Tom Aspinall is back to full fitness and ready to resume his charge up the UFC heavyweight division.
The big Englishman headlines UFC London on July 22 against Poland’s Marcin Tybura in a bout Aspinall hopes will serve as a springboard towards a bout with the division’s top names. The bout will also see Aspinall return to the scene of his last appearance, where he suffered a torn MCL, a torn meniscus, and damage to his ACL.
That bout, against Curtis Blaydes at The O2 Arena, offered the chance to blast his way into championship contention. But instead, an injury in the opening moments of the fight saw him fall to a TKO loss, as he was forced to go under the knife to repair the extensive damage to his knee.
Despite the bad memories of his last appearance in London, Aspinall is determined to bounce back in the same venue, as he explained in an interview with OLBG.com.
“If I could have chosen anywhere in the world to fight, it would be at The O2, because I never wanted The O2 to be a place that’s taboo or bad luck, because it’s not,” he said.
“I want to go in there and redeem myself and put some good memories back in there. I don’t want it to end with me getting injured. It’s a special place for me, and I want it to continue to be a special place, and I feel like I owe a lot to the UK fans to go in there and show them I’m just not that guy who falls over with a sore knee after 15 seconds. I want to be the guy who’s known as the next UFC heavyweight champion.”
With the backstory of what happened the last time he competed in the famous London venue, Aspinall could be forgiven for feeling more highly-strung heading into the bout. But the Brit is making sure he stays cool, calm and collected as he looks to bounce back in style.
“I’m going to go in there and fight. I have to focus on that – not all this other stuff,” he explained.
“I need to go in there and enjoy myself and not let that outside noise bother me, because that’s when emotions will start running a little bit high, and with my style, I’m emotionless. I can’t be over emotional about anything, because it affects me. So I’ve got to be in there and be as calm as possible, and that’s when I’ll deliver.”
While he knows he has to stay calm, Aspinall did reveal that he’ll be battling some internal nerves, given how things panned out last time. But he has already identified the antidote to that internal anxiety – a knockout victory.
“I’ll feel quite unsettled until I go in there and knock somebody out. That’s what I want to do,” he said.
“The last fight I had was a year ago, and it was embarrassing. It didn’t end well, and I got injured. I’m a winner and it hurts to know that I’ve gone over a year without winning. I want to go in there and win, and I’ll be a bit on edge until I can go in there and get back to what I’m good at, which is winning and not being injured.
“I’m sick of being injured, I’m sick of being on the sideline and everyone asking about my knee. I just want to get in there and just put that behind me. I want to put that to bed. I just move forward.”
The bout itself will see Aspinall face Tybura, a former M-1 Global heavyweight champion who has been a mainstay of the UFC heavyweight division for the last seven years. During that time, the Pole has registered notable wins over the likes of Andrei Arlovski, Stefan Struve, Serghei Spivac, Ben Rothwell, Alexander Romanov and Blagoy Ivanov. It’s a matchup Aspinall is taking very seriously, and the Englishman said that anyone writing off Tybura is foolish to do so.
“I think a lot of people look past the Tybura and that’s silly,” he said.
“I think a lot of his opponents have done that because he doesn’t have the flashiest style and he doesn’t have a super-dangerous technique. I think that people look past him and that’s completely the wrong thing to do, because he’s been in the top 10 for years, (and) he’s won seven of his last eight at heavyweight. That’s an unbelievable record.
“But on the other hand you’re talking about me being healthy now, and you’re talking about me in a very good mental space, the best that I’ve ever been in my career.
“He’s got a lot of fights, he’s got a lot of experience, but as a reference to football, there’s loads of footballers that can tackle, but when Messi runs at them full blast, they can’t get near him, and that’s how it is with me.
“I’m very intelligent as a fighter, a lot of people look past my decision making. I feel like I’m one of the best decision-makers in MMA. I see openings and capitalise in a split second.
“People say I’m really fast and ‘he just wins his fights with speed,’ but I think that my fight IQ and my decision-making is better than anybody else. I’m really, really smart and it’s not something that a lot of heavyweights have. They have a lot of knockouts and if they get on top of you it’s going to be hard to get them off – I’m not saying that can’t happen. But what I’m saying is that my fight IQ is extremely high in comparison to a lot of the other guys in my division.”
So many fights are sold with trash talk and heated rivalries, but animosity will be nowhere to be found ahead of Aspinall’s bout with Tybura, with Aspinall revealing that he has no ill will towards his opponent whatsoever. However, he also stressed that his respect for his opponent won’t stop him from delivering the sort of performance that will thrust him into the heavyweight championship conversation.
“I like Tybura as a person. He’s a very nice guy, and I have met him on multiple occasions. I know his coaches and his friends, we’ve got mutual friends,” he explained.
“But the poor fellow is getting me on my absolute best day. It’s going to be a very bad time for him, because right now he’s the guy who’s coming between me and the upper echelon of the division, which is where I want to be, and I want to be fighting for the title.
“I’m not messing about anymore. I’m not taking my time anymore, and he’s the guy who’s in my way right now, and I’ve been training for this guy like I’m training for Jon Jones.”