Editor’s Note: This story was published prior to Charles Oliveira’s win over Dustin Poirier at UFC 269 in December.
Being a UFC champion has become an increasingly complicated task, with a sport that is evolving faster and faster and increasing its level of competitiveness.
This year it was also shown that the longest path can also be the sweetest, and although mixed martial arts advance every day, there is always a way to achieve them.
Few would have believed if they heard that Charles Oliveira would reign at lightweight, Brandon Moreno would become the first Mexican champion and that Glover Teixeira would clinch the title at age 42.
But that’s how it was, and images of his favela reception in Rio de Jaineiro, Tijuana, and Connecticut went viral after his emotional victories at UFC 262, UFC 263, and UFC 267, respectively.
Let’s recall each of these fighters’ journeys to the throne in 2021, beginning with Oliveira, who is coming off his first starting defense against Dustin Poirier at UFC 269.
Buy UFC 270: Ngannou vs. Win, Moreno vs. Figueiredo 3
Oliveira and his long road to the championship
Even Michael Bisping didn’t have to wait that long to clinch the UFC belt. At least in number of fights, since the Brazilian managed to be crowned in his 28th appearance in the UFC.
And he did it in a dramatic way, with an epic comeback over Michael Chandler, who almost finished it at the end of the first episode. In the first seconds of the next round, Oliveira landed a resounding knockout to bring the crowd to their feet at the Toyota Center in Houston.
‘Do Bronx’ comes from a true Favela in Rio de Janeiro and its humility has always been characteristic of a sport where the big sellers sin as braggarts. Before reaching this status, Oliveira faced all the respected names of the two divisions where they have competed.
Names like Tony Ferguson, Donald Cerrone, Jim Miller, Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis or Clay Guida can be found in his repertoire, but the loss to Paul Felder in December 2017 was the one that changed his career and he has not lost again. since then. Nine consecutive victories led him to a championship that the world celebrates in a division full of hopefuls and where staying champion will not be an easy task.
Stream UFC 269: Oliveira vs. Poirier here
Moreno makes history for Mexico
The Tijuana native took the championship on his second attempt, but he probably earned the respect of the fans on the night of UFC 256; the same one in which he embraced Charles Oliveira, who congratulated him on his performance against Deiveson Figueiredo after the draw.
Oliveira was coming off extensively dominating a dangerous Tony Ferguson, but he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to tell Brandon how inspiring it had been to see him compete head-to-head with the champion.
Like Charles, Moreno has not known defeat for a while, although his was even more painful, since after losing to Alexandre Pantoja in Chile in 2018 he was cut from the UFC. To come back he had to win the LFA belt, and a five-fight year between 2019 and 2020 led to an opportunity with three weeks of preparation.
Moreno, 27, became the first Mexican-born champion at UFC 263, in front of an overwhelmingly favorable crowd in Glendale Arizona.
Three years after losing his job, the Tijuana boy who grew up in a family that sells piñatas stunned the world and has become one of the division’s most popular champions.
Stream UFC 263: Figueiredo vs. Moreno 2 here
Teixeira proves that age is just a number
Everyone loves the character of Jan Blachowicz, who deservedly became 205-pound champion when Jon Jones left the belt. But now, with a 42-year-old king of the category, MMA fans couldn’t be more moved.
Teixeira had a personal journey that led him to move away from his country and face immigration problems, find a new home in Connecticut and have to wait seven years for a second starting opportunity.
Glover seems to do everything right in sports; features dangerous boxing and jiu-jitsu that can finish off any opponent.
He made his UFC debut on a five-win streak and after beating Ryan Bader, he fought for the championship with Jones in 2014, which he retained by unanimous decision.
It wasn’t his night and he had ups and downs for the next five years until his last loss in 2018 to Corey Anderson, before entering his final run for gold.
Glover has won his last six fights and traveled to Abu Dhabi to make Blachowicz look bad, whom he submitted in the second round at UFC 267 to win the belt.
His long wait was worth it and despite his seniority he looks in great condition. Now he hopes to defend against Czech Jiri Prochazka and show that the dream is not over yet.
Stream UFC 267: Blachowiczs vs. Teixeira here