Glover Teixeira didn’t know much about MMA growing up on a farm in the small town of Sobrália, Minas Gerais, Brazil. When he left to live in Connecticut as a 19-year-old, his only intention was to provide for his family by working in landscaping. But when he watched a tape of Royce Gracie fighting at UFC I, everything changed.
Now Teixeira, 38, has fought for a UFC light heavyweight title and has competed against some of the biggest names in the sport, including Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, Rampage Jackson and Alexander Gustafsson.
In our third installment of “My life as a fighter,” Teixeira looks back at the highs and lows of his career, recalling some of the formative moments, friendships and biggest events. He also touches on a number of different topics on his mind at this point in his career, including when he could possibly hang up the gloves and what he wants to do after his career is finished.
I grew up in a very small town, on a farm. There was not even a TV in my house at that time. I didn’t have much connection with the outside world and couldn’t see martial arts. When I was 10 or 12, that’s when we got our first TV. We only had maybe two channels. At 16 years old, I remember watching Marco Ruas on TV. That’s the only guy I remember back then. I used to love martial arts movies starring Bruce Lee and Jean Claude Van Damme. In one of Van Damme’s movies, he would break a pine tree. I would kick banana trees because I used to live on a farm. My father would get mad at me because I would break all of the banana trees around. When I came to the United States, I saw a lot of Mike Tyson. I would stay up and watch all of the Mike Tyson fights. A friend here said, ‘You got to do Jiu-Jitsu. That’s the thing.’ I said, ‘C’mon, Jiu-Jitsu would never beat Mike Tyson.’ So, he showed me the Royce Gracie tape. I was so impressed with the thing. So, I then started watching all of the UFCs.
I first started training at “War Memorial” in Danbury, Connecticut. I was making friends pretty quick and was learning so fast. If they asked me to do 100 situps, I would do 110. My friend Greg Davis is the one who got me my first fight. I kept telling him, ‘I want to fight.’ He said, ‘You’ve only been training six months — you’re not ready to fight.’ I told him I thought I was ready and he got me a fight.
I quickly realized (against Eric Schwartz) that I wasn’t ready. Greg was telling me I wasn’t ready, but I just wanted to compete. I just wanted that feeling to just step into the cage. I remember the first time I saw those big-name fighters — Frank Shamrock, Chuck Liddell, Rampage (Jackson) … everybody was there. It was WEC III. Everyone was in this little town.
It was an amazing experience except for the fight. So I went back and decided I needed to train with professionals. I made some calls, got denied a couple times, and then Greg hooked me up with John Hackleman. That worked out pretty good.
I went to Chuck Liddell’s camp one time and thought, ‘This is where I need to train. I want to be the best.’ I asked John Hackleman if he would move me. So I moved to California from end of 2005 to 2008, when I had to go back to Brazil. I stayed there training and it’s where I got most of my skills. When I trained with Chuck, he wasn’t even the champion. He became a champion later. John showed me the way to train and fight professionally.
I remember sitting in the ring and crying. I would say, ‘What the hell am I doing here? I should go back home and work on landscaping.’ I was old to start the sport — I was 25 or 26 at the time — and Chuck Liddell just kicked my ass. At standup, I couldn’t even get close to him. He was better than me at everything. I remember crying in the ring, just frustrated. Then I realized, ‘No. I’m going to go to the end.’ A year later I was Chuck Liddell’s main sparring partner. I was doing the wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, the sparring, kickboxing — everything.
My favorite fight was when I fought Rampage. I always wanted to fight Rampage because of the way he fights. It’s about pride. The way he comes forward. My friends in Brazil would always tell me they wanted me to fight Rampage. When I fought him, it was a big deal for me. It was the first big fight I was in. It was a great fight.
It’s hard to say when I’ll retire because I’m feeling great. I’m in love with this sport and having a blast. But I don’t know. Time will tell. The fights will tell themselves. The day I don’t motivate myself to go to the gym anymore, that’s the day I’m probably going to stop. I’m not greedy — I have a pretty good life. I don’t have an expensive lifestyle, so I can make my living teaching classes at my gym. I’m not fighting for the money. Of course money is good, but if I don’t feel like going to the gym anymore, I can stop fighting and do something else.
I want to be remembered as a fighter who gives it his all. I’m always wanting to put on a show for everybody. I always go forward and try for the knockout or submission. I’m going to finish my opponent. I’m not going to try to win by decision. I want people to remember me as someone who gave it his all every time he stepped in the cage.