Young at heart: Teixeira captures UFC crown

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 30: (R-L) Glover Teixeira of Brazil secures a rear choke submission against Jan Blachowicz of Poland in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
(R-L) Glover Teixeira of Brazil secures a rear choke submission against Jan Blachowicz of Poland in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on Oct. 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Nothing came easy in his MMA career for Glover Teixeira. He was 19 fights in before he finally made it to the UFC in 2012. He had to work as a landscaper to pay the bills because fighters on the regional circuit rarely make enough money to survive only on their fight-related income.

He was dominated in his first UFC title shot in 2014 by Jon Jones, and when he lost to Corey Anderson on July 22, 2018, in Hamburg, Germany, it was three losses in his last five fights.

But at an age when fighters are moving on to the next stage of their lives, Teixeira reinvented himself and on Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi in the main event of UFC 267, captured the UFC title.

He submitted Jan Blachowicz with a rear naked choke at 3:02 of the second round to become the second-oldest champion in UFC history at 42 years, two days old.

It was a long, hard road to the top for one of the sport’s most humble and self-effacing guys, but he made it look easy on Saturday. He took Blachowicz down 40 seconds into the fight and kept him on his back for the rest of the first round.

In the second, he landed a right hand followed by a left hook that dropped Blachowicz. Teixeira quickly took his back and sunk in the choke.

He went up to UFC president Dana White in jubilation after his win and said, “It’s been 20 years! Can you believe it? Twenty years!”

Teixeira, who is now 33-7, never gave up and opened his mind to new ideas. He went to work at the UFC Performance Institute and changed his training methods to accommodate his age and leave himself at his best for the fight.

He earned the title shot by reeling off five wins in a row and capped it with his sixth in succession, an amazing victory over a highly regarded champion.

“I’m breaking the rules at 42 years old and I’m going to keep breaking those rules,” he said.

Blachowicz, who said, “Everything went wrong with me,” didn’t have much to offer in the bout even though he went off as nearly a 3-1 favorite. Teixeira had warned in the pre-fight that Blachowicz didn’t want to go to the ground with him, and that warning was prophetic.

Blachowicz didn’t have an answer, though he vowed to be back.

“This is not the end of my story,” Blachowicz said. “My story’s not closed. I’m not a quitter. I’ll be back.”

If he needed any inspiration to realize that it is, in fact, possible to rise up, he only needed to look across at the cage at the man who defeated him.

Teixeira was written off many times, but declined to listen to the skeptics. He believed in himself and kept working to make himself better.

“I told you I was coming home with the belt and I am, baby!” he said gleefully.

And like Blachowicz said, Teixeira’s story is not over, either. He’ll likely face the dynamic striker Jiri Prochazka next, but no longer will anyone ever doubt him after what he’s pulled off.