Twenty years into his career, Glover Teixeira is finally wearing UFC gold.
"I've always wanted to prove I'm the best, and that's what I've done," Teixeira sais. "And there is still more for me to prove."
Last October, only days after turning 42, Teixeira won the light heavyweight title by forcing Jan Blachowicz to tap. Teixeira's remarkable journey continues this Saturday, and after starting his pro career in June 2002, he now finally makes his first UFC title defense.
"Most of the fighters retire after they get to 40, or they don't even get to 40," Teixeira says. "I know this is not something normal. But this is my passion, and I want it to keep going."
Teixeira (33-7 MMA, 16-5 UFC) won his last six bouts in impressive fashion, but enters this matchup as the underdog. Prochazka (28-3-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has ripped off a dozen straight wins, including his two UFC fights – against Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes – which were both knockout victories. The 29-year-old Prochazka is untested at this elite level, but he possesses explosive power that gives every reason to believe this will be his breakout moment.
The power of the human spirit has helped carry Teixeira to this point, and he will need every ounce of it – and more – to get past Prochazka. The matchup certainly favors the challenger. Prochazka is explosive on his feet, and Teixeira's willingness to eat shots is a dangerous proposition in this fight. The safe bet is that this finishes in a knockout and with a new champ, but Teixeira didn't become the second-oldest champion in UFC history by adhering to conventional wisdom.
"I know the challenge ahead of me," Teixeira says. "I'm blessed that I'm able to do what I do at this age. I'm doing this with appreciation and gratitude, and I am entering this fight with a lot of confidence."
Bo Nickal dominates in his MMA debut
Bo Nickal believes he will be one of the most dominant mixed martial artists in the world. He has a long way to reach that goal, but he started that journey in impressive fashion this past weekend by knocking out John Noland only 33 seconds into their middleweight bout at Ikon FC 3.
A decorated amateur wrestler, Nickal (1-0) made quick work of Noland (0-1) with his striking.
"That was exactly how I planned it," Nickal says. "Once I hit him, everything moved in slow motion, and I just let my instincts take over."
Ikon FC is Jorge Masvidal's promotion, and he praised Nickal ahead of the fight for his ability as a submission machine. Yet Nickal's MMA debut was all about striking, as he switched from southpaw to orthodox, then drilled Noland with an uppercut before finishing him with a combo.
"I've been working a lot on my standup," Nickal says. "I know I need to continue to develop and make sure there's no holes in my game. My goal is to be the pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter in the world within five years. To do that, I need to be better every day."
Nickal is a unique prospect. The 26-year-old brings an explosiveness that makes him different from a lot of other grapplers, and that will be especially evident if his standup remains a strength as he faces more dangerous opponents.
"I'm going to demolish whoever you put in front of me," Nickal says. "I'm ready to get back in there. I don't care if it's against another regional guy or Israel Adesanya.
"I'm coming out there to dominate, win every second of the fight, and finish the guy. I'll always respect the process of developing and getting experience, but I'm also taking that same approach to every fight."
The Pick 'Em Section:
UFC 275 main event: Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka
- Pick: Jiri Prochazka
UFC 275 women's flyweight title bout: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Taila Santos
- Pick: Valentina Shevchenko
UFC 275 women's strawweight bout: Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
- Pick: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
UFC 275 flyweight bout: Rogerio Bontorin vs. Manel Kape
- Pick: Manel Kape
UFC 275 welterweight bout: Jack Della Maddalena vs. Ramazan Emeev
- Pick: Ramazan Emeev
Last week: 3–2
2022 record: 65–34
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.