Fighters.com had the opportunity to speak with UFC veteran Junior Assuncao (6-3) days before his fight at Wild Bill’s Fight Night 16 in Atlanta 8 November.
Fighters.com: Junior, Saturday’s Fight Night at Wild Bill’s is being billed as one of the most stacked cards in the history of the venue. What’s your thoughts on the approaching event?
Junior Assuncao: Good, well actually I have good and bad memories about fighting at Wild Bill’s. I’ve had some of my best happen there. I’ve had some wars there. Hopefully I’ll be able to repeat that on Saturday.
Fighters.com: Your opponent, Kalvin Hackney (3-0), has a good fight record but not nearly as much experience as you. What’s your thoughts on Hackney as an opponent?
Junior Assuncao: He has definitely proven to be a legit opponent. He has fought in a couple of main events here in Atlanta. Not being a local, he came out and fought hard. His record shows, I mean, he’s undefeated. I am sure he’s going to bring his A-game.
Fighters.com: Recently in the press, Hackney proclaimed that he will remain undefeated by beating you and disappointing the hometown crowd. What do you say to this?
Junior Assuncao: Well, he’s done this already three times before. [laughing] You know, that’s why I had to step up. I am not going to say he does not have a chance because the sport is unpredictable. I have been doing my homework and I am ready to go. I have been in a really solid training camp for this fight. I wasn’t actually expecting to fight him because I was supposed have another fight in Denver, Colorado, but that didn’t work out. But, you know, if he thinks he’s going to remain undefeated that’s fine. I was undefeated one time as well. Fights are unpredictable but I am confident that I am going do what I have to do to come out with the win.
Fighters.com: Kalvin has both stand-up victories and submissions on his record. Where do you see success for you in the fight? On the feet or on the ground?
Junior Assuncao: I think that anywhere the fight goes I am going to be ready. I’ve been through some stand-up wars in my career and I have fought a lot good guys on the ground in the past. You know, I don’t really even think that way. I just get myself ready for any situation. I am going to last the whole time with him. I actually don’t believe he’s going to make it past the first round. That’s my personal prediction. If I let it get past the first round, then I’ll have another plan, but I am going to really push the pace and see just how good his cardio really is.
Fighters.com: You’re a blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and an instructor with a school in Atlanta. Will you tell the fans a little about your background in Brazil and how you got to the United States and to the place where you are now.
Junior Assuncao: Well, I started out in Capoeira. I started when I was twelve-years old and I practiced up until I was eighteen. I’m a blackbelt in Capoeira. At seventeen I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve been involved in martial arts all my life really. In I997 I moved to Atlanta and started training with “Jacare” Romero Cavalcanti at Alliance Martial Arts Center. I was there for five years; but, it was traditional jiu-jitsu only. Then I started training with some guys from L.A. Boxing, which is now known as Knuckle-Up Fitness. I was there for four years. It was good because I got to be around many other disciplines and develop the other aspects of fighting. L.A. Boxing at the time had boxing and Muay Thai and so on.
Seven months ago I decided it was time for me to do my own thing. I have my own methods of teaching and working with other fighters. It’s going very well. We have a solid group of guys here. I am personally teaching the classes. I look forward to coming here each day and train with everyone. The school is called “Ascension Mixed Martial Arts”. It’s my baby. I already have some guys starting to fight. We are trying to build it up now.
Fighters.com: When you were at Alliance with “Jacare”, did you train with “Mayhem” Jason Miller (21-6)?
Junior Assuncao: Oh yeah, man, me and Jason actually got our blue belts on the same day. We are from the same generation. We started around the same time. Me, Mayhem, Paul Creighton (2-1), and “The Inferno” Jeff Joslin (5-3). Paul was actually training to fight “Prodigy” BJ Penn (13-4-1) back then. He’s got a school now in Duluth [north of Georgia]. There was a bunch of good guys. We had a really solid group of guys back then. It’s good to have trained with those guys and succeeded and to see everybody almost ten years later doing good things.
Fighters.com: Did you here a few weeks ago that Jason Miller announced he was retiring from mixed martial arts competition?
