Glover Teixeira possesses a warrior spirit nearly impossible to conquer. Equipped with a work ethic forged in fire and a habit for overcoming adversity, you will be hard-pressed to deter the UFC light heavyweight champion.
MMA's explosion in popularity is beginning to produce child prodigies and young UFC superstars. Teixeira, 42, was no such case. His journey from UFC debutant to champion lasted nearly a decade. His expedition to the UFC and combat sports as a whole was rife with its own challenges.
"I came here illegally through the Mexico border... It's scary," Teixeira told "Morning Kombat" ahead of UFC 275. "No one gets a visa. It is a dream. The kids at that time used to come over here through Mexico, make a living, go back and make a little money. By a house, by a car, some of them come back again because it's an illusion. You make this money and then you don't know what to do with it. But that's my thing. I wanted to go to the United States at 18- or 19-years old. I jumped into this journey with a couple of guys and we crossed through Colombia, all of these countries and then we crossed the border through Mexico.
"I was 19-years old. I was into adventuring. I didn't really fear anything. I didn't have any situation where I had to fear in my life. But overall it was dangerous. You don't know who is going to cross the desert. You don't know this person. He's called Coyote. You don't know who they work for. They can do whatever. You don't know. Again, I was too young to know... I realized what I wanted to do. I came to Connecticut and I saw the opportunities. There were more opportunities than where I came from. I was like, 'Oh my God, this country, I can be a professional athlete.' I could be a boxer so I started boxing."
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Teixeira had a dream but next to no tangible experiences to lean on. Not unless you consider two months of karate lessons at age 12 and farm work as legitimate bases for combat. What Teixeira lacked in meaningful technique he made up for with a lifetime of passion.
"I always liked it. I liked the movies, I liked Mike Tyson," Teixeira said. "I used to ask my dad to wake me up at three in the morning to watch Mike Tyson fights. I saw Mike Tyson in  when he fought [Evander] Holyfield."
The Brazilian's dicey voyage was bittersweet. His trek to the U.S. opened his eyes to opportunities and opportunities lost.
"I came over here and I saw the opportunity and I knew I made a mistake," Teixeira said. "Now all this opportunity to be a professional athlete and I came here illegally."
Teixeira caught the eye of UFC president Dana White following a 2006 win over the physically imposing Sokoudjou in the now-defunct WEC promotion. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell was one of Teixeira's primary training partners and advocated for his signing. Due to tightening requirements for green cards, Teixeira was forced to return to his native Brazil. This effectively put any union between Teixeira and UFC on ice.
Teixeira competed exclusively in Brazil beginning in 2009. Frustration crept in over his stalled trajectory. He persevered with the same tools that would later earn him the title of oldest first-time UFC champion: commitment and consistency.
"Every tough time creates flashes of negative thoughts. You're really thinking about it," Teixeira said. "I saw my prime was going. I thought, 'What's going on? What's happening? Why is this happening that way? Why am I missing this prime? I'm such a good fighter.' I knew how good I was because I was training with everybody. I trained with Chuck Liddell when he was the champion of the world and I knew how I could handle myself with him. In Brazil, I trained with everybody there. Lyoto [Machida] when he was champion there...' Junior dos Santos. What kept me going was knowing how good I was and that I was going to make something of it."
Teixeira ultimately made his Octagon debut at UFC 146 on May 26, 2012. He improved to 18-2 with a first-round submission win over Kyle Kingsbury. Living up to lofty expectations, Teixeira ravaged his way through Kingsbury, Fabio Maldonado, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, James Te Huna and Ryan Bader on the path to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Teixeira lost decisively to Jones and it appeared that he had reached his ceiling. Teixeira joined the UFC relatively late and made his way to a world title in spite of time. A loss to Corey Anderson in 2018 was the unexpected catalyst for a run culminating in a record-setting achievement. Late into his career, Teixeira pieced together six consecutive wins -- five via stoppage -- to be crowned UFC light heavyweight champion. Teixeira was 42-years-old when he reached the sport's pinnacle.