Three burning questions after Georges St-Pierre vacates UFC title

Georges St-Pierre, who defeated Michael Bisping for the UFC's middleweight title in November, announced he will no longer defend the belt. Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

A major piece of UFC news broke on Thursday, as Georges St-Pierre vacated his middleweight championship -- just 33 days after claiming it in New York.

Immediate reactions were all over the place. Casual UFC fans were mostly left wondering what in the world was going on. To the more diehard bunch, it was a move many saw coming.

Whether the news came as a surprise or not, there are plenty of questions surrounding what is now one of the shortest title reigns in UFC history. Let's try to answer a few.

Q. Why would St-Pierre vacate a title he only won last month against Michael Bisping at UFC 217?

A. St-Pierre, 36, attributed the decision to health. He's said he's suffering from colitis (an inflammation of the colon), and didn't want to hold up the 185-pound division as he recovers.

No mixed martial artist has earned the public's trust more than St-Pierre. So if he says he's dealing with an unpleasant digestive disorder, he's dealing with an unpleasant digestive order.

But at the same time, there was always a lot of evidence suggesting St-Pierre never intended to defend the title if he won it.

UFC president Dana White was apparently so worried about St-Pierre winning the middleweight belt and immediately handing it right back, he said he actually wrote a mandatory title defense into St-Pierre's contract.

Well, either that clause was never real or St-Pierre is calling the UFC's bluff and daring them to enforce it after he's revealed to the world that moving up to middleweight caused him serious medical problems.

Why did St-Pierre really vacate? Was it his health, or his plan all along? Possibly a little of both.

Q. What does this mean for St-Pierre's future? Will he fight again?

A. In a statement on Thursday, St-Pierre said he is "looking forward to working with the UFC" on another fight once he is completely healthy.

Notice, he did not say he is looking forward to facing the winner of a middleweight title fight between Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold in February.

Again, this is why it's not surprising he vacated the title so quickly. That belt isn't important to St-Pierre's plans.

But what are his plans?

The easy answer is: St-Pierre wants the biggest fight possible. Getting more specific than that is a little difficult.

Quite frankly, there just aren't that many obvious, big money, legacy-building fights out there right now. The top two possibilities would have to be welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and, of course, lightweight superstar Conor McGregor.

If St-Pierre wants the Woodley fight, it's his. He just jumped the line at middleweight, a division he'd never fought in before. So, jumping the line at welterweight, a division he reigned over for years, is no sweat.

If Woodley isn't St-Pierre's target -- and thus far, he hasn't provided much reason to think he is -- then his plan may essentially be what it was the past four years, during a quasi-retirement: Sit back, and wait for a big fight to materialize. And if that's the case, there is at least a possibility St-Pierre will never fight again.

Q. Does this swift end to his middleweight reign lessen at all what St-Pierre accomplished at UFC 217?

A. Nah.

Look, did St-Pierre come back to challenge the nastiest middleweight in the world? No. Did he cherry pick an opponent he saw as vulnerable, who happened to be holding the belt? It sure looks that way.

But he earned the right to do that. You can't blame him for taking advantage of it, and you can't hold his victory in a lesser light. Coming off a four-year layoff, at a higher weight, against a veteran opponent in Madison Square Garden? That's incredible.

One thing I will disagree with, however, is any heaping of praise upon St-Pierre for "not holding up the division."

Yes, it's a good thing St-Pierre didn't drag his feet vacating the title. It seems clear that his mind was made up. He wasn't going to fight at 185-pounds again, and didn't waste anyone's time pretending he would.

But let's not forget, St-Pierre basically did hold up this division all year. The UFC initially announced he was fighting Bisping in March -- but the fight didn't happen until November, because St-Pierre said he was recovering from an eye injury.

In the meantime, a young, talented, hard-working Kiwi fighter named Robert Whittaker defeated a nasty opponent in Yoel Romero in a taxing, five-round interim title fight in July -- that basically went unnoticed because it wasn't for the real belt.

In the record books, Whittaker's official middleweight title reign won't begin in the UFC Octagon, with a belt slipping around his waist. It will begin on a Thursday evening -- honestly, as a bit of an afterthought to the news that St-Pierre was dropping the belt.

When St-Pierre won his first UFC championship in 2006, he took the belt from an all-time great in Matt Hughes. After he lost it to Matt Serra in 2007, he got to reclaim it from Serra in 2008. Whittaker's first title win will never have that.

That doesn't make St-Pierre a bad guy -- and it's not to suggest he should have done anything different. If anyone deserved to come back under the circumstances St-Pierre did, it's him. But to say his decision to vacate this title is purely for the good of others in the division is a little naive.