There was a time when Glover Teixeira walked down Higuera Street every Thursday night.
Whether the rest of the Farmers Market shoppers knew it or not, the Brazilian mixed martial artist they shared the pavement with was on his way to a career in the UFC.
He’d already become San Luis Obispo resident Chuck Liddell’s main sparring partner during a period when Liddell was at his best, cruising through six consecutive light heavyweight title defenses in legendary fashion.
One problem: Teixeira was in the country illegally.
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Teixeira’s fast track to the top fight league in the world was halted when he had to return to Brazil and obtain a work visa. Liddell trainer John Hackleman thought it wouldn’t be long before one of his prized pupils was back in town.
American bureaucracy, as it turns out, is slow-moving everywhere.
“They said it takes a month to three months,” Hackleman said. “Next thing you know, three years later, he’s coming back.”
Granted his visa in December, Teixeira, now 32, will make his UFC light heavyweight debut on the undercard of Saturday’s UFC 146 against former Arizona State football player and UFC veteran Kyle Kingsbury. The bout will be streamed live online at www.facebook.com/ ufc on a webcast scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s very exciting because this is the biggest show,” Teixeira said. “UFC is the biggest company. It’s where you can be a champion and make some money and change your life. It’s every fighter’s dream to be in the UFC.”
Teixeira brings with him a 17-2 record and a 14-match winning streak. Even though he was “exiled” in Brazil, as Hackleman termed it, Teixeira continued to fight.
His level of competition has been limited by geography, but Teixeira punched former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez into submission in the first round of his most recent fight in November.
“He wasn’t able to come to the states and test himself against the UFC,” Hackleman said, “so he did what he had to do and did exactly what was asked of him and beat everyone put in front of him.”
Teixeira hasn’t lost since 2005, and during his undefeated span, he has recorded eight first-round knockouts and only one of his matches went the full three rounds.
He doesn’t expect the streak to last forever, but it has a mystique because of his absence from the U.S. fight scene and the sheer volume of his victories.
“I want to keep it going,” said Teixeira, whose first five wins in the streak came while living in San Luis Obispo County. “You know, losing is going to happen sooner or later because that’s a part of the game, but I only think of winning now.”
The ironic thing about the winning is that Teixeira’s relationship with Hackleman and Liddell was borne from a loss.
TKO’d by punches and elbows, Teixeira lost his MMA debut to Hackleman-trained Eric Swartz in 2002 at a WEC event in Lemoore. Rubbing elbows in the post-fight locker room, Hackleman and Teixeira immediately clicked, and Hackleman invited Teixeira to train with him at The Pit in San Luis Obispo.
By 2004, Teixeira was teaching recreational classes at The Pit — training members ranging from housewives to lawyers to doctors, kids and 85-year-olds looking to get into shape — and impressing Liddell with his striking ability.
“We recognized his punching power right off the bat,” Hackleman said. “I did. Chuck did. So did everybody that saw him punch. He has the Mike Tyson kind of put-you-to-sleep punching.”
Coupled with his blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a discipline known for its grappling and ground fighting, Teixeira’s striking prowess makes him a dangerously balanced fighter.
Before he was signed, some called him the best fighter outside UFC. Others have written that Teixeira is the best unknown fighter in his division.
With an impressive debut, he can begin working on building a different reputation.
His world has been fast-paced since getting the chance to finally prove he can compete with the best, but at some point it will slow down, and maybe that’s when Teixeira will be able to return to San Luis Obispo.
“My dream is to buy a ranch there someplace, so I can stay there,” Teixeira said. “It’s got to be the best place in the world. I definitely want to go back and relax and live there for the rest of my life. I’ve been around, and I haven’t seen any place that is that good for me.”