Lorenzo Fertitta: Emotion of night led to White’s GSP outburst

"€œAt the end of the day, it'€™s Georges' decision," Fertitta told FOX Sports.

Michael Cohen

UFC president Dana White received some rare fan backlash in the hours after Saturday night’s UFC 167, after suggesting that UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre "€œowes"€ the UFC, its fans and Johny Hendricks an immediate rematch. White’€’s comments came after St-Pierre said he was going to take some time away from the fight game.

The welterweight champion’€™s comments caught everyone off-guard, including the UFC president, who earlier in the day, had asked GSP if he was planning to retire. The champion said no, but also didn’t allude to an extended hiatus from fighting.

Despite White’s insistence that St-Pierre will fight again, his future seems undecided for now. And according to White’€™s partner, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, leaving the UFC title picture in such a haze was the bigger part of the problem, even if he acknowledges that in the end, St-Pierre will chart his own future.

"€œAt the end of the day, it’€™s Georges’ decision,"€ he told FOX Sports on Thursday after a press conference to bring attention to legalizing MMA in New York. "€œBottom line, Georges can do whatever he wants to do. I think we just need to have a clear, open line of communication. I think Dana was maybe caught off-guard because there was no talk about that beforehand. It was an emotional night. It was a big night for us. It was a controversial night in some ways. And adding [GSP’s announcement] on top of it all, it just kind of added to it all. I think there’€™s no issues there at all. We’€™ll move on and plan as we always have."

The company’€™s biggest issue with St-Pierre walking away is taking the belt with him. Does he surrender it? Would the UFC be forced to strip him? And what happens if they take that step and two months later, he’€™s ready to return? The result is a messy decision.

According to Fertitta, the reaction would not have been the same if St-Pierre gave them a timeline for return or even if he had announced his retirement. If the latter was the case, the organization could move forward with no choice but to strip the belt.

"The element of limbo I think is what Dana was saying wasn’€™t fair," he said. "€œYou’ve got a whole host of guys who’€™ve been training their entire life to try to get that belt. So tell us if you’€™re in the game or out of the game, you know what I’m saying? If you step away and retire, great. Vacate the belt and move on, and you’€™ll be loved and revered forever as one of the greatest UFC champions. But you can’€™t just kind of press the pause button with no timeframe. If you say, "€˜Look, I don’€™t want to fight for nine months," then we can plan for that. We can say, ‘Fine, nine months. Contenders, get in order and we can figure out who gets the next shot.’€™ But you can’€™t just press the pause button for an indefinite period."

Fertitta said he was among the majority who scored the fight for Hendricks, but said that upon second viewing, he can understand how two judges could have scored the first for St-Pierre.

Controversial or not, the title defense was the ninth consecutive one for St-Pierre, making him just one shy of tying Anderson Silva’s record. Now, we’€™ll just have to wait and see if St-Pierre decides to come back in an attempt to tie that mark.

Fertitta, who spent a lengthy time speaking with St-Pierre after his initial announcement, seems to believe that St-Pierre will. Though they did not directly talk about his fighting future and focused more on the problems that the champion alluded to in public, in coming to his conclusion, Fertitta considered what St-Pierre didn’€™t say as much as what he did.

"€œComing out of the conversation we had, he seemed like he just needed to take a little bit of time off and rest, which is totally normal when guys go through a tough fight, a tough camp,"€ he said. "€œSometimes they need a little bit of time until they get that fire again, which is what we expect to happen in the near future. But in no way did he say I’m retiring for a while, or I’m taking a long time off, or I don’t want to fight anymore."