GSP announces indefinite leave from UFC

December 13, 2013

Earlier today, during a last minute scheduled press conference call from Montreal, Georges St-Pierre announced that he is going to take an indefinite leave of absence from the UFC and vacate his welterweight title in order to deal with personal issues.

GSP opened up the conference call with the following statement,

I’ve been fighting a very long time at a high level. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of criticism, and I’ve decided I need to take time off. I know UFC is a business, and it can’t wait for one person. They have to keep things rolling, so I’ve vacated my title out of respect to the other competitors.

No timetable was given on when GSP would return, or if he would return at all. In his absence, the UFC has scheduled Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler for the vacated welterweight title on March 15, 2014 as the main event for UFC 171, which will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX.


Payout Perspective:

We have no idea if GSP will ever be back, and no commitment was made one way or the other, but Dana White pushed the proverbial promoter talk and stated he believed GSP would be back in the Octagon. For years and years, Dana White has trumpeted GSP as the number one draw the UFC has had in its stable, even when Brock Lesnar was around.

Now that he will be gone for at least all of 2014 and considering that the UFC’s stable of champs are ailing from injuries (Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Anthony Pettis, Dominick Cruz) and will be out a significant portion of 2014, the impact to the bottom line next year will be noticeable. On the positive side, for fighters such as Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, and Anderson Silva, the bargaining chips and assumed leverage has never been more on their favor then it is now.

In 2013, after 12 events (UFC 156 – UFC 166), the UFC has averaged an estimated 430K PPV buys.  Without GSP headlining UFC 158 nor UFC 167, the highest PPV buy total would be in the 550,000 range. The average PPV buy number would also dip into the upper 300K range, which would equate close to a loss of roughly 800,000 – 1M PPV buys.

Another interesting note from the presser was Dana White’s comment about GSP’s contract status with the UFC during his leave.  White stated that GSP’s contract would be “frozen” while he is on leave and would continue whenever he returns.  Without any timelines set by GSP and considering that he vacated his belt, it would be interesting to see what parts of his contract are triggered by this scenario, which is one that the UFC has not had to exercise at all in recent years.

32 Responses to “GSP announces indefinite leave from UFC”

  1. LeonTheProfessional on December 13th, 2013 7:18 PM

    Bottom line, say goodbye to approx. 1.5 m PPVs. GSP accounts for nearly 1/3rd of the annual PPV buys.

    Hendrix or Lawler will pull in 300 tops. Looks like a rough year in 2014.

  2. BrainSmasher on December 13th, 2013 10:00 PM

    Where do you get that number at? He only fights 2 times per year, every other year. Also, whoever is champ will surely draw at least 500K. So GSP will lose them roughly 350K buys 1 year and maybe 600-700K in the years he would have fought twice. Nice try! But I don’t think we need the Dr Phil spin on it for dramatic effect.

  3. Tops of on December 13th, 2013 10:35 PM

    Bad news for the UFC….

  4. Tops of on December 13th, 2013 10:38 PM
  5. Tops of on December 14th, 2013 2:01 AM

    Tuf,fs1 ,low pay,stars retiring…..

  6. LeonTheProfessional on December 14th, 2013 5:43 AM

    This year alone GSP events will likely bring in a total of 1.5 – 1.75 M PPVs. Based on JBJ and Cains grand 325k PPV draws, I’m guessing new welterweight champ will bring in 300k per event and that’s MAX. On the low side I’d say 225. Lawler , Hendrix?

    And aren’t they missing out on a Welterweight PPV completely by co-maining them with LHW title?

    yea, could be close to 1.5 m.

  7. LeonThePro on December 14th, 2013 7:00 AM

    Let’s look at what GSP brings in over the past 5 years, I think some people undermine his importance to the UFCs bottom line:

    UFC 167 – ? (750,000 maybe)
    UFC 158- 950,000
    UFC 154 – 700,000
    UFC 129 – 800,000
    UFC 124 – 785,000
    UFC 111 – 770,000
    UFC 100 ** 1,600,000
    UFC 94 – 920,000
    UFC 87 – 625,000

    9 fights in 5 years is nearly twice a year, and there was a big injury period in there.
    ** is the shared PPV with Lesnar’s title, and if you include that, GSP averages 875,000 PPV buys, per fight. Without 100, it’s still 787 – bar none the biggest avg. in the UFC.

    So yea, at twice a year that is going to be a BIG HOLE in the PPV revenue stream, not to mention Canadian bars get full every time he fights.

  8. LeonThePro on December 14th, 2013 7:01 AM

    ” Also, whoever is champ will surely draw at least 500K. ”

    BS, thanks for the laugh. It’s 2014 soon, not 2008.

