Junior Assuncao has won six consecutive fights. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Armed with a six-fight winning streak and the invaluable experience that comes with having dealt with adversity, Junior Assuncao wants a second crack at UFC glory.
The 30-year-old lost two of his three fights in the Octagon between October 2006 and September 2007 and readily admits he was ill-prepared for the challenges he faced at the time. A first-round submission defeat to “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Nate Diaz at UFC Fight Night 11 cost him his spot on the UFC roster, but Assuncao, not easily dissuaded, has gone 7-1 since.
“When I first fought in the UFC, I was 4-1 with [only] one amateur fight,” Assuncao told Sherdog.com. “I think I’ve improved a lot. I had a full-time job then, so I think my first stint in the UFC was a little premature. I didn’t really know how to fight. Nowadays, I’m a full-time fighter, so that’s all I do.”
Since leaving the UFC, Assuncao has captured the vacant Xtreme Fighting Championships lightweight crown and competed for six different promotions. He last fought in March, when he submitted Cage Rage veteran Wesley Murch with a rear-naked choke in just 92 seconds at Recife Fighting Championship 4 in his native Brazil. Assuncao believes he has what it takes to succeed in the UFC.
“The UFC is a great organization with tons of good fighters,” he said. “I can guarantee I’ll contribute to great fights for the fans. There are other great organizations out there, but I have unfinished business with the UFC. When I left the UFC, I was 30 percent of the fighter I am now. It has been almost four years, so I have also matured a lot.”
Assuncao (12-4), a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and skilled capoeira practitioner, recently relocated to the American Top Team-affiliated Hardcore Gym in Athens, Ga., where he trains under Adam Singer and his brother, UFC veteran Rory Singer.
“I have known these guys for a long time,” Assuncao said. “We belong to the same jiu-jitsu bloodline -- Roberto Traven -- so it was an easy transition. I’ve been there for about seven months now.”
Assuncao has finished his last three foes inside one round as part of his career-best six-fight winning streak. His list of victims includes International Fight League veteran and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 alum Mark Miller, whom he knocked out under the Recife Fighting Championship banner in December. Assuncao has tried to cover all his bases and even turned over his students to younger brother Freddy Assuncao, in order to dedicate himself fully to training. His other brother, 29-year-old Raphael Assuncao, currently competes in the UFC’s featherweight division.
“All of my energy is focused on training and staying in shape, so I can take a fight on short-notice if I have to,” he said. “I have been training full-time when I’m not supporting my brothers with their fights. I think I finally feel comfortable in the cage.”