Raphael Assuncao knows he’s overdue for a title shot in the UFC.
With a remarkable 11-1 record at bantamweight including a win over current champion T.J. Dillashaw, the 36-year old veteran has put together the kind of resume that probably should have already resulted in an opportunity to win the belt.
Unfortunately, Assuncao knows he’s not Conor McGregor on the microphone and he’ll probably never be Justin Gaethje inside the cage either. What Assuncao does better than almost anybody else at 135 pounds, however, is win — and he wins a lot.
With four wins in a row, Assuncao should likely be lining up for a trilogy with Dillashaw after they split a pair of fights in the past but instead he’s preparing for a showdown against Marlon Moraes in a main event fight in Brazil.
Assuncao already holds a win over Moraes from 2017 so it’s understandable why he was somewhat conflicted to get that offer for his next fight rather than a chance to compete for UFC gold.
“It was kind of a mixed feelings situation,” Assuncao said when speaking to MMAWeekly. “That’s probably the best explanation, kind of mixed feelings. At first I wasn’t [excited] and then I was. A main event is always nice. You get to test yourself and prove yourself and be a main event guy.
“It worked out pretty good. I got excited and here we are.”
Perhaps less rolling with the punches and making more noise would have landed Assuncao better opportunities before now but that’s just not how he’s built.
He’s called for fights in the past, although admittedly has rarely received the opponents he hand selected to help him earn a title shot before now.
Even in the fight he has this weekend, Assuncao already holds a win over Moraes from less than two years ago but ultimately he decided not to complain.
The way Assuncao sees it, by going through Moraes a second time it will not only put his fellow Brazilian in the rearview mirror permanently but it will settle any doubts about his standing in the division.
“I don’t want no easy path to anywhere,” Assuncao explained. “That’s a fight that they wanted and it’s a rematch.
“Obviously he’s coming off some good wins and he built a pretty good resume in the UFC already. I feel beating him again, I know I can rest and wait and finally get my title shot. I’m not looking past him. In a high-level fight, it’s so 50/50 sometimes. I’m very confident in what I do and I feel I need to do what I’ve been doing and I can finally get my title shot.”
The entire bantamweight division had a curve ball thrown at them just recently when Dillashaw was afforded the chance to drop down to 125 pounds to challenge Henry Cejudo for the flyweight championship.
Dillashaw ended up being starched in just 32 seconds, which obviously didn’t look good for him but also potentially set up a rematch with Cejudo at bantamweight rather than allowing Assuncao or Moraes to fight for the title.
None of that can distract Assuncao right now because he’s just days away from stepping into the cage with a crafty and dangerous contender in Moraes, who deserves nothing but his full attention.
Obviously, Assuncao wants to fight for the belt and he believes a win on Saturday night will secure him that shot — even if it’s not right away — but more than anything he has to get past Moraes, who battled him to a razor close split decision the last time they met in 2017.
“I take a lot of confidence into my game,” Assuncao said. “Look, I’m very honest about my game and I’m not the most aggressive guy. I’m not a knockout artist but I know what to do when I get in there. When I fought [Aljamain] Sterling, he said ‘I’m going to knock him out’ but when they get in there with me it’s a different story. I feel I’m improving. My cardio is better. I’m feeling better. I bring a lot of experience, I bring a lot of confidence.
“I want to be a world champion before my career is over. I think it’s going to happen.”