Tom Aspinall may be set for the biggest opportunity of his career, but the laid-back Englishman is making sure he soaks everything in and enjoys every moment as he continues his rise toward the top of the UFC heavyweight division.
Aspinall is unbeaten as a UFC fighter, and has stood out as a future contender following a string of impressive performances – and finishes – including handing Andrei Arlovski only the second submission defeat of his career.
Speaking at UFC London media day, Aspinall cut a calm, relaxed figure as he laid out his mindset ahead of his main event bout with longtime UFC contender and former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov on Saturday night.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now, I’m absolutely loving life,” he said.
“This is my dream. So I’m looking forward to Saturday. It’s gonna be the absolute time of my life. I’m going to go in there and enjoy it.”
With his early UFC career taking place during the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Aspinall’s UFC run to date has seen him competing in front of small, or no, crowds. That will all change on Saturday when he makes the walk to the octagon at London’s O2 Arena, where a crowd approaching 20,000 will cheer him to the rafters for the first UFC main event of his career.
It’s a situation he said he has no prior experience of, and he freely admitted that he has absolutely no idea how he’s going to react to it on fight night.
“I’ve said this a few times. It’s like asking a woman who’s never had children, ‘What’s childbirth like?'” he grinned.
“I don’t know, I’ve never I’ve never experienced that situation of walking out in front of 20,000 people. And the roar just being unbelievable.
“This is why I want to do it. This is why I wanted to do this before I’m going to step up and be in the top five and challenging for the title and stuff like that.
“I need to tick this box mentally to know that I can perform in front of 20,000 people, and I’m looking forward to seeing how I react to it myself.”
While Aspinall is looking forward to testing his mettle in front of a capacity crowd at The O2 for the very first time, he said his technical preparations have been better than ever.
That included working with the likes of heavyweight kickboxing world champion Rico Verhoeven and heavyweight kickboxing contender Benjamin Adegbuyi as he prepares for the prospect of facing six-foot-seven Volkov this weekend.
“I’ve had loads of tall sparring partners. Loads!” he said.
“I’ve not sparred anybody under my size for the last 10 weeks really – just bringing big guys in.
“I’ve been over to Holland to train with the king of kickboxing, Mr. Rico Verhoeven, and Benny Adegbuyi, as well, who’s a six-foot-seven guy, really tall guy, as well. Two of the highest-level strikers in the world. So I’m doing everything that I can to be able to fight against tall guys like that.”
As well as specific prep for facing a taller opponent, Aspinall also said he has grown as a mixed martial artist during this fight camp, and said he’s both mentally and physically ready for the step up on Saturday night.
“I think I’ve improved more in this camp than I have in the last two years,” he said.
“Honestly, I feel so good. I feel in such a good place mentally, as well. I’m just here enjoying it man, this is this is what my focus is on, just enjoying it.
“I’m not even thinking about the result, to be honest, I’m not even thinking about how I’m going to finish the fight, or if it’s gonna go the distance. I couldn’t give a s**t.
“I’m just gonna go in there and have the time of my life. This is my dream, and I want to enjoy it.”