  9. LeonThePro on December 14th, 2013 7:04 AM

    EDIT – per fight , no way. Annually, yes I agree.

  10. JoseK on December 14th, 2013 9:21 AM

    GSP was the only big PPV draw UFC had left.
    Over time they can hope to build more. If Jones keeps winning he’ll keep growing as an attraction.
    But fewer people pay attention to UFC now so it’s harder to build stars. UFC isn’t this brand new exciting cultural thing, it’s just … another thing. Another sport in the endless parade of sports on a half-dozen sports channels that competes for attention.

  11. JoseK on December 14th, 2013 9:28 AM

    Big question is what happens to Canadian interest.
    I predict there will be a big drop-off unless another Canadian becomes a champ in the near future.
    UFC says Canada loves UFC cause Canadians just love fighting. I say Canada loved the UFC because they had fellow Canadian GSP to cheer for. I predict their interest will decline markedly if another Canadian hero doesn’t rise up.
    That’s what happened in Japan. Once the top Japanese fighters fought the top US and Brazilian fighters and kept getting destroyed … Japanese lost interest. It was fun for them when they thought their local heroes were the best in the world. When it was demonstrated that they weren’t, and weren’t even that close, the Japanese lost interest.

    UFC knows this even though they say otherwise. And that’s why they keep adding weight classes — to increase the odds of having champions from as many countries, regions, and ethnic groups as possible.

  12. John S. on December 14th, 2013 10:02 AM

    Jon Jones avg 505,000 buys as a champ
    Velasquez avg 355,000 buys as the HW champ
    Aldo 240,000
    Rousey 450,000 for her one ppv so far

    We have no clue what Pettis, Weidman, or the next WW champ will draw, but it’s no guarantee they’ll draw 500k.

  13. Saldathief on December 14th, 2013 10:26 AM

    And why the long wait for UFC 167 ppv buys??

  14. Saldathief on December 14th, 2013 10:50 AM

    This is bad news, but I am sure the pressure from Zuffa was far greater than any fight! When someone tries to control every aspect of your life and you make them a ton of money it must be hard to sleep at night. GSP just got tired of it all. I am sure there are huge money issues there always is. The UFC will be fine if they are smart but I think their ego and arrogance will be the demise of them.

  15. LeonThePro on December 14th, 2013 11:00 AM

    The only hope left at the moment is Anderson. If he gets his belt back I see him drawing 500 + every time and being the new PPV champ.

    I do agree with Jose about the Canadian following. Expect to see a dip. It will be interesting to see the live gates now in Montreal and Toronto.

  16. Chris27 on December 14th, 2013 1:00 PM

    There goes DW’s cash cow. This is a huge blow to the UFC. There is no one on the horizon who can bring them in like GSP.
    I guess DW knew this, that’s why the rapid expansion into other countries.

  17. Sampson Simpson on December 14th, 2013 1:07 PM

    Sinking ship in an ever increasing name based business model. UFC brand is worthless now as is Dana White’s reputation

  18. BrainSmasher on December 14th, 2013 6:38 PM

    Hughes and Penn all did very good PPV buys. All the UFC champs do good PPV buys. It would be silly not to think Hendricks who what ever champ isn’t going to be doint around 500K. So like I said there is like a 300-250 difference per event. Between GSP as Champ and Whoever else is champ.

  19. BrainSmasher on December 14th, 2013 6:39 PM

    I mean 300-350

  20. mmaguru on December 14th, 2013 6:46 PM

    Biggest impact will be with the Canadian market. GSP is like the Gretzky of MMA. Anyway, we’ll see how it all unfolds in 2014. We are witnessing another changing of the guards.

  21. BrainSmasher on December 14th, 2013 6:49 PM

    Also it took Anderson many fights into his run to draw the PPV he does. So stop comparing new champs to him. There is no way to know what the next champ is goes on a run will do a few defenses in. GSP was 14 fights into his UFC career before he was ever able to break 500K buys on his own. Before his fight with Penn at UFC 94. He had only got to around 520 with the help of strong main events or co-main events. It was his 6th title fight and even more where he was the main event or co main event. His draw didn’t happen over night. So to write off guys who are new champs now as never being draws. Is beyond foolish!

    Lets remember that Anserson Silva who is now the #1 draw in the UFC. Was for most of his Title run. The worst PPV draw in the UFC. This is fact. HE struggled to break 300K buys. The UFC lost buys every time he fought. But look at him now!

