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When Glover Teixeira first became widely known to hardcore MMA fans, it happened indirectly for most. A new star burst onto the MMA scene in 2007: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. He sported an impressive look but had accomplished little when Pride Fighting Championships gave him an opportunity to take on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at its second and last United States show. Sokoudjou was picked to look formidable and lose to one of Pride’s best competitors, and as such, he was a massive underdog on a card that featured a number of upsets.
Sokoudjou to the shock of most did not just win but won spectacularly. He knocked out one of the best fighters in the world in brutal fashion in just 23 seconds. Given that Sokoudjou had signed a promotion friendly contract, he was brought back to Japan less than two months later for what would end up being Pride’s final show. It was a sad and unmemorable card, but the clear highlight came when Sokoudjou scored another knockout in under two minutes against one of the most underappreciated great fighters of the era: Ricardo Arona. It was the fight that effectively ended Arona’s career, as he would fight only once more on a low-profile card in Brazil.
This sort of emergence would be pretty much impossible in 2020. The Ultimate Fighting Championship would not put a 2-1 fighter in with two of its elite light heavyweights in his first two fights for the promotion. Obviously, a fighter in that position would find it even harder to win both fights via quick and brutal knockout. Sokoudjou was a remarkable story, one that has few analogues in MMA history. Everyone was talking about the Team Quest competitor, and one of the most striking aspects of his story was that he had beaten these two superstars and had only gone 2-1 in three preceding bouts. His loss was a knockout that also came in less than two minutes. Many fans turned to the Sherdog Fight Finder and discovered the loss came at the hands of someone named Glover Teixeira.
It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say Teixeira was completely unknown, because the win over Sokoudjou took place in World Extreme Cagefighting. However, this was not the Zuffa version of the WEC. The caliber of the fighters was strong, but the television clearances were not. This was before Versus (now NBS Sports Network), and the WEC had a deal with HDNet. At this stage, HDNet just wasn’t available in many homes and required HD television—something that was not standard at the time. Thus, many fans first discovered Teixeira not by seeing him but by hearing about him.
This wouldn’t be particularly notable under different circumstances. Teixeira could sign with a top organization and fans would see him soon enough for themselves. Unfortunately for Teixeira, visa problems landed him back in Brazil, and he was unable to return to fight in the United States for years. The UFC wouldn’t run in Brazil for many years, either, so Teixeira was trapped abroad. He won fight after fight, not losing for nearly seven years after the knockout of Sokoudjou, but it was all under the radar, even to those who were aware that he was a very good fighter.
In a way, that came to define Teixeira’s identity as a fighter. He was a great fighter but was not appreciated for just how good he was. With his soft-spoken demeanor and entertaining-but-not-spectacular fighting style, he’s still great but underappreciated over a decade later. At each step of the way, he has had to do more. When he finally made his UFC debut after years of waiting, it was on the Facebook prelims despite a glossy 17-2 record, an international reputation and six wins over former UFC fighters.
After running up his winning streak to over eight years, he finally got the first major title shot of his MMA career against Jon Jones. It was a tough assignment, and he fell short. As Teixeira alternated wins and losses in recent years, it seemed pretty much a given it would be his only shot. UFC President Dana White admitted after UFC on ESPN 17, where Teixeira defeated Thiago Santos in the main event on Saturday in Las Vegas, that he had sold the Brazilian short himself. The notion of Teixeira getting back into the title mix wasn’t in the planning stages.
Teixeira’s greatest strengths have never been self-promotion or hype. As such, he worked his way back into the title picture by doing the thing that has always been his forte: winning fights. Five straight wins with four finishes and two over recent title challengers have led many to suggest the UFC should abandon or at least put off plans to have Israel Adesanya challenge for the light heavyweight title. It’s a sympathetic plea given that time is working against Teixeira at age 41.
Looking at Teixeira’s history, it’s easy to imagine those appeals falling on deaf ears. Nothing has ever come quickly or easily for Teixeira, who so often has been the forgotten man. It seems unlikely he’ll ever get his full due. He’s more Art Monk than Terrell Owens, more Chris Mullin than Vince Carter. Still, for those paying attention, Teixeira’s had a hell of a career. It’s defined not simply by longevity but by excellence.