Israel Adesanya can wait, give Glover Teixeira the light heavyweight title shot

Sport

It’s never completely true when we say there’s nothing more that a fighter can do to earn a title shot, but in Glover Teixeira’s case there’s literally nothing else he can do to earn a title shot after beating Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 13 on Saturday.

True, Teixeira had his chance in the past. He was challenger No. 7 for Jon Jones’ light heavyweight title back in April 2015 and though he put in a valiant effort over five rounds, he lost a clear-cut decision to the champion. There weren’t many clamoring for a rematch.

Teixeira was 34 then and it took him 20 consecutive wins over a nine-year stretch just to get his first crack at a UFC title. Going the distance with Jones was impressive enough and no one would have blamed him for being satisfied with notching a championship main event on his belt.

But Teixeira refused to fade into obscurity.

He went 5-4 in his next nine fights after Jones, losing to top-10 talent like Phil Davis, Anthony Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, and Corey Anderson, but taking care of business against those ranked below him to hold onto his spot in the contenders’ line. He then went on the five-fight win streak he’s currently riding to shed the gatekeeper label that he seemed destined to wear.

Teixeira doesn’t just win. He finishes fights. More than any light heavyweight in UFC history he does that as he now holds the record for most finishes (12) and most submissions (6) in the division. He’s exactly what the UFC claims to look for in its fighters, even if he (thankfully) lacks the desired trash talking skills.

So what’s stopping Teixeira from getting a second opportunity to become a UFC champion? Why it’s our old friend, Mr. Superfight.

To Dana White’s credit, he was highly complimentary of Teixeira’s performance at Saturday’s post-fight show and admitted that Teixeira had a fair claim to the next title shot at 205 pounds; not to White’s credit, it was just one week ago that he told the media the plan right now is to match light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

As my esteemed colleague Damon Martin so eloquently posited, wouldn’t it have made more sense to wait for the outcome of Saturday’s main event and then figure out whether to proceed with Blachowicz-Adesanya talks? If only to maintain the intrigue of the UFC Vegas 13 main event? And to properly promote the potential winner? The broadcast team did their best to focus on the worthiness of Teixeira and Santos as contenders, but the cat was already out of the bag.

As cool Blachowicz vs. Adesanya sounds, there are so many reasons not to want to see that fight at this moment. Adesanya should stick to his original plan of stringing together a few more middleweight title defenses, especially with his division in a good place right now. Plus, the only reason he originally wanted to move up was to fight Jon Jones, the mercurial light heavyweight king who is expected to finally make a move to heavyweight.

If you believe that Blachowicz’s belt is being used as a prop to set up an Adesanya-Jones fight, you’re right, and that’s an unseemly way to treat Blachowicz and the light heavyweight title. Not to mention the fact that you’re messing around with a lot of moving parts there when you have the option of keeping things simple and giving the fans a high-level main event now as opposed to chasing a grudge match that may never happen.

Perhaps most important of all, the Adesanya-Jones fight doesn’t have a deadline nor does it need to be for a title. A nice incentive, for sure, but that feud already has its own appeal for a variety of reasons, ranging from the legitimate animosity that exists between the two to the fact that Adesanya has the skills to potentially put a dent in Jones’ self-proclaimed GOAT status.

And it’s the right thing to do for Teixeira, damn it! No, Blachowicz vs. Teixeira doesn’t have the cachet of a champion vs. champion fight, nor can it come close to the mainstream drawing power that an Adesanya-Jones matchup has. But if the rankings are to ever mean anything (stop laughing, please) then Teixeira staking his claim in emphatic fashion on Saturday has to be rewarded.

If that Blachowicz-Adesanya fight isn’t close to being finalized, then why not get Teixeira in there for January or February. Then Adesanya can wait a little longer for Whittaker, who has said he should be ready by March. Admittedly, Adesanya having to wait six months between fights when it sounds like he’s ready to rock sooner rather than later is the worst part of this particular proposal, but you can’t make everyone happy.

One person who should be made happy—or more accurately, happier given his perpetually cheery disposition—is Teixeira. He’s not going to lobby for it, he’s not going to campaign, and he’s certainly not going to start slinging mud in Blachowicz’s direction to get his attention. Not that he needs to because Blachowicz has already said he’s down for it. It just makes too much sense for this fight not to happen.

Given the UFC’s track record, that last sentence will probably look even more hilarious down the road when Adesanya fights Blachowicz, the winner of that fight tries to prevent Jon Jones from capturing a fourth UFC title after he again cancels his plans to move to heavyweight, and Teixeira ends up having to fight in six months anyway against a stud like Dominick Reyes, Jiri Prochazka, or Aleksandar Rakic. Does that sound fun to you?

The UFC can prevent this grim future, while also sprinkling a little sunshine on one of its most persistent, toughest, and downright wholesome contenders. So do the right thing, guys, and give Teixeira his title shot. Because frankly, there’s not a lot else that you can do with him.