Former UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira has recalled the period of separation from his family that he experienced after being denied a visa to live in the United States.
As 2022 draws to a close, 43-year-old Teixeira sits as the #1-ranked contender at 205 pounds, with a 41-fight professional record that includes the best of the best, and with a possible Fight of the Year award awaiting him at the end of December.
The last of those feats came courtesy of a memorable main event at UFC 275, where Teixeira put the title on the line against Jiří Procházka. While he left Singapore without the gold in his possession, the veteran was seconds away from stalling the charge of “Denisa” and played his part in one of the division’s greatest-ever championship fights.
That feather in the Brazilian’s cap followed a 2021 in which he made history, completing a memorable career revival at UFC 267 by submitting Jan Blachowicz, etching his name in the record books as the promotion’s oldest first-time titleholder.
Prior to having the belt wrapped around his waist in Abu Dhabi, Teixeira enjoyed a rise back to the top of the weight class with five straight wins, which came after a 5-5 stint across his previous 10 outings.
That story alone was enough for many to acknowledge the heartwarming nature of his late-career crowning and is certainly worthy of a future biography. But before entering the UFC, Teixeira experienced even tougher trials and tribulations — ones that saw him separated from his family for years.
During an appearance on the Flow Sport Club podcast, Teixeira recalled the time he was stranded in a different continent from his wife.
Having entered the United States illegally at the age of 19, subsequently marrying an American, the Brazilian knew he needed to secure a Green Card to progress his career in the US. But following the 9/11 attacks, Teixeira’s marriage wasn’t enough to see his request for legal status approved.
“No, (I didn’t get a Green Card when we got married) because I entered illegally,” Teixeira said. “Since I entered illegally, I would need to go back to my country and apply for what they call a waiver request. You can only get this waiver request if you return to Brazil of your own free will, because I wasn’t deported.
“So I signed it to apply for the Green Card through this law. Before 2001, it didn’t matter if you entered illegally. I had friends who entered through Mexico, married Americans, and got their Green Card there,” Teixeira added. “After 2001, when the (twin) towers fell, they changed that. Now, it was necessary to come to Brazil to get a waiver request.”
After accepting the advice of a lawyer, who suggested that his best chance of securing a visa was by returning to Brazil and requesting forgiveness for initially entering illegally, Teixeira pleaded his case… unsuccessfully.
“You explain, ‘Look, I’m sorry I entered this way, but now I’m here in Brazil and I want to enter the country legally,’ right? I got denied on the first try,” Teixeira recalled. “When I got there, they told me, ‘No, we will not accept your waiver,’ (even though) we were married.”
Teixeira Was Separated From His Family For Years Before Crucial Moment
With the denial, Teixeira was left north of 7,000 kilometres away from his wife, without employment, and with little to no money. From there, the Brazilian looked to earn in the way he’d become accustomed to — fighting.
“She didn’t come (to Brazil). She stayed there (in the US),” Teixeira noted. “First, we were denied. After that, we kept fighting. No money. She did everything necessary in immigration herself, everything that was necessary. She stayed there. From the United States, sometimes (she’d) be sending me 100 dollars a week, because she worked, too, and had to pay the rent herself, all that stuff.
“I was jobless and broke here (Brazil). (She sent money) just so I could survive there in Rio. I was fighting at local events. I was fighting for anything. If you gave me a 30-day market voucher, I would fight,” Teixeira continued. “I was fighting for anything against anyone. She gave me all the support from there (US).”
With a career in the UFC inches from his grasp, blocked only by his past decision to to make the treacherous and illegal 43-day journey into the US, Teixeira began to lose hope, believing he’d blown the opportunity to realize his martial arts dreams.
The savior, however, was none other than the woman who’d been supporting him from afar.
Teixeira’s wife forced the intervention of democrat Chris Murphy, a junior senator for Connecticut, with an emotionally written letter. On the day of his wife’s birthday, December 23, in 2011, Teixeira was called to the consulate for an interview, subsequently receiving a visa.
“She sent a letter, a letter to the senator, an emotional letter saying, ‘Look, I’m an American citizen and I need my husband here. I’m in a lot of pain.’ I get really emotional talking about this letter,” Teixeira admitted. “That guy saw this — I don’t know, called immigration and ordered (a visa).
“What I thought was the coolest thing… she sent that letter in August and they scheduled my interview for December 23. It’s her birthday. The guy didn’t even interview me,” Teixeira added, wiping away a tear. “They gave her (that) for her birthday after seeing what she (wrote).”
While he went on to fall short of the top step of the UFC’s light heavyweight ladder at the first time of trying in 2014, much like his journey back to the US, Teixeira never gave up and forced his way back to another opportunity seven years later — one that he took full advantage of.
What do you make of Glover Teixeira’s journey from illegal immigrant to the UFC’s oldest-ever first-time champion?
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All quotes translated by Brazilian MMA Legends.