Two weeks’ notice to fight for an interim UFC heavyweight title against arguably the scariest man in the entire promotion would be considered a fool’s errand by many. But Tom Aspinall is not just anyone.
The Englishman has his eyes on the prize and plans to sit atop the UFC heavyweight division sooner rather than later. And if that means taking a short-notice opportunity to get his hands on some silverware, he’s prepared to do just that.
Chatting to the press in New York ahead of his co-main event with Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 295, Aspinall laid out the colossal task that sits in front of him as he prepares for fight night at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m fighting the scariest guy in MMA in my opinion, in the worst circumstances possible without a training camp,” he admitted.
“I obviously think I can win. I’m not the kind of guy who shows up for money. I ain’t signing a contract and showing up if I don’t think I can win. I truly, truly believe that I’m going to win on Saturday night. I’m an absolute winner, and I’m going to find a way to win, regardless of the circumstances.”
Aspinall looked to be on the fast track to the top of the heavyweight division before a devastating knee injury put him on the shelf for a year. His comeback fight saw him steamroller Polish veteran Marcin Tybura in March, and the expectation was that he’d face the winner of the Ciryl Gane vs. Serghei Spivac bout that closely followed. After Gane won that matchup, the plan in Aspinall’s mind was to defeat the Frenchman to line up a shot at Jon Jones and the undisputed title.
However, Aspinall’s path has since changed, and now he faces the toughest test of his career against a man who bounced back from his UFC debut loss to Alistair Overeem with six successive first-round knockouts as he has blasted his way to the No. 2 spot in the UFC heavyweight rankings.
After bouncing back from injury with victory over Tybura, Aspinall sits fourth in that list, and says that getting his hands on the interim title is simply a means to an end as he continues to pursue a shot at undisputed gold, and a matchup with Jones.
“I’m fine with the interim. I’m not too bothered,” he said.
“It’ll work itself out, I’m sure. Jon Jones is obviously one of the best to ever do. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and hopefully we’ll get to share the cage one day.”