Safford native Lopez misses weight/UFC fight against Assuncao still on for Saturday

Safford native Matthew Lopez, right, faces off against Raphael Assuncao in Virginia on Saturday night. Lopez came in 2.5 pounds heavy and will have 20 percent of his purse forfeited to Assuncao.

Lopez comes in 2.5 pounds heavy/will be fined

By Jon Johnson

NORFOLK, VIRGINIA – Safford native Matthew Lopez will test his MMA skills in the octagon Saturday as he takes on his toughest challenge in the UFC to date.

A look of disbelief falls over Matthew Lopez after his weight is announced.

During the weigh-in Friday in Virginia Beach, Lopez came in at 138.5 pounds, which is 2.5 pounds over the allowable limit for a bantamweight fighter. Being a wrestler having to make weight most of his life, coming in overweight was a surprise and his dismay was evident as the cameras clicked away.

The fight will still take place, but now Lopez will be fined 20 percent of his purse, which will then go to his opponent. The battle will be part of the main card broadcast on FS1, starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday. 

No. 13 bantamweight Lopez (10-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) will face the Brazilian bomber, No. 4 bantamweight Raphael Assuncao (25-5 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in what is sure to be an active and exciting match. Assuncao weighed in at 135.5 pounds.

Assuncao brings experience to the table and his only loss in his last 10 fights has been to T.J. Dillashaw, who regained the Bantamweight Championship Belt after beating Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217.

Lopez hasn’t shied away from a fight, however, and traveled to Toronto to beat Canadian Mitch Gagnon and to Rio De Janerio to defeat Brazilian Johnny Eduardo.   

Safford native Matthew Lopez celebrates his win Saturday over Johnny Eduardo at UFC 212 in Brazil.

After the fight in Brazil, Lopez called out his top-ranked opponents.

“Listen, I came into this division at 8-0 and I’ve got three top-15 opponents right out the gate,” Lopez said. “I don’t know anybody else here who’s got that. Anybody in the top 10, holler, I’m ready.”

Matthew Lopez pounds Johnny Eduardo into submission as referee Mario Yamasaki prepares to call the fight in the first round.

Lopez grew up in Safford and then moved to Tucson for high school, where he was a four-time state champion wrestler with the Sunnyside Blue Devils. Lopez was also the national high school champion in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

Raphael Assuncao weighed in at 135.5 pounds.

After high school, Lopez continued wrestling for Cal State Fullerton in college. His formerly fought out of Lake Forest, Calif., but relocated to Denver and now trains with Safford’s other big-time MMA fighter, Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who left the World Series Of Fighting (WSOF) as its only Lightweight Campion and is now in the UFC as well.

Lopez previously told Gila Valley Central that he decided to try MMA after he noticed his former wrestling opponents having success in the sport.

“I watched it in high school, but I don’t think I always wanted to become a fighter,” Lopez said. “I think when I started seeing people (who) I wrestled against and I knew from wrestling have success in the MMA world, that’s when I kind of wanted to try my hand at it.”

No. 6 Lightweight Gaethje is also preparing for his next fight against No. 4 Lightweight Eddie Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) on Dec. 2 at UFC 218.