When Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira were booked for a main event fight at UFC Vegas 13, most believed the winner would move onto face new light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
Considering Santos already knocked out Blachowicz in their previous meeting, which made his case that much stronger. Teixeira, meanwhile, has rattled off four straight wins, and a fifth in a row would seemingly put him next in line for title contention.
It’s understandable why both fighters would be shocked this past weekend when UFC President Dana White announced the news that middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is expected to move up to 205 pounds for his next fight to challenge Blachowicz for the title. That fight all but eliminated the high stakes for the UFC Vegas 13 main event but Santos and Teixeira aren’t ready to give up hope just yet.
“We’ll see what’s going to happen after that fight,” Santos said during the UFC Vegas 13 media day on Thursday. “First, I need to win [against] Glover Teixeira. I need to do my best. I’ll be the No. 1 contender. We are going to see what’s going to happen after my fight. I believe who wins the fight deserve to go to the title shot.
“We will see. I know Dana White spoke about Adesanya but no one knows. [Adesanya] don’t have contract, no one knows what’s going to happen. I need to do my best this Saturday. I need to win my fight and then after that we will see.”
Santos is returning to action for the first time after he lost a close, split decision to former champion Jon Jones, which then led to knee surgery that kept him sidelined for over a year.
With Blachowicz now installed as champion, the Brazilian contender was confident that a win against Teixeira would put him right back in line to compete for UFC gold but the Adesanya news threw an unexpected obstacle in his path.
“Honestly, when I saw the first time, I felt a little bit frustrated,” Santos said about Blachowicz vs. Adesanya. “But after I spoke with my manager, we need to understand how things work. I need to do my best. I need to win [against] Glover Teixeira and then after that fight we will see what’s going to happen.
“People speak about Adesanya but still they don’t have contract. Everything can change. My focus is do my best this Saturday, make a great victory and then after that we will see.”
For his part, Teixeira can’t put too much energy into thinking about Adesanya when he still has to get through Santos before even having the conversation about a title shot.
That said, the 41-year-old veteran has seen promised title fights fall by the wayside before so there’s no guarantee Adesanya will ultimately get the shot against Blachowicz.
“I’m focused on things that I can control,” Teixeira said. “Focused on the present moment right now. This fight is like three days away so not really caring what’s going on over there. Not that I don’t really care. Really, it’s out of my control. As a fan, I’m going to watch the fight, Adesanya and Blachowicz, but it’s not something in my control.
“Everything’s possible. We’ve got to focus on the fight and with the title fight, we’ll see what happens. With a great performance, I could be right there in the title challenge.”
According to Teixeira, the real difference between a title fight and sitting on the sidelines waiting for another opportunity could be the kind of performance he puts on against Santos.
If he’s able to dispatch Santos like he did Anthony Smith earlier this year, Teixeira believes that could alter the UFC’s plans, and he won’t be afraid to voice that opinion to the powers that be.
“We’ll see after this fight – we go over there and make some noise,” Teixeira said. “I never really talk too much sh*t but if I have to do a little bit to promote this fight and take Adesanya out of there to get the title fight, that’s what I’m going to do. Get him back in the 185 division.”