TORONTO — Citing health issues, Georges St-Pierre is giving up his newly won UFC middleweight title.
The 36-year-old from Montreal won the 185-pound crown Nov. 4 when he dethroned Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in New York. It was the first fight for St-Pierre, the former welterweight title-holder, since he stepped away from the sport four years earlier.
At the time, St-Pierre (26-2-0) said his contract called for him to fight interim champion Robert (The Reaper) Whittaker next.
On Thursday, that plan changed when St-Pierre told the UFC he was giving up the title effective immediately.
"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 in a statement. "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."
St-Pierre said earlier this week via a social media post that he had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
Whittaker (20-4-0), who won the interim middleweight championship while Bisping was out injured, has been elevated to undisputed champion by the UFC. He will defend the crown Feb. 10 in Perth, Australia, against former title-holder Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC 221.
The New Zealand-born Whittaker, who fights out of Sydney, won "The Ultimate Fighter Smashes" reality TV show at welterweight in 2012, moving to middleweight in 2014.
The 26-year-old Whittaker, who has won his last eight fights, defeated Yoel Romero last time out in July for the interim middleweight title.
The 33-year-old Rockhold (16-3-0) has held both the UFC and Strikeforce titles at 185 pounds. He rebounded to beat David Branch in September after losing his title to Bisping in July 2016.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press