If you were to judge Glover Teixeira by the apparel he was wearing during a media appearance in Baltimore on Wednesday, you would peg him as a pretty big boxing fan. When I caught up with him, the No. 2 ranked contender in the UFC light heavyweight division was relaxing in front of a gas fireplace wearing a Roots of Fight Jack Johnson hoodie over a Mike Tyson tee from the same brand.
If you have witnessed any of Teixeira's fights, you know that not only is he fan of boxing, but that he's a pretty capable MMA boxer himself. Teixeira has demonstrated that fact by racking up 13 knockouts over the course of 24 professional fights.
While the striking of the 34-year-old Teixeira gets a great deal of attention, it's not the only weapon he has in his arsenal. His potent striking is made all the more dangerous by the fact that he also holds a second-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. When I asked Teixeira why we don't see him utilize his ground skills more often, Teixeira got right to the point, "My jiu-jitsu is there, but if I take a guy down, like with Rampage (Quinton Jackson), I took him down and I felt like the fight wasn't going anywhere because the way he was holding my arms, and I could have just stayed there, and I think I could have finished him on the ground, but it would be a jiu-jitsu match, passing the guard, hold him down, mount and then go for the choke. That's a boring fight. Fans don't want to see that too much."
Teixeira was quick to point out that by no means was he calling jiu-jitsu boring. In fact, he pointed to Demian Maia and Nick Diaz as two fighters that make the ground game something special for MMA fans, but Teixeira said his style cannot compare to those two black belts, "My jiu-jitsu style is definitely not the most entertaining one, so I'd rather do boxing and entertain the fans a little more," Teixeira said. "My jiu-jitsu style is not a beautiful style. I have very simple submissions. It works, but it's not like Demian Maia or Nick Diaz's very exciting style."
While Teixeira feels that his jiu-jitsu game will not bring fans to their feet, he is a lot more confident that his striking game will. When asked how he would sell himself to a new fan that may be debating heading to the Baltimore Arena on April 26 to see him face UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Teixeira said, "I'm an aggressive fighter. I put on a show for the fans every time. I'm not one of the guys that's going to hold back and try to win on points. If I beat Jon Jones for four rounds, they can expect that in the next round I'm still going to try to finish the fight. Every minute, every second of that fight I'm going to try and finish the fight, and that's what fans want to see."
What the fans don't want to see, at least in Teixeira's eyes, is a fighter that knows they can coast through the final round of a fight and still get their hand raised in victory, "Fans don't want to see fighters go out there and ‘Oh, okay, I already won this fight, so I'm just going to move around and keep this guy away from me so I don't lose." They don't want to see that, and that's definitely not my character. I'm going over there and trying to hurt you."
The title shot Teixeira will get at UFC 172 was earned when he stopped Ryan Bader in the first round of UFC Fight 28. That fight ended at the 2:55 mark of the first stanza, but not before Teixeira was rocked by a punch from Bader. After the fight, Teixeira said he was unhappy with his performance and that he had maybe been overconfident heading into the fight.
Five months removed from that fight, Teixeira went into more detail about why his confidence was soaring that night in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, "I was feeling really confident and powerful in the locker room, and I knew that I was going to knock him out. I knew that I was going to walk to the Octagon, and he was going to go out as soon as I hit him. I guess the anxiousness to hit him, and thinking that as soon as I hit him he was going to go down, and I got caught with a punch before that, so it was kind of like 'Hold on a second, this is a fight. I'm not going to just go over there and walk through this guy. He's going to hit me too.' It was kind of like a wake up call, which was a great thing, but I wasn't really happy that I felt that way because that was Ryan Bader. He's one of my favorite fighters, great ground and pound, a great fighter."
When asked if there was any chance that he would step into the Octagon against Jones with that same overconfidence, Teixeira scoffed, "Nobody could think of Jon Jones like that. Look at his resume. If you think that, you're an idiot."
That's not to say that Teixeira is not confident that he can leave Baltimore with the UFC light heavyweight title, he is. As for how he plans on doing that, Teixeira said, "Think about it, how will Jon Jones train for me right now? What does he expect that I am going to do in that fight? If you had to fight me, how do you think I would fight? Do you think I'm going to stand up with you, or take you down and go onto the ground because I can do it all. I can go for a single leg or a double leg on Jon Jones and get him on the ground and work my ground or pound, or I can avoid him trying to take me down and stand with him. That's my style, and I'm not going to make it easy for him, so he's going to have to train for everything."
In addition to facing questions on how he is going to defeat a fighter whose only loss is a disqualification, Teixeira has had to hear those questioning if he deserves the shot at Jones' title. Naysayers will point to the fact that Teixeira has yet to fight anyone ranked in the top ten in the division.
Teixeira's answer to those doubters, "I've fought in the UFC five times, but I've been on a 21-fight winning streak, so I don't know what else they want. I finish my fights, except the Rampage fight, and I was not really happy with that fight either, but all my fights have been first round finishes. Who else would be there? (Daniel) Cormier doesn't have one fight in the light heavyweight division. Cormier is a good heavyweight, but he hasn't proved himself as a light heavyweight, it's a different story over here."
Speaking of a different story. UFC 172 will be the first time that Teixeira has headlined a pay-per-view (PPV) event. Yes, he headlined the Fight Night card with Bader, but the media obligations, and focus on the main event fighters on a PPV card are exponentially greater than on a Fight Night card. After a morning of traveling to television and radio stations around Baltimore Teixeira did admit to being concerned about that aspect of UFC 172, "I don't want it to affect my training too much and it gets hard some time. I know that it will be more than the last fight, and I hope it's not too much more, but I'm ready for it. It's part of the job."
Another part of Teixeira's job for this fight is opening a new market for the UFC. The promotion has never staged a fight in Maryland. When asked if that fact was going to increase the pressure on him, Teixeira said, "Not really, I have a style that the fans will like to watch. I have an aggressive style. If I wasn't like that maybe I would feel like I had to be more aggressive, but I feel like me and Jones are going to put on a great show. I really believe that it could go either way. It could go quick, but I really believe that it is going to be a good hard fight."
Teixeira will prepare for the fight against Jones at American Top Team in Florida. His coach form his time at The Pit, John Hackleman will be assisting in that preparation.
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