A lot was at stake when the UFC announced Thiago Santos vs. Glover Teixeira as the main event of UFC Vegas 13 on Nov. 7, but things have changed over the past few days.
When Santos-Teixeira was first booked, it was expected the five-round match could determine who is next in line for the light heavyweight championship. But UFC President Dana White recently recently announced that Jan Blachowicz’s first title defense will instead be against 185-pound champion Israel Adesanya in 2021.
Teixeira hoped to get a second crack at the belt with a win over “Marreta,” which would be his fifth in a row after defeating the likes of Anthony Smith, Nikita Krylov and Ion Cutelaba.
Teixeira expects “The Last Stylebender” to have have success in a heavier weigh class, but warns him of different challenges it might bring.
“He’s good and would get to the top, for sure,” Teixeira said of Adesanya competing at 205 pounds during an interview with MMA Fighting. “He’s good as hell, good athlete, good fighter, super intelligent, and for sure would get to the top, but the weight [difference], everything counts. I know that because I train with heavyweights, and it’s hard. The fatigue, the pressure is different.”
Adesanya won’t have Jon Jones standing across the cage in his attempt to make history, since “Bones” relinquished the belt months before, and now appears to be seeking a move to heavyweight in 2021. Teixeira, who challenged Jones back in 2014, admits he didn’t foresee Blachowicz becoming champion.
“I didn’t expect him to win, not like that, dominating like that,” Teixeira said of Blachowicz’s second-round TKO victory over Dominick Reyes in September. “I thought he could win, they are on the same level. I thought Reyes would have an advantage with the way he moves and his power but, honestly, when I saw their staredown in the center of the cage, I expected Reyes to be a lot bigger.”
It’s still unclear if a win Saturday grants Teixeira a shot at the gold and whether or not Blachowicz will still be the 205-pound titleholder after facing Adesanya. But the Brazilian advises the Polish veteran to bring a different strategy if they eventually meet.
“He can’t stand still like that against me,” said Teixeira, who scored finishes in 26 of his 31 professional victories with 18 knockouts and eight submissions. “He has to move. If he doesn’t move, he’s going down. (Blachowicz and Reyes) didn’t shoot once in two rounds. I won’t just stand and trade with the guy, I’ll mix it up with strikes and takedowns, and that confuses him.”
Teixeira turned 41 weeks before his UFC main event with Santos, and feels like a complete different athlete today compared to his first fights in the company. The 38-fight veteran suffered a tough loss to Anthony Johnson back in 2016, but the ones that changed his mindset were to Phil Davis and Alexander Gustafsson.
The Minas Gerais native started to pay more attention to his body after a complicated weight cut prior to the Davis bout in 2014, and he “had to decide for real” to change his diet following the fifth-round stoppage loss to Gustafsson three years later.
“I tell people for a long time, there are always other options in live,” Teixeira said. “We have to do what we want. I really love fighting. I thought about stopping, fighting just once or twice more, but I love this sport. I just didn’t have the discipline in my diet.”
“I looked up to Lyoto [Machida],” he continued. “I was a bit crazy, had a few cachaças off camp, and I always got too heavy. Changing that, staying focused and disciplined is the reason why I’m fighting better when I’m older now. [Lyoto’s father Yoshizo] Machida and I sometimes had some whiskey – one liter [laughs]. I would say, ‘Have some, Lyoto,’ but he, who drinks a beer occasionally, would say, ‘That’s not good for my body.”
Teixeira respects his body more now and says that’s one of the things that led to his impressive past few wins. And he aims to make history.
“I’m 41 now so this could be the last chance I have for the belt, but I’m simply enjoying the moment because my life is great the way it is already,” said Teixeira, who would be the oldest fighter to be crowned UFC champion for the first time if he wins the title. “Of course that the belt is the reason why I’m here. Who doesn’t wanna be called champion and hang that belt on the wall, right?”