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Why Alex Pereira determined to come back to Connecticut earlier than the largest combat of his profession

BETHEL, Conn. — “It’s difficult here,” says Alex Pereira. He is shirtless and his torso is roofed with sweat as he sits on a bench in entrance of an open window, a welcome autumn breeze cooling off the health club. “It’s very difficult.”

Pereira will not be complaining. It’s a bit of difficult to get totally inside his phrases, as a result of he’s talking in Portuguese and his phrases are then translated by the shirtless, sweaty coaching accomplice sitting beside him, former UFC gentle heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira.

But it is simple to choose up on the tone of Pereira’s voice. It is certainly one of contentment, combined with a agency purposefulness. The sense of goal is what one would anticipate from a person getting ready for the largest combat of his life on the largest stage. On Saturday, inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, Pereira will problem UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya in the primary occasion of UFC 281 (ESPN+ PPV, 10 p.m. ET). His goal for that evening is as clear because the blue sky exterior the window proper behind him.

The contentment, although? Pereira feels at peace on this health club in western Connecticut due to the group he has discovered right here. The connectedness amongst those that prepare at Teixeira MMA & Fitness goes deep sufficient to get gritty. The exercises push past self-imposed limitations, but all who step on the mat are in it collectively, nestled inside a cocoon of motivation and assist. The health club is, in any case, a household challenge.

Teixeira opened the ability eight years in the past along with his spouse, Ingrid, who grew up within the neighboring city of Danbury, and the household vibe embraces everybody who walks by way of the door. In the case of Pereira, who, like Teixeira, is a local of Brazil, the kinship contained in the health club is literal. His sister Aline, who not too long ago signed to make her professional MMA debut, additionally trains right here.

“We’re a family here, a good vibe, very friendly,” Teixeira says. “But like Alex said, it is difficult. Hard work every day. It’s not for everyone, but Alex showed he belonged here the first time he came.”

That was in the summertime of 2020, when Teixeira introduced in Pereira to assist along with his coaching for a combat in opposition to Thiago Santos. It was a harmful matchup with excessive stakes. Teixeira was on a four-fight successful streak and was on the cusp of a title shot even whereas on the mistaken aspect of age 40. But first, he needed to get previous the heavy-hitting striker often called “Marreta,” which is Portuguese for “Sledgehammer.” So Team Teixeira enlisted the assistance of a famend energy puncher.

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Pereira was a kickboxing world champion on the time, the middleweight titlist in Glory, the game’s most outstanding combat group. Of Pereira’s 33 kickboxing victories, 21 had come by knockout. Among them was a left-hook KO of Adesanya in 2017.

“He hits so hard,” Teixeira remembers of his first sparring session with Pereira. “I’ve trained with heavyweights, and no one has power like Alex.”

Teixeira’s head boxing coach, Fernely Feliz, remembers that preliminary health club session nicely. Even although Pereira didn’t have the bodily burliness of Teixeira and had but to shine the craft of MMA, it instantly turned clear to Feliz that Pereira had the abilities and toughness to go together with that lights-out left hook of his. “First time I saw him train with us, I told Glover, ‘Keep an eye on this guy,'” Feliz says. “This guy is a real fighter.”

It seems the admiration was mutual. Pereira was at some extent in his profession the place MMA was beckoning. He’d taken three fights in that sport in 2015 and 2016 in Brazil, and after dropping his debut by submission — no shock for a kickboxing specialist — he had knocked out his subsequent two opponents. But then he went again to kickboxing, the place he was on a championship monitor.

Before 2017 was over, Pereira would personal the Glory middleweight belt. Within two years, he would additionally add an interim gentle heavyweight belt. And in 2021, he unified the sunshine heavyweight title, turning into the primary Glory champ to reign concurrently in two weight courses.

Nonetheless, MMA turned more and more attractive for Pereira as the game’s profile grew and Adesanya emerged as certainly one of its grandest stars. When the previous kickboxer, whom Pereira had defeated not as soon as, however twice, turned UFC champ in 2019, a YouTube video of “The Last Stylebender” being KO’d by Pereira at Glory of Heroes 7 within the Brazilian’s hometown of Sao Paulo was gaining huge consideration. (Today, it has 14 million views.)

While coaching in Bethel with Teixeira and his crew within the fall of 2020, Pereira signed a MMA contract with the Texas-based Legacy Fighting Alliance, the identical group that not too long ago signed his sister, who additionally got here from Glory kickboxing. Alex’s LFA debut, a first-round knockout win that November, additionally turned out to be his swan tune with the promotion. The UFC swooped within the following September to convey on the person who had twice defeated its 185-pound champion.

Teixeira wasted no time in speaking up a 3rd assembly with Adesanya. Pereira had not even made his Octagon debut but, and his buddy and coaching accomplice was on a Brazilian podcast saying to the champ, “Daddy’s in the UFC.”

After scoring knockouts in his first three UFC appearances, Pereira is poised for his large second. It is a frightening problem for anybody to step in with Adesanya, who’s No. 2 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound males’s rankings. That is particularly so for a fighter with simply seven MMA bouts. But Pereira exudes confidence, partially due to his kickboxing success in opposition to Adesanya and this setting the place he has been getting ready for the title combat.

