Glover Teixeira knows there are big implications Saturday, he’s solely focused on the task at hand.
Teixeira (31-7 MMA, 14-5 UFC) faces Thiago Santos in the UFC on ESPN+ 40 main event, a matchup that could determine the next No. 1 contender at 205 pounds.
Since failing to capture the light heavyweight title in a 2014 loss to then-champion Jon Jones, Teixeira has had some ups and downs but is currently enjoying his best run of form in years. He’s riding a four-fight winning streak and is coming off a fifth-round finish of former title challenger Anthony Smith in May.
With light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz projected to defend his title against middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, a win could put Teixeira next in line for a title shot at 205 pounds, but he insists he isn’t overlooking fellow former title challenger Santos (21-7 MMA, 13-6 UFC).
“I’m feeling great for being 40,” Teixeira told MMA Junkie. “I’ve been told that I’m visibly healthier and more fit at 40 than I was at 37. Back then I was eating too much churrasco and drinking too much cachaca. Today I’m feeling great. People are noticing. My last fight was a great performance against Anthony Smith, who had been beating everyone up except for Jon Jones.
“I’m feeling very motivated. I’m focused on this fight against Thiago. It’s a fight that can propel me to the belt. But I’m not thinking about Jan Blachowicz. I’m 100 percent focused on Thiago ‘Marreta.’”
Teixeira usually roots for his fellow countrymen when they step into the octagon to compete, and he admits the fanbase could be torn between the pair when the two compatriots face off on Saturday night at the UFC Apex.
“Against Thiago ‘Marreta‘ the fans will be split,” Teixeira said. “We Brazilians are very patriotic. We always root for a Brazilian to capture the belt. I always do that myself, unless I have a personal connection or friendship with their opponent. I root for ‘Marreta’ just about every time he fights. Now, we get to bang it out.
“We’ll put on a beautiful fight, and the winner should get a shot at the belt. ‘Marreta’ is super tough. He’s more of a muay Thai fighter. I’ll look to impose my own game, which is to use my boxing, close the distance, and get him down to the mat. Or maybe I’ll keep striking. Everyone knows my game. There isn’t much strategy to it.”