Glover Teixeira was supposed to get his chance at stardom this weekend.
The Brazilian light heavyweight phenom has been called a future title challenger to Jon Jones, despite a resume filled with middling opponents, and it seemed the UFC brass was determined to throw Teixeira to the wolves for his second bout in the organization.
Shortly after Teixeira destroyed Kyle Kingsbury in his UFC debut in May, the UFC started calling around to some of the upper-tier fighters in a star-studded division to find an opponent for The Pit-based fighter.
First on the list was former light heavyweight champion and Pride superstar Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Rua was coming off a hard-fought decision loss to Dan Henderson in one of the greatest battles in UFC history, and ultimately he decided a fight against a dangerous and relatively unknown up-and-comer like Teixeira wasn’t what he wanted for his next bout.
Turning down the proposed fight with Teixeira earned Shogun the wrath of UFC President Dana White, and the outspoken leader of the promotion called Rua out through the media, saying that high-level fighters don’t have the right to turn down fights. Still, Rua held his ground and the UFC was forced to look in a different direction for Teixeira’s next opponent.
It found its guy in former champion and bonafide superstar Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, whose stand-and-trade style matched up perfectly with the brawling that Teixeira likes to implement. The fight was booked as the co-headliner of UFC 153, but like many highly anticipated fights this year, the fight was unable to avoid the dreaded UFC injury bug.
Rampage was forced to pull out of the bout with an injury with just one month until fight day, and the UFC was forced to scramble for a somewhat suitable opponent for Teixeira to fight on short notice. The promotion found that guy in Brazilian boxer Fabio Maldonado, but not before another former champion turned down a bout with Teixeira.
Rashad Evans revealed that he was offered a fight with Teixeira after Rampage was sidelined with the injury, but Evans decided he was unwilling to fight on short notice in the prospect’s home country of Brazil.
In case you weren’t paying attention, that’s two former champions that have turned down a fight with Teixeira.
Now that a fight with Maldonado was the best the UFC could do on short notice, you have to wonder if there is anything for Teixeira to gain with a win over a fighter that’s an underwhelming 1-2 inside the Octagon.
Anything other than a quick and brutal destruction of Maldonado would have to be considered a bit disappointing for Teixeira’s massive group of supporters, and after seeing Maldonado take some vicious shots from Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury, it would seem that finishing the Team Nogueira member is easier said than done.
A pedestrian decision win for Teixeira will move him up a bit in a shallow pool of contenders at light heavyweight, but it may not be enough to convince the high-profile members of the division to give him a shot at becoming elite.
Both in the eyes of his fellow fighters and fans, Teixeira will still need to prove he’s legit no matter what the outcome is against Maldonado on Saturday night, and he will probably need to fight someone a bit outside of the top ten before he breaks into the division’s upper tier.
As badly as the UFC wants to push Teixeira into the deep end, the rest of the light heavyweight division isn’t letting it happen, and they will likely continue to deny him until Teixeira earns his spot.
Sure, there’s an outside chance that someone like Rampage jumps in and takes a fight against Teixeira in order to get into a brawl, but outside of a few fringe contenders the rest of the division is too focused on getting to Jon Jones.
Teixeira had a shot to become a true player in the light heavyweight division at UFC 153, but due to circumstances beyond his control, he’s likely going to remain a highly-touted prospect after this weekend.
He may be talented enough to jump right in and compete with the best in the world at 205, but opportunities are rare in the crowded UFC title picture, and when one falls through, it takes a while for the promotion to get things back together.
It may not be this weekend, but the UFC’s light heavyweight contenders know that Glover Teixeira is coming. He just has to prove to them that he’s worth the risk.
Photo: Glover Teixeira (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)