BALTIMORE – Glover Teixeira spent nearly four years, and much of his life savings, to arrive at this moment.
From the moment he voluntarily left the U.S. in 2007 to attempt to resolve visa issues until the day in 2011 when they were finally resolved, Teixeira dreamed of this day.
He gave just about everything he had to get back into the U.S. so that he could earn a job with the UFC and one day win the light heavyweight title.
"It was pretty hard," Teixeira said. "It was taking so long, and things were happening that were hard to understand. But I just had to keep working at it."
And now, 15 years after he first set foot in the U.S., Teixeira is on the verge of reaching heights that were unimaginable on that day in 1999 when he left his home in a poor section of Brazil to seek a better life.
He'll face gifted light heavyweight champ Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 172 on Saturday with the title on the line.
Neither Teixeira, nor his wife, Ingrid, gave up trying to solve the immigration issues which initially were expected to take three months but wound up taking nearly four years to iron out.
Teixeira had to enlist the help of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in order to finally win the right to live in the U.S.
It was a daunting and often harrowing four years, filled with myriad false starts and disappointments.
But with a single punch on Saturday, Teixeira can not only change the course of UFC history but finally commit the trials and tribulations of the past to history.
Teixeira is about a 5-1 underdog to Jones, one of the most dominant fighters in the sport's history.
Yet, Teixeira scoffs at the notion and says he considers himself the favorite. After what he's been through, the opinions of a few oddsmakers and sports bettors aren't going to keep him awake.
"Jon Jones is a great fighter, but I feel this is my time and this is my fight," Teixeira said.
When he came to the U.S. the first time in 1999, he settled in Connecticut and worked as a landscaper. He saw a Mike Tyson fight and was immediately interested in becoming a boxer.
But when he mentioned that to a friend, the friend suggested he tried jiu-jitsu. Teixeira took to it instantly and became a black belt.
He's now one of the sport's most well-rounded fighters – a capable wrestler, a striker with one-punch knockout power in both hands and someone with high-level submission skills.
While he was training in Brazil awaiting his re-entry into the U.S., his legend grew to near epic proportions. It reached a point where it appeared Teixeira might became the MMA equivalent of Sidd Finch, the fictional baseball player created by writer George Plimpton as an April Fool's Day joke in 1985.
But when he made his UFC debut in 2012 against Kyle Kingsbury, he proved quickly that the talk wasn't all just tall tales.
He crushed Kingsbury with a right uppercut, dropping him instantly. Teixeira followed him to the ground and quickly finished Kingsbury with an arm triangle.
The hype, obviously, was real.
As he awaits his big night, he's on a 20-fight win streak that covers nine years.
Yet, he's hardly a household name. He's a friendly, affable sort who learned to speak English well, but who is by no means a showman or attention grabber.
He is a diligent, blue-collar kind of guy who made a remarkable rise. He started jiu-jitsu in 2002 and it quickly led to an MMA career.
"Jose Aldo became champion when he was 22," Teixeira said of the UFC featherweight king. "I didn't get into the gym for the first time until I was 22."
Teixeira has gone on to defeat Fabio Maldonado, Rampage Jackson, James Te Huna and Ryan Bader to earn the shot at Jones.
They're solid fighters, but there is nobody quite like Jones. With an 84-inch reach and a dazzling array of moves, it takes a high-caliber fighter just to be competitive with him.
But Teixeira, who once was former UFC champion Chuck Liddell's primary training partner and is now his close friend, doesn't see Jones as invincible.
"I believe in myself, I believe in the work I've put in and I believe I am going to win this," Teixeira said. "This is the time and I'm ready to do it."
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