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“This is hardcore training,” Pereira says, catching his breath following a morning exercise. “When I came here, it was not easy for me. But I said, ‘I’ve got to stay.’ Now I love it. I am at a level in MMA where I can fight anyone.”

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Alex Pereira explains how the connection to his indigenous roots helps really feel related to the next goal.

A big body on the wall at Teixeira MMA & Fitness shows the gloves and shorts that Teixeira wore on Oct. 30, 2021, at UFC 271, together with a photograph of him choking out Jan Blachowicz that evening to develop into gentle heavyweight champion. Nearly a yr previous to that, Teixeira had made probably the most of Pereira’s coaching assist and earned the title shot by submitting Santos. Teixeira’s reign can be short-lived, although, as he was dethroned in June by Jiri Prochazka.

On at the present time the health club is abuzz, nonetheless, as a result of not simply Pereira, but in addition Teixeira is now getting ready for a title bout, contemporary off the announcement that Prochazka-Teixeira 2 will happen on Dec. 10 at UFC 282. Teixeira takes this flip of occasions — two of the eight UFC males’s championships being inside attain of this small health club — as an endorsement of what he and his crew have constructed.

“We have a champion mentality,” Teixeira says. “Only the real ones come here.”

Pereira apart, a number of different fighters within the health club compete within the UFC or Bellator, amongst them gentle heavyweight Dominick Reyes, who faces Ryan Spann on Saturday. “I came here to work with the coach, Fernely Feliz,” says Reyes, who has been looking for his method out of a three-fight dropping streak. “He is genuinely interested in helping me get back on track.”

When Reyes arrived from California in early August, he stayed for every week at Feliz’s home. “They treated me like family,” he says.

That vibe permeates the Teixeira health club, which is tucked subsequent to a medical tools retailer in a small strip mall off the interstate. Inside, the massive caged-in mat is crammed with combined martial artists of assorted talent ranges, from execs getting ready for title fights to uncooked amateurs drilling primary methods. Outside the cage, a canine owned by one of many coaches lies on a bench close to a window, staring exterior on the entrance to the doggy day care subsequent door.

Brazilian music performs throughout shadow boxing, then hip-hop. Then the music goes silent as the professionals transfer to at least one aspect of the cage for some critical sparring. They go laborious, but the coaching companions by some means handle to maintain one another secure. And when the session is over, everybody sits collectively on the mat, listening to a couple phrases from the coaches. Words of inspiration. Words of group.

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The sense of group right here extends past these health club partitions. Hanging close to the memorabilia from Teixeira’s UFC championship win are different framed symbols of what this place means to the world. There are a pair of Teixeira’s “American Dream Leadership Award” certificates, every signed by a unique Connecticut senator. There’s the health club’s membership certificates from the Danbury Chamber of Commerce, the place Ingrid Teixeira as soon as labored. There’s the important thing to the town of Danbury, which the mayor awarded to Teixeira final yr “in recognition of your UFC Championship win and in appreciation of your contributions to the city.”

Teixeira first moved to the Danbury space in 1999 to seek out work, arriving from Brazil with the information that there have been numerous his countrymen residing right here, together with some family and friends. He met Ingrid in a health club, and after he started coaching in MMA, the couple moved to California, the place Teixeira turned a Chuck Liddell coaching accomplice beneath coach John Hackleman. But issues along with his inexperienced card necessitated a return to Brazil, and as Teixeira’s time in a foreign country grew longer, his spouse moved again to Connecticut. It took a number of years for Teixeira’s visa standing to be cleared up. When he lastly was free to journey again to the United States, he joined Ingrid in Connecticut, the place they have been ever since.

“I fell in love with this area,” Teixeira says. “The nature, the changes of season. The leaves in fall, even the winter and the snow. We don’t have four seasons in Brazil. It’s priceless.”

For years throughout his UFC profession, Teixeira would journey to California or Florida for combat camps. But in 2014, the couple opened a health club in Danbury, “and I said, ‘I’m not going to do my camp anywhere else,'” he says. “If I’m going to be a champion, I’m going to get there by training right here.”

Even after Glover and Ingrid moved the health club operation into this bigger house in neighboring Bethel, Teixeira MMA & Fitness has remained a vibrant a part of the area people. That is what he has introduced Alex Pereira into. And Pereira appreciates what he now has.

“I love that the gym is in a small town with lots of Brazilians,” Pereira says. “I am happy that I am here.”

He pauses to show towards the window and level exterior. It’s simply previous peak foliage on this a part of New England, however the colourful bushes nonetheless paint a reasonably panorama image.

“The nature here!” Pereira says. “I like to be surrounded by this, barbecuing with friends.”

Teixeira finishes translating Pereira’s phrases into English, then faces his buddy. A smile grows vast throughout his face as he grabs Pereira in a playful headlock. “You better not say anything bad about Connecticut!” Teixeira says.

Then it is Teixeira’s flip to go searching, besides in his case, the gaze is contained inside the health club. Fighters are scattered round, packing up gear after one other day’s laborious exercise. Teixeira takes a deep breath. “Same time tomorrow,” he says. “If you build it, they will come.”

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