UFC Middleweight Champion George St. Pierre vacates title

Intentional or not, GSP’s reign at 185 pounds was a short one. 

MMA’s top organization announced Thursday that George St. Pierre has vacated the UFC Middleweight title, and immediately anointed top contender Robert Whittaker the new undisputed champion.

It was subsequently reported that Whittaker will make his first defense against former 185-pound champ Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC 221, set to emanate from his home country of Australia on Feb. 10. 

Perth Arena will be the stage for Whittaker-Rockhold in what will be the first UFC event to be held in Western Australia. 

Despite assurances by UFC President Dana White that he would stay at 185 pounds following his win at UFC 217 last month over Michael Bisping, many expressed doubts over whether St. Pierre would fulfill the prophecy or return to his natural weight of 170 where he reigned over the division as champion for nearly six years from 2008 to 2013. However, St. Pierre Announced a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, earlier this week that left that future in doubt.

He released the following statement through the UFC: 

“My fight at UFC 217 was one of the greatest nights of my life but I now need to take some time to focus on my health. Out of respect to the athletes and the sport, I don’t want to hold up the division. I will be giving up my belt and once I’m healthy I look forward to working with the UFC to determine what’s next in my career.”

Set to be the first UFC to originate from Western Australia, Robert Whittaker will return following a win over Yoel Romero to defend the unified 185-pound belt against Luke Rockhold in February.

St. Pierre said in a report by Canadian outlet TSN that he believes the move up in weight may have impacted his health:

During his camp, St-Pierre (26-2) mentioned that he often felt sick leading up to the bout by forcing himself to eat and regards that style as “not a healthy way of living.” The morning of his historic return, the 36-year-old vomited as he attempted to force-feed himself.

He indicated he had hoped the conditions would improve following his victory over Bisping in New York City, but the 36-year-old Canadian was forced to a hospital visit that led to the diagnosis. 
 
Whittaker, 26, is 19-4 overall and on an eight-fight win streak headed into his battle with Rockhold. He defeated Yoel Romero by unanimous decision earlier this year at UFC 213 for the division’s interim belt. 
 
Rockhold carries a record of 16-3 and avenged his loss of the belt to Bisping in June 2016 with a submission victory over David Branch in September. In addition to Bisping, who he defeated in Sydney in Nov. 2014, he also holds victories over former UFC former champions Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida. 
 
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