  22. LeonThePro on December 14th, 2013 6:52 PM

    No the new WW champ will not do nearly as well. Hughes nor Penn did not bring it in like GSp, on average or overall. Incorrect. All champions do not do good PPV buys. Incorrect again.

    Your welcome to list the numbers and prove me wrong.

  23. LeonThePro on December 14th, 2013 6:59 PM

    The UFC lost Lesnar, Liddell, and now GSP. They went from almost 9m PPVs down to 5 this year. They haven’t compensated for their loss of star power and I doubt anything will change next year.

    I’m predicting 3.5 m to 4.5 at best.

  24. Tops of on December 14th, 2013 9:27 PM

    Tsk Tsk Tsk….can’t wait for 50 mini events next year hahaha….still the fastest growing sport?

  25. AK on December 14th, 2013 10:41 PM

    Look at it as half full — all those GSP buys were a massive amount of free money (“found” money as they say in business-speak). After all, it’s not like GSP was the most exciting fighter ever. In fact, some would argue downright boring. So consider it all bonus money.

  26. AK on December 14th, 2013 10:42 PM

    *glass half full

  27. AK on December 14th, 2013 10:46 PM

    Woops, if my point wasn’t clear…it’s that GSP was a pretty boring fighter and that it’s amazing he consistently got so many buys to even begin with

  28. Diego on December 15th, 2013 11:38 AM

    It always hurts to lose a star. But this is hardly the end of MMA or the UFC. It will cost Zuffa as far as PPVs, but it’s not going to push them into bankruptcy.

  29. BrainSmasher on December 15th, 2013 5:15 PM

    I agree with you AK. I don’t think GSP was very popular here in the US at all. Almost every one of his fights were in Vegas or Canada or near Canada. When he fought Hughes the second time in California. That fight barely broke 2 million gate. His fight in Texas after that did 2.8 million vs Serra. HIs fight with Fitch in Minnasota did 2.2 million. THe rest of his fights were Canada or easy travel for Canadians. But the vents above show a lack of draw without his Canadian fan base.

    The problem with this is GSP is their national hero. They don’t have many options so they follow him hardcore whether he is boring or not. But due to his conservative nature. He didn’t have much appeal to anyone else. Where past champs and future champs will have more value in the US. I feel most of GSP’s appeal was his nationality rather than personality or entertainment value.

    I always looked forward to his fights because they were big events with a lot of hype. But I think the fight itself was less eventful than the anticipation of the fight. In almost every case.

    Sadly we were just starting to get fight with him that could have won his respect from non GSP fans. His Diaz fight got non GSP fans rooting from him. His Hendricks fight gained him a lot of respect seeing him in a battle for the first time. Future fights with Hendricks, Lawler, and Ellenburger would have only made him more popular and respected and less of a front running bully. We waited years for him to have some competition and when it is here. He runs from it. It is very disappointing IMO. He did the same after asking to fight Silva. Once the fight was closer to happening. He changed his mind and said he wasn’t interested. When he knew something was a challenge he seemed to run from it.

  30. BrainSmasher on December 15th, 2013 5:40 PM


    3 of Hughes 4 fights as champ or in title fights since the TUF era broke 500K. Two fights with GSP and one with Royce Gracie. The only fight that didn’t was his fight with Penn which did 400K. That is an average of 567,500 PPV buys.

    Penn was champ at 170 when UFC PPV sales were still low. TUF hadn’t really kicked in. The two events he had did 300 and 400K. Most of the UFC boom he was the LW champ and doing very well. His LW run did 225, 475, 850, 620, 500, 570. Both of them in the modern era would do 500K. Like everyone it depends on who they are fighting.

    Not all of GSP’s title fights did 800K either. Many did in the 700’s and 600’s. His early title fights were 400K and 500K.

    Each had their ups and down buy rates. but typically each guys would only be about a 300K buy rate difference from GSP per event.

  31. Random Dude on December 16th, 2013 4:08 PM

    People arguing that GSP retiring won’t impact the UFC’s bottomline is ridiculous and crazy. Please stop trolling. The guy is popular and makes a lot of money for the UFC.

  32. LeonThePro on December 17th, 2013 5:24 AM

    @ Random, I know. Hughes and Penn were champs of yester-year, and the new WW champ will not draw anywhere close to GSP. This is a different time, a different phase of business.

    The old stars are gone and there is not many prospects on the horizon for building a huge fan-base comparable to guys like GSP.

    Also GSP did a 5 M gate in Vegas so no, he is not just a Canadian draw. GSP was a huge draw wherevever he went.

    Again, it’s foolish to undermine his importance to the UFC.

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