No one who's been paying attention all these years should be the least bit surprised that, even in semi-retirement, it was Georges St-Pierre who showed us how it should be done.
The now-former UFC welterweight champion announced Friday that he's vacating the title, taking a break from MMA, and going in search of a "normal" life. Not quite as decisive or final as some of the other exits we've seen, but that's part of what's so great about it.
Walking away, possibly (probably) to return some day? Here's an announcement we can actually believe. What it lacked in drama, it more than made up for with the establishment of realistic expectations (listen to today's announcement).
That's not something you usually see with fighters. Usually they tell you they're going cold turkey, no more MMA as long as they live, cross their hearts and hope to die. Remember Randy Couture standing in the cage after his second loss to Chuck Liddell at UFC 57, telling us it was the last time we'd see those gloves and those shorts in the octagon? He was back in a year (presumably wearing different shorts and gloves, but still).
Anderson Silva promised he was done fighting for the belt after his TKO loss to Chris Weidman. Now you turn on the TV during any UFC event on FOX Sports 1, and there he is, confidently declaring, "I back."
St-Pierre did it in perhaps the only way an honest man can, which is by promising almost nothing. He also did it on his terms, when and how he wanted, without allowing himself to be swayed by the considerable pressure to accept a rematch with Johny Hendricks first.
That last part is especially important, and in danger of being forgotten. The UFC might rewrite the story later on, but clearly it wasn't eager to lose the "king of pay-per-view" this way. Remember UFC President Dana White's "meltdown" at the UFC 167 post-fight press conference? Remember when he went for a private chat with the champ, and then came back saying he'd worked something out, and don't worry, St-Pierre isn't going anywhere? Remember all the times since then he's insisted that St-Pierre isn't retiring, as if saying it over and over again might make it true?
PHOTOS: Best of UFC 167: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks
That tone had softened by the time of Friday's call, as White called St-Pierre's exit and abdication of the title "the right move." Obviously the UFC would have rather cashed in on the rematch with Hendricks, but GSP proved to be that rare superstar athlete who realizes in time that the point of all that money he's made is the freedom to do what he wants. And, at least right now, GSP wants out.
You can't blame him, really. As he said, he's been fighting a long time. In that time, he's been a great example to other fighters both in and out of the cage. He built a powerful personal brand and got rich in the process, but never let success make him soft or complacent. He was always classy in victory or defeat, and rarely sunk to the level of the lowest common denominator when it came time to sell a fight. It helped that he was also really, really good at this fighting stuff and, if the more vocal members of the female fan base can be believed, not bad to look at.
It's fitting, then, that even when the time came to make a tough decision he's still out there setting an almost impossibly good example. Rather than take a fight and cash a paycheck when he knew his heart wasn't in it, GSP opted to step away.
It sounds easy – especially when you've got GSP money – but if that were the case it probably wouldn't be so rare. Look at how many pro athletes keep going for ego or glory or just one more big payday that they don't really need. Look at how few had the sense to do what GSP just did, and lay it out there without making any promises he wasn't sure he could keep.
But again, it shouldn't be a surprise that St-Pierre keeps proving to be the exception to all the fighter cliches. Not to anyone who's been paying attention.
Ben Fowlkes writes for MMAjunkie.com, a property of USA TODAY Sports Media Group.