At 41-years old, Glover Teixeira not only secured his fifth win in a row when he brutalized Thiago Santos, he secured an opportunity to face Jan Blachowicz for the UFC light heavyweight title. Well… that’s what we would have been saying had Dana White not announced last week that middleweight champion Israel Adesanya would be moving up a weight class to challenge Blachowicz for the belt. Now, despite having done more than enough to secure a title shot – he did finish Santos, whom Jon Jones went nip and tuck with down to the wire – Teixeira is being told he’ll have to wait. For how long, the MMA world can only speculate.
Early in the first round and early in the third round of the UFC Vegas 13 Main Event, Santos hurt and dropped Teixeira, forcing him into desperation mode each time. Teixeira managed to secure takedowns, putting a sudden stop to Santos’ momentum in the process and allowing himself time to recover. Once he did, Teixeira delivered his vicious brand of GnP, wearing down Santos until the striker could take no more, submitting to a RNC. The way it played out – Teixeira being hurt on multiple occasions — can be interpreted in a couple of ways. Either Teixeira is still durable enough to recover from being hurt despite his age, or he is more prone to being hurt because of it. Given Santos’ history of violent finishes, the former appears to be the more likely scenario.
It wouldn’t be shocking if the UFC has some regrets about announcing Adesanya as the next contender. At his age, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Teixeira fall off a cliff in a big hurry. Some would point to Randy Couture winning the heavyweight title at the age of 43 – and successfully defending it at 44 – but Couture didn’t have the same mileage on his body Teixeira does. Couture’s MMA career began a month before his 34th birthday in 1997. Teixeira began his MMA career in 2002 at the age of 22. Couture retired with a total of 30 fights. Teixeira’s next contest with be his 40th. It isn’t just the age of Teixeira that needs to be taken into account. It’s the mileage on his body.
Keep in mind, that isn’t saying Teixeira’s chance to become champion is slim and none. Again, this win over Santos – a man many believed should have been the rightful victor over Jones – proves he deserves that shot. It’s just the longer the UFC waits to give Teixeira his title shot, the greater the potential his skills fade. As a promotion, the UFC should be looking to provide the most competitive contests possible. To be fair, they usually do. Fans rarely complain of fighters on the UFC roster getting the Michael Page treatment of gift wrapped victories. However, they also tend to follow the money, looking to set up superfights and gauging what would appear to be a bigger box office draw.
The question is whether Adesanya is a major draw at this point. The UFC and ESPN hasn’t been completely transparent on the amount of PPV buys each event has produced, UFC 253 being the only event we have an idea for the amount of buys for an event headlined by Adesanya. 700,000 is nothing to scoff at, a figure the organization would happily take for every event. However, that event benefitted from Adesanya’s feud with Paulo Costa, a feud that was built up for roughly a year. Plus, there was a second title fight on the card – Blachowicz winning the vacant title over Dominick Reyes.
While the evidence suggests there would be a significant boost to Adesanya fighting Blachowicz, the other question is what is would that contest be replacing. That’s where the superfight dynamic begins to have questionable logic. Not only is it replacing Teixeira vs. Blachowicz, it’s also replacing Adesanya vs. whomever the UFC decides is the next middleweight contender. Adesanya-Blachowicz certainly outsells Blachowicz-Teixeira, but there’s no proof it outsells another potential Adesanya title defense.
Unless Adesanya is facing another fighter who tends to be the A-side of a potential PPV, there is no real financial gain to making a “superfight.” In fact, because it cannibalizes a second title fight, it could be argued it potentially hurts them financially.
Who could Adesanya fight for the middleweight title? Robert Whittaker has fought his way back into the title picture, and it isn’t like fighters are incapable of regaining their belt. Stipe Miocic beat Daniel Cormier twice after losing his belt in their first encounter.
Even if Adesanya doesn’t want to wait that long, what about the winner of Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland in early December? Hermansson has a couple of quality wins on his resume in Kelvin Gastelum and Jacare Souza. If Holland wins, Hermansson would be the only truly quality win on his resume, but he’s charismatic as hell and has beef with Adesanya. Title shots have been awarded for less. Throw in the fact Holland’s banter with Adesanya might draw more interest than a contest with Blachowicz and the UFC could very well stumble into an improved situation.
Some may say the UFC is doing the right thing by saying Teixeira doesn’t have to fight again for his title shot, he can wait it out. That’s all well and good, but there’s something fans tend to forget in these type of situations: fighting is what fighters do for a living. The longer Teixeira goes without fighting, the longer he goes without getting paid. Sure, Teixeira has his own gym and has done far better than the average fighter financially. But how many people are in a comfortable enough situation to hold off their primary source of income, especially when so many people are being impacted financially during this pandemic?
Adesanya is well on his way to being an all-time great. He’s undefeated through his first 20 contests, with two successful middleweight title defenses under his belt, all before the age Anderson Silva had even made his UFC debut. He also has exactly zero fights at 205 in his career. Will winning the light heavyweight title really add that much to his legacy? It will add something, but the novelty of champ-champs has worn off and fans have become increasingly annoyed with champ-champs holding up at least one division as they can’t hope to be active enough to consistently defend two titles. His popularity could very well take a hit if he manages to defeat Blachowicz and he holds up one of the divisions.
As for Teixeira, his win over Santos proved he’s still perfectly capable of winning the title. Santos not only went down to the wire with Jones, he is also the most recent man to defeat the current champion. Teixeira also received support from the likes of Jones and Blachowicz on Twitter. His chances of becoming champion improve the sooner the UFC grants him his opportunity, which means the UFC would need to cancel their plans to have Blachowicz defend against Adesanya. The UFC has changed its mind before in the past. Usually, I wouldn’t be in favor of the UFC reneging on its word. In this case, I would certainly be willing to make an exception.