Sergei Pavlovich may be fighting for the interim UFC heavyweight title at UFC 295, but as far as he’s concerned, he’s fighting for the real title.
Russia’s Pavlovich will take on England’s Tom Aspinall for the interim UFC heavyweight strap in the co-main event at Madison Square Garden. Their matchup was born out of Jon Jones’ shoulder injury, which took his planned bout with former two-time champion Stipe Miocic off the board for New York City.
Pavlovich was already prepping to make weight for the event as the backup fighter for that matchup, but now he’s booked to compete for definite, and he said that his bout with Aspinall represents the pinnacle of the heavyweight division.
“For me, this is the legit title,” he said during media day ahead of fight night in New York.
“To get here, to be at this spot, there was a lot of work and a lot of steps were made to get here. So I think that I know where I’m at, I have a goal, and I’m going for that goal.”
The news of the matchup came out of the blue but Pavlovich didn’t get too excited when he realized what was coming. Instead, he kept a businesslike approach and is now ready to challenge for his first UFC title.
“I was training. This was my second practice in the day. And then, after the second practice, I went out to the park just to take a stroll. And my manager Ali called me and he said, ‘I got great news. Here it is,’ and I didn’t think much. I just said yes.”
The fact that Pavlovich was in training as the backup fighter for Jones-Miocic, while Aspinall wasn’t in a fight camp, has been cited as a clear advantage for the Russian this weekend. But Pavlovich was keen to stress that he’s taking the Brit very seriously, despite the short-notice nature of Aspinall’s involvement.
“I don’t think you can take an opponent lightly,” he said.
“I don’t think I’m underestimating him in any way. We were prepared for anybody and prepared really hard, so everything’s serious. Everything’s 100 percent.”
As for the matchup itself, Pavlovich said the fans are right to be excited about both fights at the top of the card at Madison Square Garden, but he promised a fun matchup for the New York crowd.
“You know, I can’t really tell you which fight the fans are more excited about, us or them,” he admitted.
“But the fact is, I can tell you that this is going to be a really exciting, really fun fight, because it’s going to be a real war.”