Peeking over his shiny championship belt, Georges St-Pierre looked anything but a winner at the UFC 167 post-fight news conference.
His swollen forehead was covered with red welts like a horrific case of acne. There were cuts under both black eyes. His battered face looked like he had been in a car crash.
Perhaps more worrying was the hidden hurt inside.
Moments after winning a controversial, razor-thin split decision over No.1 contender Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks on Saturday night, the battered UFC welterweight champion hinted at retirement in cryptic post-fight comments in the cage – citing unexplained personal issues and the need to step away – before being transported to hospital.
When he returned to the MGM Grand Garden Arena midway through the post-fight news conference, the Canadian poured gasoline on the fire.
“I can’t sleep at night now. I’m going crazy.” he said. “I have issues. I need to relax. I need to get out for a while. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
He declined to detail the issues. UFC president Dana White, after meeting privately with the 32-year-old from Montreal, said St-Pierre’s personal problems “aren’t as bad as he thinks they are.”
“Yeah, we’ll get through this,” he added.
Still, St-Pierre, the biggest draw in mixed martial arts, essentially suffered a meltdown inside and outside the cage.
“I gave everything. I left my soul in the octagon tonight,” he said of the gruelling battle with Hendricks.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was still pleased with St-Pierre’s win, tweeting his congratulations.
“I would like to congratulate @GeorgesStPierre on his victory in #UFC167. Great fight!” Harper said from his verified Twitter account.
For UFC president Dana White, it was a nightmare finale to a card billed as a celebration of the UFC’s 20-year anniversary.
White was irate that two of the three judges had scored the fight 48-47 for the champion, giving him three of the five rounds and a split decision. And then he heard his pay-per-view king say, out of the blue, that he was walking away from the sport – for how long, nobody knew.
While St-Pierre (25-2) was receiving treatment, White seethed at the decision in post-fight news conference.
“It’s about damage. This is a fight. It’s whoever inflicts the most damage,” he said, “He [St-Pierre] got hurt, he got wobbled, he got dropped.
“Yeah, I’m blown away that Georges St-Pierre won that fight. And listen, I’m a promoter. He’s the biggest pay-per-view star on the planet for me. And I still don’t think he won that fight. I want what’s fair and that wasn’t fair.
“I think the Nevada State Athletic Commission is atrocious. I think the governor needs to step in immediately before these guys destroy this sport like they did boxing.”
Judges Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks scored rounds one, three and five for St-Pierre. Glenn Trowbridge scored the first, second and fourth for Hendricks.White gave all but round three to Hendricks (15-2).
St-Pierre, who arrived 30 minutes into the news conference after receiving medical treatment, said he thought he won three of the five rounds, with the final round being the decisive one. But he sounded anything but convincing.
As reporters tried to get the champion to elaborate on his post-fight comments about what was troubling him, St-Pierre’s eyes glistened. At one point, former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans – who has trained with St-Pierre – leaned over and gave him a supportive squeeze.
While it may come with an asterisk in the eyes of some, it was a record 19th win in the UFC for St-Pierre, moving him past Hall of Famer Matt Hughes at 18. It also extended his string of victories to 12, the longest current run in the UFC.
The victory also moved GSP past former middleweight champion Anderson Silva for most wins in UFC title bouts at 12.