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Raphael Assuncao expects future trilogy fights with T.J. Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Fortaleza-Assuncao vs Moraes
Raphael Assuncao lost to Marlon Moraes at UFC Fortaleza.
Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Raphael Assuncao took off his gloves in the Octagon at UFC Fortaleza. At the time, some speculated that Assuncao might be retiring from MMA.

Hardly.

Assuncao fell by first-round submission to Marlon Moraes in the main event of UFC Fortaleza on Saturday night in Brazil. But stepping away from the sport was not on his mind afterward. In actuality, Assuncao said at the post-fight press conference that he believes he’ll get another crack at both Moraes and current UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in the future, since he is 1-1 now against each.

“We’re gonna have a third fight,” Assuncao said of he and Moraes. “Just like I’m gonna fight T.J. again one day, I think. Just like I said, I haven’t had much luck in rematches against those guys. But it’s funny that both rematches that I took — I lost tonight, there’s no excuses, I was well trained, but it was in a phase where even the media would ask me why I accepted the fight. It wasn’t a fight for the moment, but I’m a warrior. I consider myself a professional — I have to fight. But both rematches I had maybe were not at the right moment. When I fought T.J. at UFC 200, I had recently had surgery. So, we’ll keep moving forward.”

Assuncao (27-6) said afterward that people around him told him not to take the bout with Moraes, that it maybe didn’t make much sense for him. The Brazilian fighter had won four in a row, including a victory over Moraes just three fights ago, and put together a résumé good enough to earn a title shot in many cases.

However, the UFC bantamweight division has been somewhat in flux. Dillashaw went down to challenge flyweight champion Henry Cejudo, losing by first-round TKO. Dominick Cruz is injured again. On paper, Moraes vs. Assuncao could have been a 135-pound title eliminator, but no one knows for sure. Cejudo could very easily move up and challenge Dillashaw after beating him once at 125.

“I took the chance and it was bad for me,” Assuncao said. “It was bad for me tonight. Most of my trainers and my family members didn’t want me to accept this fight. Maybe they were right, they had their reasoning being a risky fight. And he beat me, he’s a dangerous guy. I consider myself a warrior and I think that any challenge, I’ll be ready for it. But looking back now, I could also see it from that other side and really [waiting] for that [title] fight. But we’ll keep moving forward.”

Moraes caught Assuncao with a pair of overhand rights that dropped him. He then got in Assuncao’s guard and worked his way to a mounted guillotine choke that he finished on the side.

“He used something that I was training a lot, which was that counter attack over the top,” Assuncao said. “I threw the jab a little bit low and he counter attacked over the top. And I think I was little bit dizzy. He threw the same, I think he threw it again. … I think at that moment, my reactions and my decisions defending were a bit rocked. That’s what caused the guillotine from what I can remember.”

Assuncao, 36, said he it not sure what is next for him. He has still won 11 of his last 13 fights and he believes he remains a top-five talent in the UFC bantamweight division. Assuncao said he’d like to face someone in the top five or six, throwing out the possibility of facing the winner of the UFC 235 fight between former champ Cody Garbrandt and Pedro Munhoz.

As far as what the title situation will be with Dillashaw at the top and challenges like Moraes and Cejudo as a possibility, Assuncao said he has no idea how these things get decided.

“I think the criteria coming directly from the boss, it’s whatever he negotiates at the time,” Assuncao said. “It’s pretty complicated right now. When I accept the rematch, which was be the main event tonight, when I signed for this fight, Dominick Cruz would possibly be the next challenger. And I didn’t want to wait for Cody to come back. I could be behind those guys anyway. And then Dominick got hurt, it opened up the way for this fight tonight between Marlon and I. And then a week before, we had Cejudo, too. It’s really complicated, man. I don’t know how to explain it.”