Friday afternoon media teleconference, St. Pierre revealed he is vacating his UFC title… and Ultimate Fighting Championships CEO Dana White announced that Hendricks will take on Robbie Lawler for the now-open welterweight crown at UFC 171 March 15 in Dallas.
St. Pierre, 32, said he is taking an indefinite leave of absence from mixed martial arts competition, effective immediately.
“I’ve been fighting a very long time at a high level, and it’s a lot of pressure, a lot of criticism, and I decided that I need to take time off,” said St. Pierre. “I know the UFC’s a business, and it can’t wait on me. They have to keep things rolling, so I’ve vacated my title for the respect of the other competitors, and one day, when I feel like it, I may come back. But right now, I need a break.”
“What people don’t understand is that in the situation that I am at, it’s a lot of pressure,” the former champ continued. “Every fight I’m carrying weight on my shoulders, and every fight it’s like you add weight. At one point it becomes so heavy that I have a hard time carrying it myself. Physically, I’m a hundred percent and I’m still young and on top of the world, but mentally, I cannot go through another training camp right now and I don’t know when I will be able to. One day, when I feel I’m ready, I’m gonna come back, and instead of having a red sticker on my glove, I’m gonna have a blue sticker and I’ll be the challenger.”
UFC CEO White weighed in.
“I agree with Georges a hundred percent. He talked to us and said ‘I’ve got a lot of personal issues I’m dealing with right now, and I can’t even imagine going into another training camp. It will drive me crazy.’ This isn’t baseball or some other sport. This is fighting. You have to be a hundred percent mentally, physically, emotionally. If you’re not, you should sit on the sidelines and wait until you get your stuff cleared up, and I think it’s the right move.”
St. Pierre’s out-of-the-blue announcement provides Hendricks with another shot at the UFC welterweight title. In November, Hendricks lost a controversial split decision to St. Pierre in a five-round main event at UFC 167 in Las Vegas.
Two judges scored the five-round title fight 48-47 in favor of the champ St. Pierre, while the third gave the match to Hendricks, 48-47. ESPN.com scored the bout for Hendricks, 48-47; in its live play-by-play scoring, mixed martial arts website Sherdog.com’s three analysts also gave the match for the former Cowboy mat champ.
The decision was greeted by booing from the crowd… and derision from White.
"I'm blown away that Georges St-Pierre won that fight," White said at what had been intended to be a 20th anniversary celebration of the first UFC event in 1993. "I'm the promoter and he's the biggest fighter in the sport. I should be, 'Woo-hoo, these idiots gave it to Georges,' but it's not fair, it's not right. Johny Hendricks won that fight and he deserves to get that fight again."
Hendicks, who won back-to-back NCAA titles at Oklahoma State in 2006 and 2007, will be facing Lawler, who wrestled at Bettendorf High School in Iowa. Hendricks’ MMA record is 15-2; Lawler, 32, is 22-9.
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