After more than a year out with a serious knee injury that threatened to derail his UFC career, Tom Aspinall is looking to cap a return to the octagon with his Interim UFC Heavyweight Title clash in Madison Square Garden next week.
The Manchester-born fighter comes up against Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 295 on November 11, after the originally scheduled fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic was cancelled due to an injury sustained by the former.
It caps a remarkable turnaround for Aspinall, who only returned to action in July after more than a year out through a knee injury sustained in the third professional defeat of his career, which ultimately saw him lose by technical knockout just 15 seconds into the first round against Curtis Blaydes.
The enforced year out proved challenging for Aspinall, who in a sit down with Adam Catterall of bet365 opened up on some of the demons he faced.
“(It was) Depressing, horrendous. Absolutely horrendous. It made me want to quit the sport for a little while,” he said, Courtesy of Full Circle with bet365.
“For a couple of days (after the injury) I didn’t want to carry on. I fell out with everything and everyone for a little. It’s just not very nice, it’s just horrendous lay on the floor on your back in front of 22,000 of your own fans with a knee that is numb, locked up, being unable to move it and knowing that I was supposed to go away.
“I was supposed to go and see family in Poland for about a month, I was going to do a little tour of Poland see family and friends and everything, the Mrs was already out there with the kids and I had to cancel that. I had to go down to London and get surgery, recover for a year, and it’s not ideal.
“I thought I’m going to get a big old win bonus and go and enjoy myself in Poland and see the family and friends for like a month It wasn’t meant to be, but to be honest I’m really grateful that it happened because I’m way different now in a more positive light. I’m really happy with everything.”
Now he is fit and ready to continue his career however, he is looking forward to establishing himself at the top of the table.
“My rise has been fast you see, even though I’ve had a year off it’s been quite fast,” he said. “It is hard to accept because I’m really healthy now, I’m on a comeback and I’m on a roll, everything’s good. I’ve got a lot of hype behind me and it’s like let’s do something. At the same time it’s hard.
“It’s all political. It’s political at the top and you have to be smart about stuff and I understand that. I want the heavyweight title and I believe there’s two guys. He’s around the same age as me, early 30′s. Not even in our prime; me v Pavlovich, people like that. Me, Pavlovich and Gane.
“I’d love to fight Jon Jones, that is my dream fight. I would love that because he’s one of my absolute heroes of the sport and yeah, I’d just love it. Do I believe it’s going to happen? I believe in a lot of stuff in my career, and I also believe that me believing in it helps me get stuff too. I’m one of them weirdos who manifests things and if I set my intentions on something and believe in it strongly enough and work towards it, then everything’s kind of going in the right path and it it’s got more chance of happening. I do believe that.
“Do I believe Jon Jones is going to stick around and I’m going to get my dream fight with him? I don’t know, I’m not 100% convinced that he’s going to stick around to be honest with you.”
On his arrival at the UFC main event, he added: “Born for it mate, absolutely born for it honestly. I feel like, as we just touched on a little bit, you need to account for that kind of stuff and what it’s going to be like. I know I can do it, and I think the percentage of professional athletes who can do it under that kind of pressure is a tiny percentage.
“I always knew I could do it you know, as weird as it sounds. You see people now who look like world beaters on regional level shows, and I was speaking to Mick Parkin who’s been in here training with me this morning who is in the UFC now.
“He had his first fight in London when I fought Tybura and he’s got another fight coming up, and I messaged him recently after a couple of guys from Cage Warriors went to the contender series and lost. They didn’t perform well, and I’ve watched them a lot on Cage Warriors the UK guys and stuff and they’re going off to the Contender Series.
“I’m comfortable sitting here saying that I know I can do it and it doesn’t faze me. If anything, I actually perform a lot better under the pressure than I do in the gym.”
“I wasn’t even surprised, you know (making it to UFC). When I came back from boxing I was just like I’m going to make this work and that’s it. I had no other choice because I had my twins, then I already have my older son, and I had the intention on getting to the UFC and I’m making it work. There was no two ways about it, this is going to work for me and there was no doubt in me then. When I came back from boxing, as I had a little dabble at that, and I was like that’s not for me. I’m going to come back and I’m going to make it work. After I won my second Cage Warriors fight, the UFC were on the phone wanted me in. I was like all right let’s do it, no problem.
“There was no tears moment, or ‘oh my God’ moment, it was like yeah this is where I’m supposed to be so let’s do it.
“I don’t want to sound cocky or anything because it wasn’t like that, but I literally just decided that this is going to work for me and there was no variable. I was just like, came back from boxing, I’m going to make this work and that’s it. Nothing’s coming in the way of it now, and nothing’s changed since. This is going to work for me and nothing’s stopping me, I’m going to be the heavyweight champion and that’s it.”
For more from Aspinall’s interview with bet365, you can watch the whole video at: https://news.bet365.com/en-gb/video/full-circle-with-tom-aspinall-and-adam-catterall/2023103011040757820.