Friday marks the five-year anniversary of Glover Teixeira’s long-awaited debut in the UFC Octagon.
After years of wrecking shop on the regional circuit and being heralded as an elite talent by his close friend and training partner Chuck Liddell, the buzz surrounding the Brazilian finisher had reached a fever pitch by the time he finally marched to the cage to take on Kyle Kingsbury at UFC 148.
Less than two minutes later, Teixeira had made it clear the hype was for real and as he prepares to step into the cage this Sunday opposite Alexander Gustafsson for the headlining bout of UFC Fight Night in Stockholm, the perennial contender is mostly happy with how things have played out over the last five years.
“It’s good. I like it, I like it,” Teixeira said of his time on the UFC roster. “I mean, I thought I would be the champion by now, but life take a different ways and you’ve gotta keep going forward and you keep working hard and get that dream to come true.
“I’m glad that things are like that and I’m glad that I’m here – still fighting and still fighting towards my dream, man.”
Whenever fighters reach a certain age or log a certain number of bouts (or both), talk of retirement and questions about how much longer those athletes will be able to continue competing at the elite level always surface.
The 37-year-old Teixeira has been peppered with questions about calling it quits sporadically in the past and observers started taking a closer look at his place among the elite in the division when he turned to his wrestling to grind out a unanimous decision victory against unheralded divisional newcomer Jared Cannonier earlier this year at UFC 208.
Long feared for his blistering power and sharp boxing, Teixeira’s performance was a departure from the norm to some and a red flag for others. For the man who notched his 26th career victory inside the cage at Barclay’s Center in early February, it was just about playing to his advantages and sticking to the game plan, one he expects to employ Sunday night against Gustafsson as well.
“The fight with Cannonier was a fight where I shoot a lot for takedowns and people keep thinking, ‘He’s not comfortable striking,’” began Teixeira, obviously aware of the criticisms and questions that followed his performance. “I’m comfortable to strike, man, but the thing is the same thing it’s going to be with Gustafsson and was going to be the plan with Anthony Johnson: I’m going to strike with the guy, but I’m going to wrestle the guy too.
“I’m going to go for the single, I’m going to go for the double and I’m going to try to take the guy down and when he starts worrying about the takedowns, that’s when my hands are going to start hitting him. The reality is I want to be a well-rounded fighter so that he doesn’t know where I’m going.”
In addition to wanting to be a well-rounded fighter, Teixeira still also wants to be UFC light heavyweight champion.
After coming up short in his bid to claim the belt a little over three years ago, he sees this weekend’s main event clash with Gustafsson as a chance to solidify his place atop the list of contenders and earn himself a date with whomever emerges from UFC 214 with the belt around their waist.
“It means a lot for me,” he said of Sunday’s headlining bout. “I think this fight is going to open the door for a title shot; this is the fight. It makes sense when No. 2 and No. 3 guys in the world are fighting and the other guys – Jones and Cormier – are fighting. The winner of this fight will get the title fight, right?”
A case could certainly be made for the winner of this one deserving the next title shot, though Gustafsson’s teammate Jimi Manuwa may want to offer up a polite objection. But Teixeira has also been around long enough now to know that all he can do is focus on the task at hand and let the chips fall where they may and that’s precisely what he intends to do.
“My job right now is to beat Gustafsson – it’s a very important fight and I think this is the fight that is going to put us right to the title line,” he said. “I hope so, but regardless, I’ve got to keep fighting and keep doing my job.”
Just like he’s been doing for the last five years.