LAS VEGAS — In 2014, when he fought Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title in Baltimore, Glover Teixeira was 35 years old with the body of a 41-year-old.
He was largely training on his own, moving from gym to gym, and he worked so hard that he wore himself out.
On Saturday, more than six years after that disappointing night, the 41-year-old Teixeira fought as if he were 25. He managed to keep his wits about him even when Thiago Santos was pummeling him with crunching punches and seemingly on the verge of a finish.
Teixeira’s better than ever, even as he’s now one of the UFC’s elder statesmen, which he proved in finishing Santos with a rear naked choke in the third round for his fifth consecutive win.
His coach, John Hackleman, attributed Teixeira’s success to his team and to the UFC Performance Institute.
“This Performance Institute has made such a tremendous difference for him,” Hackleman said. “He used to train so hard and we’d all beg him to take a day or two off, but he refused. He just thought he needed to push and push and push. But these people, everything is computerized and they show him the data and he believes it and trusts it.”
Whatever it is, it’s turned him from a very good fighter into an outstanding one. It’s not much of a stretch to see him winning the championship if he gets another shot.
He has an insatiable desire to improve and has proven it’s never too late to learn.
“I always want to keep getting better and keep learning,” he said. “I keep an open mind. I love what I do and I try to learn from everybody. They do an amazing job at the PI, and I take advantage of that, and with my coaches and the gym, it’s the perfect trifecta.”
He started slowly and was in trouble almost right off the bat. One of the hardest hitters in the division, Santos came out and blitzed Teixeira. He was winging hard punches and had Teixeira in trouble.
Teixeira, though, was constantly thinking of what he needed to do to survive.
“You’ll have to put me out [to finish me],” Teixeira said. “Those shots were hurting me, but I’m not a guy who quits.”
He dominated Santos for the remainder of the first round, then got a 10-8 in the second when he was in mount and nearly finished Santos with ground-and-pound.
He had a rear naked choke sunk in late in the round, but the bell sounded to save Santos.
“Ten more seconds and it was over,” Teixeira said.
That bad break nearly cost him in the third when Santos, sensing he was way behind, came out and caught Teixeira with a hook that dropped him. Santos immediately pounced for the finish.
Teixeira did his best to avoid the finish and managed to shake himself free. The fight ended with the rear naked choke only seconds later.
“I hate to see my guys getting hit, and that was tough to watch,” Hackleman said. “But he’s a calm guy and he’s such a great grappler. I think he went for a knee bar there, and it created an opening for him to get out.”
He took Santos down, got his back and forced the tap, putting himself into position for another title bid.
He didn’t want to think much about what’s next.
“My face hurts and I just want to eat a pizza,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I don’t want to make any decisions now.”
Whatever happens, he’ll be in a significant and important fight, which few would have guessed when from 2016 through 2018 he was 2-3 and finished twice.
Now, he is fighting as well as anyone in the division, including the champion, Jan Blachowicz. The possibilities are endless.
“It’s great to see,” Hackleman said. “He’s such a great guy and he’s been at it so long, back in the Tachi Palace days with the WEC [in 2004]. This is a guy who has sweat and fought for everything he’s gotten.”
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