Michael Bisping says that if there’s anyone in the UFC heavyweight division capable of dethroning champ Jon Jones, it’s fellow Englishman Tom Aspinall.
Aspinall answered lot of questions about his fitness and ability to bounce back when he returned from knee surgery and a one-year layoff to defeat Marcin Tybura in just 73 seconds at UFC London. His performance at The O2 Arena had the MMA world excited about Aspinall’s ceiling as a fighter, and his post-fight interview with Bisping stated that he would beat the winner of the UFC Paris headliner between Ciryl Gane and Serghei Spivac, then beat Jones.
That performance, and those comments, convinced Bisping, who thinks Aspinall has what it takes to hand Jones his first true loss in the UFC.
Chatting to Fighters Only at a UFC Gym luncheon event in London, Bisping laid out the current heavyweight landscape, and said that Aspinall was the man best equipped to not just compete with, but beat, Jones.
“I believe he will beat Jones. And I say that as a massive fan of Jon Jones, and I have a lot of respect for his body of work. How can you not?” he said.
“Maybe there’s a little recency bias, you know what I mean? Maybe that’s blurring my vision a little bit. But, out of all those contenders, Tom has a very, very complete skillset where the others are a little one dimensional.”
With Jones set to face two-time former champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 295 in New York later this year, a number of up-and-coming contenders are looking to position themselves for a shot at the winner in early 2024. And, looking at the respective skillsets of the contenders in the mix, Bisping said Aspinall stands out as the best of the lot.
“Jailton Almeida is great, but he’s predominantly a wrestler. He takes people down and controls them,” he explained.
“But Tom could stop that, and on the feet, he’ll batter him. Ciryl Gane’s incredible on the feet, but Tom has been wrestling and doing jiu-jitsu his entire life, right? There you go.
“Sergei Pavlovich, his only loss in the UFC was to Alistair Overeem, who caught a kick, pushed him on his backside and finished him on the ground. Tom could easily do that. He might even beat him on the feet, as well, but that’s dangerous, so he would wrestle him and take him down.
“So, Tom can get the job done anywhere, and I would favor him against any of those contenders. And, against Jones, I don’t know. Maybe, as I just said, my vision is blurred from that sensational performance at the weekend. I don’t think Jones would have beaten Marcin the way Tom did. Marcin’s won seven of his last eight, and the decision he lost, it was a decision to Volkov. (Tom) just walked through him, and he wasn’t even at first gear, you know?
“It wasn’t just the performance. It was how he was moving. It was how light he was on the feet. I mean, he looked like Muhammad Ali, and it was unbelievable. So, if there’s anyone out there that’s going to beat Jon Jones – and, by the way, there’s always someone out there, there’s always the next guy, there’s always the next person, the next contender – it’s Tom Aspinall.”
While Bisping sees Aspinall as the man to potentially dethrone Jones at the top of the heavyweight division, the former UFC middleweight champion admitted that Jones has no need to stick around for too long after his upcoming bout with Miocic. But, despite that, he said he hoped he’d face the next man in line if he defeats Miocic in November.
“For Jon, if I was him, he’s got no business taking on all the contenders, and up-and-comers, because he doesn’t need to,” Bisping explained.
“He’s made a lot of money, he’s a wealthy man. He’s got the career. He’s got the legacy. He’s got the money. He came in and he did it. He’s done it all, so there’s no need to carry on doing it. And why just keep fighting and keep giving contenders the chance until someone beats you?
“Come up to heavyweight, have three fights. Win the belt, beat the greatest of all time, beat the number-one contender. ‘There you go. I’ve done it. I’ve beat them all.’
“Yeah, there’s always another number-one contender, but ‘I’ve beat the number-one contender at that time, so I’m gonna leave now.’ Walk off into the sunset with loads of money in the bank, his health and brain still intact, and go sip margaritas.”
Retirement is certainly a strong option for Jones if he defeats Miocic at Madison Square Garden, and as a result, Bisping says that Aspinall needs to make plenty of noise to help motivate “Bones” to continue his reign, and to face him in what would be a blockbuster matchup on both sides of the pond, but especially if the fight was held in a big venue in the UK.
“If we just assume that Tom wins one more fight, and Jones beats Stipe, I think that what needs to happen in that time is that Tom needs to be very vocal,” said Bisping.
“He needs to be vocal and he needs to be making it known that ‘I’m the guy to beat you.’
“Because Jon has achieved so much, beating multiple generations of contenders and champions. He’s been there, done that, got the t-shirt, his legacy is set in stone. He’s moved up to heavyweight, won the title, became a two-weight champ. If he beats Stipe, he’s beaten the greatest heavyweight of all time, and he’ll probably retire.
“However, if Tom’s making enough noise, every narrative will become, ‘Well, you never fought the number-one contender, and the guy that a lot of people see is the future of the heavyweight division. And you were there. You were in a position to fight.’
“So Tom needs to make noise to say, ‘If you retire now, you’re doing it because you’re afraid,’ and I just think that would rouse Jon Jones in such a way that he might say, ‘Alright, you little s**t!’ Tom’s far from a little s**t, but I think that would tickle Jon’s competitive fancy, shall we say.”
Bisping was in London to visit the new state-of-the-art 7,500 square-foot UFC Gym facility in City Road, EC1, which is due to open later this year. The London site will join existing UFC Gyms in Nottingham and Woking, with ambitious plans to see more than 100 UFC Gyms open across the UK and Ireland over the next 10 years.
UFC Gym already has more than 150 locations across the world including gyms in the United States, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Oman, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, and Europe.
Bisping, who is part of the ownership group alongside former British karate heavyweight champion Joe Long, explained that the facilities available to the public at these new UFC Gym facilities are light years ahead of what he worked with as a professional athlete during much of his career.
“Now the sport’s way more professional, there’s a big emphasis on recovery,” he said.
“It was never around in my day. It was just push yourself as hard as you can train, train, train. Well, less is more. And recovery is just as important as the pushing yourself hard aspect, you know, and in our UFC Gyms, we’ve got all the cryotherapy, sauna, steam … we have designated recovery areas. We also have what we call the Arm Bar, so you can go and hang out there afterwards, get a smoothie, a coffee, or get yourself a nice protein shake!”