UFC light heavyweight Glover Teixeira never considered himself an alcoholic – he just liked to party.
“Partying, drinking, eating,” Teixeira said on The MMA Hour. “Drinking a bottle of Hennessey on the weekend.”
Teixeira hasn’t always put much stock into his lifestyle choices. He always trained at maximum effort, so he figured he could afford a little extra relaxation when he was out of camp.
Then he suffered a lopsided knockout loss to Alexander Gustafsson. It was 2017, and Teixeira had been fighting in the UFC for five years, challenging once for the light heavyweight title against a prime Jon Jones. After spending a good portion of his career in the minor leagues, unable to fight in the octagon due to longstanding visa problems, he had gone on five- and three-fight winning streaks in the UFC. After hitting the canvas against Gustafsson, he was 2-3 and 36 years old. That was his wakeup call.
“I was really bummed, [thinking] maybe I would never get another title shot,” Teixeira said.
There had been other signs that things weren’t working as well as they could. His longtime colleague Lyoto Machida had told him to “discipline” himself more “because age is going to catch up.” Teixeira always just figured he was ahead of the curve.
In the gym, Teixeira went toe-to-toe with UFC legends like Chuck Liddell and earned rave reviews. His work ethic had made him one of the best fighters in the planet. In his native Brazil, promoters would call and ask him to fight on a day’s notice. He only asked how much he should weigh when he showed up.
“Chuck told me, ‘Hey man, I know your [visa’s] not getting done, but keep fighting, fight everyone, knock everybody out, and I’m going to watch for a fight for you to be in the UFC,’” he said. “Just keep beating everyone.”
Eventually, that wasn’t enough. Teixeira decided to reign himself in and give 100 percent of his focus to the sport he loved. Sure enough, his career started to take off again.
“I would go win and loss until I figured everything out and said that’s how I’m going to live my life, because I love this more than anything, and I want to do the best that I can in this sport,” he said. “I want another chance to fight for the title, and I want to give my best shot. So I take everything out that is bothering me, living like an athlete.
At 41, leafy greens and ice baths are Teixeira’s regular crutches. Training smart instead of training hard. Everything that needs to be done for an athlete competing far past the date of most high-level MMA athletes.
“It’s the price that you pay,” he said. “To be disciplined, you’ve got to change your whole lifestyle. To be that disciplined is a little painful in the beginning. But it’s worth it.”
A huge potential payoff awaits in a light heavyweight title fight against current champ Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267, which takes place Oct. 30 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. Teixeira is again on a five-fight winning streak including back-to-back finishes of one-time title challengers Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos.
Next year could be Teixeira’s last as he marks his 20th year of professional competition. After his second title fight, he may have a glass of wine or a beer. He doesn’t completely deprive himself of a little reward after months of suffering.
He just doesn’t go for the full-out party.
“I miss getting drunk, but I don’t miss the hangovers,” Teixeira said.