LAS VEGAS -- By the time Georges St-Pierre showed up at the UFC 167 post-fight press conference and started talking, things appeared to be going off the rails on the company's 20th anniversary celebration.
"I can't sleep at night now," said the UFC welterweight champion. "I have issues. I am going crazy."
The statement was the culmination of one of the most bizarre hours in the history of mixed martial arts. It started with the announcement in the Octagon of his controversial split-decision win over Johny Hendricks to retain his welterweight title. Then St-Pierre made his vague announcement that he was going to take some time off from the sport. That was followed by the contentious press conference, in which White rallied at both the Nevada athletic commission and St-Pierre's plans to take a break of undetermined length.
"You owe it to the fans, you owe it to that belt, you owe it to the company and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again," White said about GSP's planned time off. "Unless you're going to retire. ... There's no, 'I'm going to take a cruise, I'm going to take a hiatus and be gone for two years, I'm going to take a leave of absence, I'm gonna,' whatever the hell it was he's saying, it doesn't work that way,"
Less than half an hour later, at the post-press conference scrum with reporters, the UFC president's tone had changed dramatically. White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta talked with St-Pierre following the presser. While the personal issues trouble the champ remain a secret, White is convinced that this will blow over and the champion will be back in action sooner rather than later.
"I think everything is cool," White said. "Listen, I'm not speaking for Georges here. Everything's cool. He's freaked out about some things, It's a big deal to him. When something happens to you, it's the end of the world. Georges St-Pierre is a mentally strong kid and he'll get through this. I'm in a much better mood than I was 15 minutes ago."
"His problems aren't as bad as they think they are," White continued. "They're personal problems. One of the thing that makes Georges as great as he is is things drive him crazy. Little things drive him nuts. That whole obsession thing he was talking about, he's very much that way and he's obsessing over something else right now."
That something troubled St-Pierre was evident from the moment he showed up at the press conference. White had earlier stated that his champion was in the hospital, but there was St-Pierre, still dressed in suit and tie despite horrendous cuts and bruises all over his face.
"I just came out of a freakin' war," said St-Pierre, who has held the welterweight title since April, 2008. "The guy hit like a truck, my brain is going left and right inside my skull. I get very emotional. Anyway, I'm going to have a talk with the guys and see what's going to happen. The UFC has always been there for me, they always support me, I would never turn my back on UFC, never, ever."
"I understand from the point of view for the UFC, it is bad for them if I leave like this," St-Pierre said off his planned break. "I need to make a point, man. I need to get out for awhile. i don't know what I'm going to do. I feel like I am going to let everything out now, but I need to keep some things personal. I give everything I have tonight. Like it, love it, I give everything, that's all I can say."
Granted, we only heard one side of the story of White and Fertitta's postfight meeting with St-Pierre. White honored St-Pierre's request not to reveal the details of the personal issues that are troubling him. It will be up to St-Pierre to decide how long he'll be out, and whether he wishes to publicly address the issues that are causing him to step aside.
But the way White spoke afterwards left the impression that a St-Pierre vs. Hendricks rematch will happen sooner that most think.
"People want to see that rematch, especially if Johny Hendricks said he went 70 percent, you know?" White said. "Is he going to knock Georges St-Pierre out? Is GSP going to get over his issues and is that what made him whatever in the fight. But there absolutely has to be a rematch, I don't care if only three people watch it, we have to do the rematch."