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Wednesday, June 13, 2012
The old guard, the new guard .. and Teixeira

By Chuck Mindenhall

Teixeira
Want a piece of Glover Teixeira? Mauricio Rua sure didn't.
Glover Teixeira’s greatest enemy to date has been access.

For the last few years, visa problems have kept him out of the UFC. Before he defeated Kyle Kingsbury at UFC 146 to point a sudden “I’m coming” finger at Jon Jones, the last time he’d fought in the States was back in 2008 when he punched out Buckley Acosta.

None of that matters now. What matters is Teixeira’s arrived, and we saw it in his dismantling of Kingsbury in just under two minutes. Those in the know knew. Those who didn’t were quickly alerted to what the cult was saying, which was this: Teixeira is a power player who arrives on the UFC 205-pound landscape like a man ready to build condominiums all over it.

And that’s good, because the 32-year old Teixeira brings life to a division where prospects are down. He’s won 16 fights in a row. His last loss was in 2005 to Ed Herman. It’s not that he’s nickel and diming guys, either. Fifteen of his victories during that stretch have come via finishes. He’s not top 10 right now in part because Ricco Rodriguez and Marvin Eastman (the guys he’s beaten) are not Ryan Bader and Phil Davis (the guys he’s hurdling).

More importantly, Glover just isn’t that known to UFC-centric Americans.
Glover Teixeira
Glover Teixeira's arrival should help breathe some life into the light heavyweight division.

As for the Brazilians? Well, they know him. They know him plenty.

And to listen to Dana White, knowing him means to steer clear of him. That’s what happened this past week when fellow Brazilian Mauricio Rua turned down a headlining fight with Teixeira when Thiago Silva was forced out of their scheduled bout with a back injury. When offered Teixeira as a replacement, Rua politely said, “no thanks.”

That sounded like “you must be out of your mind to think I’d fight that guy” to the UFC.

When the UFC threatened to cut Rua if he didn’t conform to the idea, he said he’d rather get canned than mingle with the “Baker.” This was not the expected response. Of course, all of this was how White relayed it to the media. Translations may differ on how things went down.

Since then, muttering has gone on with both sides since, but the bottom line is this: Rua didn’t want to fight Teixeira and he had his reasons. Those reasons, if we’re to be bludgeoned by strong hints, are that Rua wants no part of Teixeira. Either way, turning down fights is not what the UFC wants out of big name former champions who have drawers full of big digit deposit slips.

The compromise was Brandon Vera, a name of utter bewilderment to MMA fans. How does Rua, coming off the fight of the year against Dan Henderson at UFC 139 (a fight that some thought he won), get paired with Vera, who was coming off a lackluster victory over Eliot Marshall? Why, if Rua was only interested in fighting top-10 fighters, did he turn down Teixeira but accept Vera? Was he ducking Teixeira, as was insinuated? Or is this a tactical move, a simple case of Vera is the easier opponent? Why did the UFC accommodate Rua with Vera when the ultimatum wasn’t met? Are UFC matchmakers so hog-tied right now that when fighters dare the promotion to cut them that they are the first to blink?

This last question gets complicated when you look at the case of Quinton Jackson.

But the answer to some of this might be simple. Rua, like Jackson, is the old guard who likes sticking to the old guard. Jackson wanted to fight Rua, Rua wanted to fight Jackson. Vera is old guard. Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson -- they are old guard, too. They have established names. The UFC’s light heavyweight division -- perhaps more than any other -- is by and large a cast of past glories. Jon Jones has obviously helped render the situation. He effectively eased people into the past tense. He could do the same to Henderson on Sept. 1.

The thing is that Rua wants marquee fights in the twilight of his career. The UFC wants to introduce Teixeira into that space of marquee names. Teixeira is actually older than Rua. But it’s hard to crash a party that’s been raging on without him for so long. Rua, a little over a year ago, was the life of that party. Teixeira, around the same time, was beating somebody named Simao Melo in Shooto. It’s easy to see both sides.

So was it an issue of fear, lack of merit, motivation, desperation, name recognition or simply a matter of shrewd logistics that prompted Rua to say no to Teixeira?

The short answer is: Probably.