All eyes will be on Tom Aspinall as he makes his return to the Octagon in the main event of UFC London this weekend, where he hopes to show the world that he’s ready to challenge for championship gold in 2024.
Aspinall faces Marcin Tybura in the headline bout at The O2 Arena, and was keen to stress that the Pole has had his full attention ahead of fight night in the English capital.
Chatting to the media, including Fighters Only, during fight week, Aspinall said that Tybura doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his accomplishments in the UFC.
“He does a lot of things well, and I don’t understand why people are counting him out because he’s won seven of his last eight in the rankings as a heavyweight. That’s a pretty good record, if you ask me,” he explained.
“He’s very durable, he doesn’t quit, which is pretty rare for a heavyweight – usually when a heavyweight starts to get a little bit tired, they start to look for a way out, and he definitely doesn’t. He’s got loads and loads of experience. I’ve taken him extremely, extremely seriously.”
The fight sees Aspinall make his return from knee surgery following injury sustained in the opening moments of his UFC London bout with Curtis Blaydes last year. The injury and subsequent rehabilitation process put Aspinall on the shelf for an extended period, and the Englishman made sure he took full advantage of his time away from the cage.
“It gave me a lot of time to get everything right in my life,” he said.
“I think I’m kind of a superstitious guy. If everything’s going well, I don’t really want to change stuff, even if I know it’s wrong, if that makes any kind of sense.
“That made sense to me before, but I feel like I’ve really changed a lot, inside and outside of the gym, inside and outside of fighting. And I think that this time has given me loads of chances to work with loads of good heavyweights in training, make sure that my body is looked after and good, make sure that I’m well rested and I’m in a good place mentally.
“I can sit up here all day and talk about it (and) how good I am, but ultimately I have to show it on Saturday, and that’s what I intend on doing.”
Now back to full fitness, Aspinall is planning to make a big statement in a heavyweight division that will soon be looking for a fresh challenger for the heavyweight title.
Jon Jones currently holds the belt, and he’ll take on former two-time champion Stipe Miocic at Madison Square Garden in November. With that bout signed and sealed, the race is now on to see which of the UFC’s rising heavyweight contenders will break from the pack and earn the next shot at the winner.
“There’s absolutely loads, mate,” he said.
“I don’t really want to miss anyone off, but the ones who stand out, like obviously there’s Pavlovich, who’s ranked number one at the moment. He’s like, on paper, the number one contender. You’ve got loads of dangerous guys. Obviously, there’s Ciryl Gane and (Serghei) Spivac fighting, (Tai) Tuivasa’s fighting (Alexander) Volkov, there’s (Jailton) Almeida and (Curtis) Blaydes. These guys are good.
“It’s not like 10 years ago, when they were all old, fat heavyweights who are just standing there, punching each other. These are guys who aren’t even in their prime yet. So I think we’ve got an exciting 10 years ahead of us in the heavyweight division. It’s going to be a great time.”
Aspinall also said that a big win over Tybura could propel him to the top of that contenders list, providing he does so in undeniable fashion.
“Heavyweight MMA kinda has its own rules, in my opinion,” he explained.
“If I’m ranked number five and I fight ranked number 10, which is what’s happening, and I lie on him for five rounds and it’s a boring fight, it’s not really going to move me up at all. But if I go out there and knock him out in 30 seconds with some crazy spinning elbow, that’s going to put me as a number one contender, and that’s just the way it works.
“It doesn’t always come down to rankings. It’s (about) impressive performances, so it all depends on how the fight goes Saturday. What kind of finish am I gonna get? What kind of win am I gonna get? How’s the fight gonna go? I don’t know. We’ll just see.”
And, after previously stating that he wasn’t ready to share the Octagon with UFC all-time great Jones, we asked him whether he was ready now.
His answer? “Yes.”