LAS VEGAS — One of the things that makes fighting unique among sports is the respect the fighters have for each other. They can battle hard for five rounds, trying in essence to knock the other unconscious, but they never lose sight of what is important.
Veteran Glover Teixeira, who fights Thiago Santos on Saturday at Apex with a shot at the light heavyweight title riding in the balance, provided a perfect example of that in his last fight.
Teixeira was on top of Anthony Smith late in the fourth round, brutalizing him with punches and elbows to the face. At one point, Smith’s tooth went flying and Smith alerted the referee to it.
Teixeira noticed and said to Smith while he was punching him, “Sorry, it’s part of the job.” Smith said, “What?” and Teixeira repeated his apology.
— UFC (@ufc) May 14, 2020
On Wednesday, Teixeira laughed as he recalled the incident, which came during one of the best performances of his career.
“Whenever I had a fight lined up, my mom would always say, ‘Glover, I’m going to pray for you and your opponent, that neither of you get hurt,’ ” the 41-year-old told Yahoo Sports. “I always would say, ‘Thanks, Mom,’ and to tell you the truth, even though we’re in there looking like we’re trying to kill each other, we don’t want to hurt anyone. It’s like you’re trying to take his head off and knock him out, but you don’t want to see any kind of injury that would be bad and affect him beyond some swelling and stitches and things like that.”
Teixeira will be trying to inflict plenty of damage, though not hurt, Santos when they meet Saturday in the main event of a Fight Night card that will stream on ESPN+. Santos is a -228 favorite at BetMGM.
UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday that the winner would fight the winner of the light heavyweight title bout between champion Jan Blachowicz and middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. They’re expected to fight early next year.
Teixeira fought Jon Jones for the light heavyweight belt in Baltimore at UFC 172 in 2014 and lost a unanimous decision. It ended a 20-fight winning streak.
Teixeira was never lightning quick, but he was more at his physical peak in that fight than he is now.
“Glover’s one of those guys, you see him and just when you think he’s about done, he comes up with a performance like he did against Smith, and you realize he’s still an extremely dangerous guy,” White said.
The difference in Teixeira now is that he’s learned to take advantage of his experience better. There is little he hasn’t seen, in terms of styles or situations in the cage, and he better understands what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes, he’s wistful and wishes that years ago he had the wisdom he has now, but he’s a realist and understands the value of his many years of experience.
“Don’t we all say the same thing, that we wish we knew when we were 20 or 25 what we know now?” Teixeira said, chuckling. “It would be incredible, but you can’t really allow yourself to get caught up in thinking that way. Each fight, you have to go in there and make do with what you have on that given night.”
Both Santos and Teixeira had cases of COVID-19, which forced bouts to be postponed.
Teixeira said his symptoms weren’t significant and that he had more of a malaise than anything.
He said he understands how difficult the pandemic has been on people around the world, who not only have lost their jobs as a result of it but have lost family members and other loved ones.
“I love to fight and I love to compete and I’m thankful that I still have a job where I can do what I love,” he said. “In this pandemic, the world is so crazy and so many things are upside down. I still have my job, and I love it and I’m very grateful for that.
“I have it better than a lot of people, who have had their issues with it. I am grateful I am where I am at this point and that I have my health and my job.”
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