Respected as one of the top strikers in the light heavyweight division, one tutored by the likes of Chuck Liddell and John Hackleman, Glover Teixeira could have avoided mixed martial arts altogether and made a career as a professional boxer. In fact, that was the initial plan when the Sobralia native left Brazil to begin a new life in Connecticut.
“The first time I went to the gym, it was here in the United States in Danbury, and I wanted to be a boxer,” he recalled, “but that changed three months later when my friend showed me a tape of Royce Gracie in UFC. That changed my whole dream about being a fighter. He was like ‘this is crazy, man,’ and I wanted to do this crazy thing. (Laughs) That’s what I wanted to do.”
Teixeira wore out his Blockbuster Video membership card renting UFC video tapes, and he watched them when he wasn’t working as a landscaper and then heading to the gym – not to box, but to learn jiu-jitsu. By 2002, the 22-year-old was a pro MMA fighter, and 13 years later, he’s one of the top 205-pounders in the world. And through it all, he never wondered about boxing again.
“I love the sport of boxing, I love to watch it, but MMA is my passion and my focus is to do the best that I can in MMA,” he said. “Boxing, I’m just a fan.”
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As he prepares for another big fight, this one against Patrick Cummins in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event in Sao Paulo, the 36-year-old is in a good place in his life. He still makes his home in Danbury with his family, he’s got his own MMA gym, and he’s the fourth-ranked light heavyweight in the world. You can also add to the equation that among fans and peers, he’s earned a level of respect few can muster, and not just for what he does in the Octagon, but for how he lives and carries himself outside it.
“I’m happy because that’s who I am,” he said. “All the respect that I’ve got from the fans and the people, they realize who I am. I’m not fake. I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not to sell fights. I have nothing against anybody. All the guys in the sport, they’re good guys. We’re all looking for one dream, and that’s to be a champion.”
So even after an impressive win in his most recent fight against Ovince Saint Preux in August, an opportunity to make some noise and address champion Daniel Cormier resulted not in trash talk, but a couple awkward smiles and, eventually, the tamest call-out in UFC history.
It didn’t get him a second crack at the 205-pound crown, but it did reinforce the reality that Teixeira is someone who is content in letting his fighting do the talking, and he was speaking loudly against OSP, showing off his underrated ground game in submitting his foe in the third round. The victory was a much needed one after back-to-back losses to then-light heavyweight boss Jon Jones and Phil Davis, with the latter bout providing Teixeira with a much-needed wakeup call.
“I looked at myself after the Phil Davis fight, and as a professional, I need to keep the weight down and stop being too overweight,” he said. “I’m not going over 230 anymore, even off-camp.”
Of course, the Davis loss coincided with his first camp at his gym in Danbury, leading him to wonder whether he was making the right move after years of training on the road.
“My first camp at home was before Phil Davis, so for the second one, it’s in the back of your head ‘am I doing this right? Do I need to be far away?’” he said. “Then I felt really good for my last fight and during the camp, and my weight was good too. And I feel really good in this camp too. I have a lot of guys over here. I have all my friends that I used to train with in Brazil, and they’re all here. They fight light heavyweight but they’re heavyweight now, walk around 230-240, and they’re very good fighters. They’ve been helping me out with this camp, my trainer Fernely (Feliz), he’s a boxer, but he’s getting to know more about the UFC and the guy has an incredible vision about fighting. I just feel good.”
He sounds good as well, and sometimes it takes a few years in the game to find that right groove where everything is clicking. Having won 21 of his last 23 fights, Teixeira has obviously had plenty of success, but these days, it really looks like everything is coming together for him, and he’s ready to show it against a surging up and comer in Cummins.
“He’s learned a lot from his first fights in the UFC, and I see him getting better and better every time,” Teixeira said of his foe. “He’s a legit wrestler and his hands are getting better, so I’ve just got to be smart, be quick, and push this guy and try to impress the crowd again. That’s what I need to do and that’s what I want to do, because at this stage I just want to excite the fans. I’m not good at talking all this crap that people talk, so I have to excite the fans by fighting.”
And he knows just the way to do it.
“I trained really hard for this fight, and not taking anything away from Patrick, but I’m looking for the knockout early in the fight.”