(This story appears in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – THE UFC conducts its third fight card in seven days tonight. Although the latest has been overshadowed by its predecessors, UFC Fight Night 28 features three contests with top-10 fighters, led by the matchup of light heavyweights Glover Teixeira vs. Ryan Bader.
Teixeira (21-2 MMA, 4-0 UFC), ranked seventh in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA rankings, and No. 10 Bader (15-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) headline the event at Mineirinho Arena (5 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1).
Teixeira, a Brazilian who lives and trains in Danbury, Conn., returns to his home state of Minas Geraisto compete professionally for the first time.
“When I was fighting in Brazil, I was always thinking I would eventually get on a card in Belo Horizonte so I could fight in my home state, but I never got that opportunity,” Teixeira told USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie.com. “Now I’m in the UFC, and I’m fighting in the main event here. It’s going to be great. It’s very exciting. I hope all the people will come to support me.”
Teixeira, 33, a longtime training partner of UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, made his UFC debut 16 months ago but already has four wins, each more impressive than the last. Recently, UFC Director of International Development Marshall Zelaznik said that a “strong victory” against Bader could earn Teixeira a shot at the light heavyweight title.
Teixeira, who was not present at that August press conference, said he heard about the opportunity almost immediately but said it will have little effect on his approach to the fight.
“Right away my friends called me and said, ‘Guess what,’” Teixeira said. “But no matter what happens, whether I could have a title shot or not, I’m going to step into the octagon the same way. I’m going to go for the knockout. That’s the way I fight.
“I’m going to push the pace. I’m going to try to control the octagon and finish the fight as fast as I can. It’s not a matter of doing something different because I might have a title shot later. That’s the way I fight.”
Bader, a two-time Division I All-American wrestler and winner of “The Ultimate Fighter 8,” represents the best wrestler Teixeira has faced. However, Teixeira has a 19-fight winning streak, 17 of which came by stoppage, a testament to both his knockout power and submission abilities.
Wednesday’s event represents Teixeira’s opportunity to transition from long-hyped prospect to true championship contender, and he’ll do it before a friendly crowd that will include his four siblings. Unfortunately, his parents will not be there.
“My dad wanted to go, but my mom, she gets nervous,” Teixeira said. “She doesn’t watch the fights live. She records them watches them later. So my dad is just going to stay home and keep her happy.”
Also on the card, No. 4 middleweight Yushin Okami (29-7 MMA, 13-4 UFC) meets No. 8 Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (18-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC), and No. 2 flyweight Joseph Benavidez (18-3 MMA, 5-1 UFC) faces No. 5 Jussier Formiga (15-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC).
For the latest on UFC Fight Night 28, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.