Assuncao will be 'pissed' if he's passed over for Barao title fight
MAR 04, 2014 12:15p ET
After reeling off six straight wins as a bantamweight, Raphael Assuncao has mostly had it with diplomacy. It's his time and his turn. Both contenders above him in the current rankings have already received title shots, and if the UFC is on the hunt for Renan Barao's next challenger, he wants them to know that he's their guy.
"I'll be pissed if it doesn't happen," he told FOX Sports in a rare fired-up moment. "You know what? I'm proud of what I've done. I look at it and I try to stay humble and do what I've got to do, but I think people forget, I'm the first guy to beat the win streak at Nova Uniao with Johnny Eduardo. He had an 11-fight win streak and I beat him, and people say, 'That's nothing.' So then I beat Mike Easton. He was on a win streak, and I broke it. Then I beat T.J. Dillashaw. They had a new coach and they're on a tear, and I'm the guy who stopped that win streak.
"A title shot, it wouldn't be a gift," he continued. "I worked for it. They wouldn't be giving it to me for free. I earned it."
Assuncao's latest argument for his case came less than two weeks ago, when he handed Pedro Munhoz the first loss in his career via unanimous decision. Assuncao was dominant in the match, out-landing his opponent 116-41 in earning a sweep of 30-27 scores.
“Listen, I don't want people to think I'm talking stupid, but look at the guys I've fought, all of them have been on win streaks. Every guy I've beat has been trying to take my head off.”
Despite the lopsided win, it left Assuncao with some sense of disappointment. Left with no real game plan after his original opponent Francisco Rivera withdrew due to injury, Assuncao had to improvise his way through after learning of his new opponent just 11 days before the match.
He made it through mostly unscathed, though a hairline fracture of a rib has the No. 3 ranked bantamweight temporarily on the sidelines. The rib should be healed completely in six weeks, he said, but he expects to be back training within two weeks. That's why he wants to make it known that he's ready for Barao.
Barao might be ready for him, too. Just after Assuncao won at UFC 170, Barao's team publicly stated they expect Assuncao to be the next challenger.
"I'm ready to challenge the champ," Assuncao said. "No pressure. I'm going to have fun. I'm going to be happy. I mean, I'm always happy fighting, but that will be a special fight.
"I'm not interested in fighting anybody else," he continued. "No other fight makes sense to me, to be honest. As far as managing, I've been managing myself from the beginning, so if I don't start speaking up for myself, nobody will. And respectfully, I won't take any other fight right now."
With his win streak, Assuncao has a legitimate case. But there is one X-factor that is largely beyond his control: the return of former champion Dominick Cruz.
Cruz, who has been out of action since Oct. 2011 due to multiple knee and groin injuries, is on the comeback trail once again. His recovery timetable is tentative, and it's not even known whether Cruz wants to fight for the belt in his first match back. But if he does, and if his timeline syncs up with a date the UFC wants for Barao, Assuncao could find himself the odd man out.
"Dominick is a champion," Assuncao said. "You can't deny his place. However, he hasn't been active. I've been doing what I'm supposed to. It's unfortunate for him. I actually text him every once in while. He's a great guy, but unfortunately he's been hurt for a long time and I've just been more active. If my timeframe coming back is ahead of his and Barao is waiting, I don't have a crystal ball, but I just feel I've been more active and winning."
Assuncao even has a plan for the timing and location for the fight: right after Rio hosts the World Cup in the summertime. Nationalism will be at its apex, and the UFC can swoop in and host a championship fight with two Brazilians who grew up less than 200 miles apart in the eastern corner of the country.
"We'll put some butts in chairs over there," he said. "I'll tell you that much. We'll pack the place up.
His case made, Assuncao goes back to healing and hoping. Yesterday, he visited his friends at the gym while they were training even though he couldn't join them. He's itching to go, to get back to the business of proving he's not only worthy of an opportunity to fight for the belt, but that he's also the best bantamweight in the world.
As his feelings return to his more standard state of calmness, his words do, too. None of them are out of anger, it's just out of a passion for what he feels is right.
"Listen, I don't want people to think I'm talking stupid, but look at the guys I've fought, all of them have been on win streaks," he said. "Every guy I've beat has been trying to take my head off. If I'm not a good talker, so be it, but my record will speak for itself. I didn't love my performance against Munhoz, but I did what I could. I took him down, I pounded him on the ground, and he didn't hurt me for one second. Whatever the UFC decides, they decide, but I think there's nobody else out there to fight Barao. I have a very different set of skills. Long story short, I'm ready to challenge the champion."