Glover Teixeira is getting closer to a shot at the UFC title, and that’s something for a long time he believed might never happen.
Born in Sobralia, Brazil, Teixeira wanted to be 100-meter sprinter or a rodeo rider, but he gave up those ideas to move to the United States for better opportunities. At 19 years old, he needed 48 days to travel illegally from Sobralia to the U.S. Three years later, a single video tape of Royce Gracie’s fights changed his future.
While doing landscaping to make a living in Connecticut, Teixeira started training. As chance would have it, he would soon cross paths with Chuck Liddell, who was the UFC champion at that time. After racking up a 7-2 record in MMA with six finishes, the Brazilian was offered a contract with the UFC. He was living illegally in the U.S. at the time, so he wasn’t able to sign the deal. Teixeira decided to return to Brazil and re-enter the U.S. legally, but it was too late.
Forced to live in Brazil, Teixeira moved to Rio de Janeiro and started training with Pedro Rizzo and Marco Ruas. He won 10 bouts in Brazil, finishing nine of his opponents, before finally being granted a visa to return to the U.S. The UFC waited for him, and signed the 17-2 Brazilian to a contract.
"I’m really happy for what’s happening in my career," Teixeira told MMAFighting.com. "After everything I went through, now it’s only joy for me. I was talking to some friends at the gym the other day and Caio Magalhaes said, ‘that’s why you are so calm when you fight.' After everything I went through, I’m living the dream, win or lose."
Teixeira was 30 years old when he finally debuted in the UFC.
"I thought about a lot of things, but everybody has tough moments," he said. "I always believed that sooner or later I’d be in the UFC to show what I can do."
Texeira hasn't skipped a beat, either. He's gone 4-0 in the UFC, with victories over Fabio Maldonado (TKO) and former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (decision). He's garnered enough buzz that it's been hinted that a victory over Ryan Bader on Sept. 4 in Belo Horizonte at UFC Fight Night 28 could earn him a shot at the title.
But for a man who was forced to wait three years to sign in the UFC, Teixeira's in no particular hurry.
"My dream is to fight for the belt, it would be awesome," he said. "But I’m focused now on this fight. I want to defeat Bader and then we’ll think about the title."
Teixiera has a big hurdle in front of him with Bader, but he believes he has what it takes to win the gold. He's not alone. Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Marco Ruas all see him as the man to stop current light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, should that match-up happen.
"I truly believe in my weapons, I believe I can beat [Jones]," he said. "I thank my friends for trusting in me, people that saw what I can do while training. I can’t say too much, I have to go there and win. We will see when the time comes. I’m getting closer to where I want to be and I don’t feel any pressure because of that. I love to fight, I love to be there. On my first fights in the UFC I felt a little nervous, but I don’t feel that anymore. I’m used to that already.
"Jon Jones is a good fighter," he added. "He’s a great wrestler and striker, but his best weapon is his intelligence. He fights the fight his way, and that makes him victorious."
Bader, the man in his way, is coming off a 50-second submission victory over Vladimir Matyushenko.
"It’s going to be a great fight," said Teixeira. "Ryan Bader is a great and strong fighter, but I will be well prepared to beat him in every aspect of the fight. I’m ready for a war. You can’t predict how a fight will go. I’m not a guy that competed in jiu-jitsu, boxing or wrestling, that you say, ‘oh, he’s phenomenal on the ground or standing.' I’m an MMA fighter, and I will fight wherever I see I can win. Ryan Bader is good in all areas, especially in wrestling and striking, so he has his weapons."
Even with the escalating stakes, Teixeira says he won’t dial things back and play it safe.
"I will fight like I always do, keeping pressure on the opponent and trying to finish the fight all the time," he said. "They promised [the title shot], but they can change their minds, so I’m not worried about that now."
Teixeira has never fought in his home state of Minas Gerais, and headlining a UFC card there means most of his friends and relatives will be inside the arena to support him.
"I’m ready, and it feels great to fight in front of my family and friends," he said. "I always dreamed about fighting in the main event of the UFC no matter where, and fighting in Minas Gerais is the best feeling in the world. Not everybody’s coming because Sobralia is really far from Belo Horizonte, but my family and a few friends will be there. It’s the first time they will watch me fight live. I believe they will be more nervous than me, but I don’t feel any pressure because of that."
(Editor's note: Watch Glover Teixeira's appearance below from The MMA Hour on Monday.)