For the longest time, Raphael Assuncao has been pleading for his shot at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight title. He almost got it back at UFC 173 earlier this year, but a rib injury prevented him for taking the last-minute bout against Renan Barao.
Since he owns the longest win streak in the 135-pound weight class, is the No. 4 ranked fighter in the division (see the list here) and holds a win over current champion T.J. Dillashaw -- outpointing him at UFC Fight Night 29 back in 2013 -- there's no reason to doubt his worthiness of a title fight.
After winning his seventh in a row, outclassing Bryan Caraway at UFC Fight Night 54 this past weekend (Sat., Oct 4, 2014) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (highlights), Raphael improved his case as a top contender. Of course, Dominick Cruz had to come and smoke Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178 (see it) in just one minute after a three-year absence, and delay Assuncao's dream fight... yet again.
But if you think the Brazilian bomber is bitter, think again. If anything, Assuncao says he will go back to the drawing board and get better. In addition, he admits there was nothing much he could have done to outdo Dominick's "awesome" performance.
His words on a recent edition of The MMA Hour:
"I had mixed feelings about the whole situation, because and I'll say it again; Dominick Cruz had an awesome performance. It's pretty much, not impossible, but it was pretty damn perfect. So, it was hard to match that performance. I mean, what could I do, beat the guy in 20 seconds? Because he finished Mizugaki in 60 seconds. So I had mixed feelings going into the fight knowing that I had to make a statement. Every fight you have to make a statement, so it wasn't nothing like it was crazy different. But just mixed emotions, feeling going into the fight. Caraway is a game opponent. People kind of take him lightly, not lightly, or think you should go in there (and beat him). But I'm experienced enough to know that he's on a roll and on a win streak from WEC and has fought high-level guys. I did what I wanted to do, but I should have been more aggressive. But when you win, you have to be humble enough and intelligent enough to go back to the drawing board even though you are on a roll to see what you are doing and what your mistakes are. That keeps me motivated. I have a lot to work. I can be cocky and say I'm on a win streak, but I don't feel that way. I have a lot to improve. So, that's where I see myself and my career right now."
That's what you call a winning attitude.
"That would be a good fight, but I just feel that right now, I should be sitting back and waiting for a better opportunity, like say a championship fight. Urijah had his chance like four or five times in front of me, you know? But I can't deny that it makes sense, so be it, but I'd rather sit and wait right now. Urijah is a tough fight, I'd love to avenge that loss, it's just that I'm a little bit ahead of that rematch. It was so long ago, he had his chances and he lost. He's on a one-fight win streak, so I'd like to be in a position of a contendership status than to take a rematch."
As far as a bout against his fellow countryman and former division champion, Renan Barao, Raphael wasn't necessarily opposed to it, saying "it would be a great fight." But if he could hold out for a shot at the title, that would be his best option.
Can you blame him?