In a strange way, Jan Blachowicz can sympathize with the kind of peril facing Glover Teixeira ahead of their showdown at UFC 267.
A few years ago before he became light heavyweight champion, Blachowicz had dropped four out of five fights and he was on the precipice of potentially losing his job with the promotion. Losing was no longer an option if Blachowicz wanted to continue his career with the UFC so he scratched and clawed his way back into the win column, which eventually built into the momentum that helped him win the 205-pound title.
Now Teixeira isn’t in any danger of being cut from the UFC but at 41, it would seem almost impossible that he would have the time necessary to work his way back up the ladder for another title shot if he falls short on Saturday in Abu Dhabi. Teixeira can ill afford to lose, which makes him an incredibly dangerous opponent and that’s not lost on Blachowicz as he seeks to defend his title for the second time.
“I have to be ready for everything,” Blachowicz said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “But we will see. I believe I will knock him out. I will do everything I can to knock him out but I will have to be ready for a really tough fight.
“Because like we said before, this could be maybe his last fight, maybe last title fight chance. So that’s going to be the best Glover ever. I think so. I have to be also he best Jan Blachowicz ever.”
Over seven years have passed since Teixeira last fought for a UFC title when he fell short in a decision against former champion Jon Jones back in 2014.
While Teixeira has remained a stalwart in the light heavyweight rankings, he was never quite able to put himself back into a position to challenge for gold again until now.
An impressive five-fight win streak — including a TKO stoppage against Anthony Smith and a submission victory over Thiago Santos — helped push Teixeira back to the front of the contender’s list.
Blachowicz can’t help but tip his cap to Teixeira for what he’s done to earn another title shot because he had to travel down a similar path before he had the chance to become a UFC champion.
“I think with his age, something changed in his head,” Blachowicz explained. “Now he knows what to do, how to train, how to use his skills. I think just his mentality is on the top right now.
“That’s why he’s No. 1 and he got a chance for the title. I was in this place before but I catch it a little bit earlier than him.”
One of the greatest attributes that Teixeira has displayed during his recent run has been almost awe-inspiring toughness that helped him survive early struggles against former title contenders such as Smith and Santos.
In both fights, the Brazilian was wobbled and hurt but neither opponent managed to put him away and Teixeira made them pay for it by staging a stunning comeback.
For his part, Blachowicz actually appreciates that Teixeira can take a punch — or in this case maybe a few dozen punches — but eventually even the most granite chin can be cracked and he has no problem chipping away until there’s nothing left but a pile of dust and ash.
“I believe that I have the legendary Polish power, I can knock him out with one punch but if not, I’m going to try to fight against him like the [Alexander] Gustafsson fight,” Blachowicz said while referencing Teixeira’s knockout loss from 2017. “[Gustafsson] waited to finish him until the [fifth] round. He doesn’t go too fast. I think Thiago [Santos] made this mistake, he hit him very well and he wanted to finish the fight early and Glover has a lot of experience. He used it. He knows how to survive and he catch Thiago, submit him and that’s it.
“I will not do this mistake. Also, I think my jiu-jitsu, we are on the same level. If the fight goes to the ground, I’m going to be ready for his jiu-jitsu. It’s not going to be easy to submit me, I promise.”
On a personal level, Blachowicz understands there’s a certain segment of fans who will be rooting for Teixeira to win simply because he’s a legend in the sport and widely regarded as one of the nicest people in the world who’s also capable of separating you from consciousness.
There’s certainly no ill will shared between the fighters whatsoever and Blachowicz looks forward to shaking Teixeira’s hand after he scores another win and has the UFC title wrapped back around his waist again.
“After the fight, I can drink beer with him but in the fight, I have to knock him out and I will do it,” Blachowicz said. “That’s it. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a nice guy. I met him a long time ago. But anyway, the fight is the fight, we have to do our job.
“I will not be beaten. Nobody can stop me right now. I am the champion. I’m going to be until the end of my sports career. Because I know how to do this. I know how to defend my title.”