After five brutal rounds and a veiled hint at retirement, Georges St-Pierre retained his UFC welterweight title with a split decision over American Johny Hendricks on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
Two judges scored the fight 48-47 for St-Pierre, and the third had the same score for Hendricks, with the first round as the deciding factor for all three.
Bloodied and both his eyes slowly closing, St-Pierre looked battered and exhausted after the bout, while Hendricks appeared clean and confident he had done enough damage to wear the first championship belt of his career.
But as the scores were read Hendricks fell to the mat in disbelief.
During the post-fight interview the 32-year-old St-Pierre said he had some memory loss in the fifth round and couldn’t see out of one of his eyes, while alluding to the end of his career.
"I need to hang up my gloves for a little bit," he said to announcer Joe Rogan. "A lot is going on in my life ... I have to go away for a little bit."
Rogan then followed up and asked St-Pierre if he had just announced the end, but the nine-time defending champion just reiterated his previous statement.
An obviously torn up and disappointed Hendricks stated his desire for the crown.
"I'm pretty sure I won the fight,” Hendricks told Rogan. “The belt is mine. I'm going to get it."
The controversial ending had UFC president Dana White calling out the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
“I gave Georges St-Pierre the third round, that’s it. … Nevada is a very scary place," White said after the bout according to For The Win. "This is the worst commission on the planet. I am afraid to bring fights to Las Vegas. I never thought I’d say that. This is the city I live in; this is the city I love. This is the worst commission on the planet.”
It was the ninth consecutive title defense for St-Pierre, and Hendricks saw his six-match win streak stunted.
The first round began with St-Pierre scoring an early takedown, throwing Hendricks off his strategy momentarily. In the second, Hendricks began to land some key strikes with his heavy, powerful left hand, including three successive uppercuts. St-Pierre was able to score on a few straight jabs, but Hendricks still bloodied the champion’s face after the first 10 minutes.
Fatigue may have set in for both fighters in the third, but St-Pierre continued to pick up points with his jab, while Hendricks missed his power shots.
Hendricks later dragged the champion down in the fourth and landed three forearm strikes on the ground, opening St-Pierre up even more.
The highlights from Fox Sports are below.