MMA superstar Georges St-Pierre made more UFC history this week, but not the type that's going to cause him to be endeared by fight fans and the UFC brass.
Just 33 days after winning the UFC Middleweight title from Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in New York City, St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) has vacated the championship, citing uncertainty about his fighting future after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
The UFC officially announced the news late Thursday in a press release, which included comment from St-Pierre.
"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," St-Pierre said. "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."
Although ulcerative colitis is an illness with no known cure, there is highly effective treatment. St-Pierre said earlier this week that his case is not extremely serious, but he believes the issue stemmed from his diet and weight-gain program ahead of his first-career Middleweight fight.
As a result of the situation, St-Pierre becomes the first fighter in UFC history to vacate championship belts on two occasions. He voluntarily gave up the UFC Welterweight championship in December 2013 following nine successful defenses. At that time, the French-Canadian cited fatigue from the pressure of being a champion, concerns with drug-testing in the sport and several other issues as his reasons for vacating.
St-Pierre's title reign ends at just 33 days, which is the shortest in modern UFC history. He kept the 170-pound belt for 2,064 days, the second longest run of any titleholder in company history.
Despite the disappointing news on St-Pierre's side, the UFC is wasting no time moving on with its 185-pound division. Interim UFC Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) was immediately promoted to undisputed champion, and his next fight has already been announced.
Whittaker, who is born in New Zealand but resides in Sydney, will defend his title against Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in the main event of UFC 221, which takes place Feb. 10 in Perth, Australia.
"The Reaper" will bring one of the UFC's longest winning streaks into the event. Whittaker has won his past eight fights, including recent victories over top contenders Yoel Romero and Ronaldo Souza. Rockhold, meanwhile, is a former UFC Middleweight champion who will aim to regain the title he lost to Bisping in June 2016.