Junior Assuncao (8-4), one of the newest additions to
the SuckerPunch family, is a great fighter, plain and
simple. His brother, Raphael, is a rising star in the
WEC organization, and being a UFC veteran himself, the
Assuncao name is well-known and well-respected in the
fight community. Now Junior is gearing up for a run back
in the big show. But first, Pride veteran Jadson Costa
is standing in his way. We spoke with Junior recently
about his experience with the UFC, what he’s up to now,
and where’s he’s going in the future.
Phil Lanides: How’s everything going?
Junior Assuncao: I’m healthy, and I’m getting
ready for a fight in August for Shine Fights with Jadson
Phil Lanides: Costa’s a Pride veteran who is
known for his aggressive style, and comes from the
vaunted Chute Boxe Academy fight team. What’s your plan
going into the fight?
JA: I’m planning to bang with him. He’s got a
very aggressive style, but eventually, over the course
of a career, that goes away. As long as I can weather
the initial storm, I should be fine. I’m not concerned
with him being aggressive. I’ve fought a lot of good
guys that are good in multiple areas. So I’m not
concerned with a guy that is good in one area.
Phil Lanides: Please give the fans a little
bit of background on yourself
JA: I started training when I was 12, and my main
style is capoeira, which is the only martial art that
was actually created in Brazil (jiu-jitsu comes from
Japan). I started doing jiu-jitsu with [renowned BJJ
black belt] “Jacare” when I was 17, and earned my black
belt in 2007 at the age of 25. My gym, Ascension MMA,
which is down in Atlanta, GA, is where I train with my
brother Raphael, who fights in the WEC. I’ve also
trained with American Top Team and Black House, but now
we’re trying to develop our own gym and our own style.
Phil Lanides: You handed UFC rising star
Dustin Hazelette his first loss, and also battled with
Kurt Pellegrino and Nate Diaz in the UFC. What was your
experience with the UFC like?
JA: It was good. I just wish I had not had to
build up my experience there. Most guys that get there
already have a lot of experience, but I was only 5-1
when I had my first fight there. In contrast, my brother
was 13-1 when he got to the big show. But I felt like I
couldn’t say no. I don’t mean any disrespect to the guys
I faced there, but if I was coming into the UFC now with
the experience I have, I would have beaten them. But I
feel like I’m working my back there little by little,
and I will get there.
Phil Lanides: There have been rumors that you
want to fight Nate Diaz again. What are your thoughts on
JA: I felt like I was just starting to find my
rhythm there, and that was my last fight in the UFC, so
I would love another shot at him. He just lost ( to Joe
Stevenson at The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Finale),
which I think brings him just a little closer to a
rematch with me. I don’t see anything special that he
does that I haven’t already dealt with. He’s crafty, but
I definitely feel like I can beat him down if we fight
Phil Lanides: Is there anyone else you have an
eye on that you want to get in the cage with?
JA: A few weeks ago, I was at a show in Florida,
and this guy, I don’t even know who he is, was staring
me down. I guess he recently won the lightweight final
at The Ultimate Fighter show [Ross Pearson]. But he was
staring at me, looking at me funny. I just figured he
recognized me from somewhere, but there was definitely
some tension there. I was about to ask him if he wanted
to step outside and talk in private, if you know what I
mean. In Brazil, if you have a problem with someone, you
do ten minutes of all-out fighting to take care of
things, and I was about to offer him that opportunity.
Hey, I fought the winner of Season 5, and would love to
fight the winner of Season 9. I don’t want to sound
cocky at all; I’m just confident.
Phil Lanides: What are you involved in right
JA: I’ve been in Richmond, VA for awhile, helping
run an MMA program with my good friend, Roberto Traven,
at Combat Sports Center. We want to build up a strong
MMA program here. They have good Muay Thai, but we’re
trying to bring a more well-rounded MMA game to the gym
here. I’ve been here for a couple of months, and I want
thank the guys at Combat Sports Center for their
hospitality and friendship.
Phil Lanides: Any message you want to leave
with your fans?
JA: I want to thank my fans and the guys at
SuckerPunch for all their support. I’ve been around
Brian Butler [the president of SuckerPunch] a lot
lately, and I see that he’s working hard for the
fighters. I see him on a daily basis, and he’s a
hustler; he seriously works till 3 AM everyday! I
appreciate his dedication. Fans, keep your eyes open for
me. I’m coming back to the top soon.
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