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September 1, 2009

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 Costa.

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 that?
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 again.

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 now?
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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