The news that may turn out to change the life of Glover Teixeira came under the cover of darkness. It was about 2:30 am Thursday and Teixeira was fast asleep in his Connecticut home when the waking fight world found out his fate before him. Despite initial thoughts of a rematch between UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and UFC 165 challenger Alexander Gustafsson, UFC brass had reconsidered and instead decided to promote Teixeira into the bout they’d promised him after his most recent win.
In a scene perfectly out of 2013, a bleary-eyed Teixeira woke up to messages on Twitter and Facebook that informed him that he would be fighting for the belt.
"I was pretty excited about it but at the same time, I had positive thoughts that it was going to happen,” he told FOX Sports on Friday. “They brought me over to Toronto to watch the fight. I was pretty sure I was going to fight [the winner]. I just didn’t know when."
Of course, the rest of us had plenty of doubt after Gustafsson took the seemingly invincible Jones to the limit before losing by decision in a bout that many thought warranted an immediate rematch. In the Air Canada Centre, for instance, the fans roundly booed the judges’ decision.
It seems it was Jones’ preference that swayed the decision towards Teixeira. For some, that was a sign that he didn’t want to rematch Gustafsson. The Brazilian takes no offense to those claims, choosing, as he seems to do, to look at the bright side of things.
“I dont know, man,” he said. “Jon fought the best fighters out there. He’s a champion. He’s really a true champion. He beat the guy and he wants to move on. All I know is it’s good for me.”
Teixeira (22-2) was among the 15,504 who took in the instant classic in Toronto, and like most, he simply absorbed the experience with little regard for anything else. This despite the fact that it directly affected his own future.
"You do get some doubt that maybe they’ll put the rematch on, but I don’t care about this stuff," he said. "I don’t get emotional. I know when the time comes I’ll get the title shot. I was confident it was going to be my time and my fight.
"I don’t get nervous about this stuff," he continued. "Look what happened with me in Brazil, and look where I am now, a year and a half later. I guess things happen for a reason."
By that, Teixeira is referencing his long odyssey just to get to the UFC. Visa issues delayed his debut for years, dating back to the first time he thought he had a UFC deal inked, back in 2008. It wasn’t until May 2012 that he would finally stand on the inside of an octagon, and five fights later, he is tasked with attempting to dethrone the man that stands atop both his own division and the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings.
A rugged and versatile fighter with strong wrestling (he has 100 percent takedown percentage) and powerful strikes (he has knockdowns in three of his five UFC bouts), Teixeira is riding a wave of momentum that brings with it confidence. Dating back to 2006, he’s won 20 bouts in a row.
That works nicely as a contrast for Jones, who for so long has had a reputation as close to unbeatable as exists in the sport. After last Saturday, some of that sheen may have been scratched away. Teixeira believes he’s the man to put the myth to rest once and for all.
“I learned that Jon Jones has some heart,” he said. “He’s going to keep coming. He’s going to push the pace. It’s going to be a great fight.”
"Maybe the fight changed [the perception of Jones] for the fans but not for me," he continued. "I see him as great champion, a young kid. He knows so much but he can be beat. The same way I looked at him before the fights, he can be beat, and I’m going to be the guy to beat him.
Teixeira will train for the match at American Top Team, and plans a 10-week camp before he returns back to the northeast for the bout, which is planned for Feb. 1 in Newark, New Jersey on the eve of Super Bowl XLVIII. That’ll be a veritable home game for Teixeira, who only lives about 75 miles away from the Prudential Center.
A day-and-a-half after the news broke, Teixeira still hadn’t heard anything about the championship fight directly from a UFC official. This development might sound strange to some, troublesome to others, but he insists he doesn’t need any formal invitation to a date that was already his. And anyway, by now, the UFC powers-that-be know him well enough to understand that he’s going to accept a big matchup, a small one or anything in between.
The way he sees it, his trip to Toronto to watch Jones-Gustafsson signaled to the world that he was ready to challenge the winner, and even after the UFC’s brief flirtation with the rematch, nothing has changed on his end.
“They know,” he said. “They know I’m healthy. They know I’m good, so they gave me the fight. They didn’t have to ask me. Usually they call and ask, ‘Hey, will you fight this guy?’ But what’s the point. They know I want it, and I was supposed to fight him already.”