UFC superstar Georges St.Pierre today announced at a special media conference call alongside Dana White that he intends to take an extended break from fighting and as such has vacated his welterweight title.

Earlier this week UFC president Dana White had indicated that there wasn’t going to be a major announcement from GSP this week.  With that in mind he may well have been shocked when he spoke to the long-time champion yesterday after he returned from vacation and was informed of his decision, leading to today’s hastily arranged conference call.

St.Pierre’s decision comes after one of the toughest fights of his career against Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 last month which he only narrowly won by split decision, though many observers, including White, believed that the challenger had done enough to have his hand raised.

The 32 year-old first noted his intention to take time out immediately after the fight, though the announcement had been rumored earlier in the week and he has since confirmed that it was his intention.  At that stage he had been reluctant to state the exact reason why, saying only that he had personal issues he had to take care of.

Today he said that after many years fighting in the UFC and with all the pressure that goes with it, he feels he needs to take time off.  He stated that he feels 100% physically, but he doesn’t feel mentally that he can go through another training camp right now and is not sure when he will be able to.

He said that one day when he feels ready he “may” return, but he has no intention of setting a date on when.

In the mean time he wants to live a bit more of a normal life, but he intends to keep training and getting better without the pressure of having to focus on actually fighting.

That was his ninth consecutive title defense in a row, and walking away from the belt now means that run will go no further as if and when he does return in the future he’ll have to fight whoever holds the title at the time.

GSP’s extended break is a real blow to the UFC as he’s currently by far and away their biggest star, consistently drawing 700,000+ sales on pay-per-view and even having the power to sell out stadium shows in his native Canada where he’s hailed as a national hero.

The fact that it comes at a time when lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and heavyweight title holder Cain Velasquez are also both out for most of 2014 due to injuries makes matters worse and is going to make life challenging for them as they look to ramp up their schedule from 33 events to well over 40 in the coming year.

Nevertheless, White claimed on the call that he fully supports GSP’s decision and thinks it’s the right thing to do after hearing the reasons why he came to the decision.  He says that St.Pierre has personal issues that he needs to address before he can focus on the sport again.

The UFC’s immediate concern will undoubtedly be putting together a new fight to establish who becomes the welterweight division’s first new champion since 2007.

As a result of this, on March 15th in Dallas, Texas the UFC will put Johny Hendricks up against Robbie Lawler to establish who takes the title.