Junior Assuncao: Yeah, I heard about that, man! But, I won’t believe it until I actually talk to him. Who knows? He may be burned out a bit. We all get to that point eventually. He’s been fighting a long time. But, if he retires, I really don’t blame him. Jason doesn’t have anything else to prove. He’s fought a bunch of really tough guys. He’s been in a bunch of different training camps and worked with a lot of great fighters. He’s helped to build a lot of fighters too. He’s been a training partner of “Hollywood” Dan Henderson (23-7). Jason is a good guy. I am not going to say that I don’t blame him, but I guess wouldn’t be surprised if he stepped out of the scene for a few years.
Fighters.com: Junior, you’re coming off a decision loss to Torrance Taylor (6-4-1) at the AFL in May. Has this loss provided you extra motivation for your upcoming fight this Saturday?
Junior Assuncao: I guess, yeah. You know, the fight with Taylor was a very interesting fight. Taylor was really strong on his feet. But, I knew that going in to the fight. We basically stood up for three rounds. I took him down when I needed to but he didn’t want to have anything to do with the ground game. But, you know, it was good. I have not been through too many decision losses in my career. I am always trying so hard to win, that something like this exposes me to what it means to lose. If this makes sense. [laughing] In that fight, everyone was telling me not to be over-aggressive so Taylor wouldn’t counter and catch me with a surprise shot. You know, it was good because I really tested myself. Taylor hits really hard. When the fight ended I thought I won. My corner told me that I won too. But, they gave the decision to Taylor. It was a close fight. And, it was good that I got to test myself against a stand-up fighter.
As far as the motivation for my fight on Saturday, I am not under-estimating Kalvin of course. I mean, I don’t under-estimate anybody. That’s just my personality. But, I don’t think Kalvin will be as aggressive or technical as Taylor or the guy before that or even the guy before that also. [laughing] The guy before Taylor, “Razor” Steve Sharp (22-10), was another really good guy. We had a battle. And, then before that, I fought Nathan Diaz (10-2).
I think I have been tested you know. I have been hit every way you can imagine. When I got to the UFC, I only had about five fights. So, I was just a baby. I am still just a baby really. I only have ten fights. I have been tested, so I just don’t see anything that Kalvin is going to do to me that everyone else hasn’t already done or tried to do anyway. [laughing]
Fighters.com: Speaking of Nathan Diaz. He was your last opponent in the UFC. When will we see you in the Octagon again?
Junior Assuncao: Man, I hope to get back to the UFC as soon as possible. But, I know I have to build up some wins in order to get there. My fight against Nate was a very entertaining fight. E ven Joe Silva himself told me so. I mean, I was winning the fight before I got caught. I personally think I took Nate too lightly. Again, listening to people telling me to not be over-aggressive, I lost and still got caught. I didn’t fight my fight.
You know, I think if I keep training like I am now and if I fight the way I have been training now, I think I’ll get back to the UFC. I’ll earn my opportunity to get back to the UFC. I hope everything is good on Saturday and then I’ll fight by June of next year. Then I am going to start knocking on the UFC’s door again.
Fighters.com: There’s a lot of talent in the Atlanta area. Of course UFC and Fighters.com’s Light Heavyweight Champion Forrest Griffin (16-4) originally comes from this area. And, then there’s fighters such as Brian Bowles (6-0) moving up the ranks in the WEC. What’s your thoughts on mixed martial arts in Georgia?
Junior Assuncao: My brother, Rafael Assuncao (10-1), is actually one of the best fighters in Georgia right now. He’s ranked ninth in the world. We had really bad management and they made some really bad decisions for me and my brother in our careers. For example, when I left the UFC I still had three more fights on my contract. But, then the American Fight League gave me a deal promising the world. Big exposure and publicity. The whole nine yards. But, now they are going under.
So I gave up my contract with the UFC to sign a fourteen month contract with the AFL. And, it didn’t go my way. The same thing with my brother. He has a contract from the WEC sitting in front of him, but he can’t do anything right now. We both have to ride our contracts out until March 2009. Then my brother should go right to the WEC. He’s beat some of the best guys. He beat “J-Lau” Joe Lauzon (17-4) pretty easily. I think my brother’s going to get his chance. It’s just a matter of us riding out our contracts and, with the right management now, the world is going to know who he is.