From blue-collar beginning to immigration woes, Glover Teixeira never lost focus on gold

Glover Teixeira spent almost four years in Brazil without being able to come back to the United States.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

BALTIMORE — What’s that old cliche about not forgetting where you came from? Yeah, Glover Teixeira definitely doesn’t have that problem.

Teixeira moved from Brazil to the United States when he was 19 years old and immediately got a job landscaping in Danbury, Conn. Mowing lawns. Trimming bushes. Moving logs. Lifting rocks. Long before he put on a pair of MMA gloves, he was wearing gardening gloves.

Even now, on the cusp of UFC greatness, Teixeira will lace up his steel-toed boots and hop into the truck with his buddies from time to time. Last year, even after Teixeira knew he’d be fighting for the light heavyweight title, he went out landscaping. Not for money; just for fun.

"I just go to hang out with the guys," said Teixeira, who meets champion Jon Jones at UFC 172 on Saturday here at Baltimore Arena. "It’s kind of cool to get back to that and say ‘Oh man, that’s what it feels like.’ So I better try hard and keep fighting, because fighting is much better."

This is not your typical rakes-to-riches tale. Teixeira’s story is far more nuanced. For all intents and purposes, the 34-year-old should have been a UFC star years ago. But when he immigrated to the U.S., he did so illegally. Despite being married to an American citizen (Ingrid, who he met 14 years ago), Teixeira was unable to return to the U.S. from Brazil until nearly four years later.

I don’t really talk about it much, because I’d like to leave it in the past. But it was a struggle. It was very difficult. I could talk for hours about it, but let’s leave it at it was incredibly difficult.

-Ingrid Teixeira on her husband's deportation

"I don’t really talk about it much, because I’d like to leave it in the past," Ingrid said. "But it was a struggle. It was very difficult. I could talk for hours about it, but let’s leave it at it was incredibly difficult."

Ingrid just wanted her husband back. At the time, being in the UFC would have just been gravy for her. But those were precious years — arguably prime years — that Teixeira lost, mired in paperwork issues.

"The lawyers kept telling us soon, soon he’ll be back," Ingrid said. "But in Brazil it’s hurry up and wait. Whatever they tell you, it’s always the opposite. We thought it was going to be a short amount of time."

Many people regarded him as one of the best light heavyweights in the world six years ago. Former training partner Chuck Liddell, a UFC Hall of Famer, said Teixeira was "right there" among the top guys at 205 pounds. But despite how frustrating it might have been, Teixeira never wavered. He never doubted he’d one day get his chance.

"I want to fight for the title," he said. "I want to get the title. That’s my dream. You go after your dreams no matter how many obstacles. You want to go forward. That’s what I did."

Glover Teixeira (right) and Jon Jones face off.

Teixeira, who has won 20 straight and has not lost since 2005, will fight for his dream Saturday night. Oddsmakers have him pegged as high as a 5-to-1 underdog. Jones, after all, is probably the best fighter on the planet and the greatest light heavyweight ever. But those who have been around him know Teixeira is more than capable. Liddell said Friday at the UFC Fight Club Q&A that Teixeira would finish Jones in the third round. Liddell expects Teixeira to land one of those big punches of his and put Jones to sleep.

"The best thing about Glover is he loves to fight," Liddell said. "More than anyone I know, he loves to be out there fighting."

It’s better than the alternative, right? Teixeira could still be melting in the hot sun earning paychecks as a landscaper. Now when he does it, it’s for leisure. Ingrid expects him to put on those other gloves with his friends a few weeks after the Jones fight.

"I’m sure he will," she said. "He’ll be out there landscaping with the belt. You never know."

Teixeira laughs off his penchant for landscaping and wants everyone to know he’s being paid very well by the UFC. Not many people get fun out of gardening and hauling, but this is a guy who grew up working on a farm in Brazil with his parents.

"I don’t do much, but I do heavy stuff," Teixeira said with a laugh. "I get the logs. It’s a little work out. I do the truck with stones like Rocky Balboa."

Teixeira gets the chance to write his own little Rocky story Saturday. From landscaping to deportation to the UFC light heavyweight title? It’s possible.

"I knew sooner or later it was going to happen," Teixeira said. "Now I’m fighting for my dreams."