Tom Aspinall exclusive: 'That's an excellent fight for me... I'd love that'
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Tom Aspinall doesn't want to waste any time once he's done with Marcin Tybura at UFC London as he's eyeing the division's best, including Jon Jones - but he's not holding his breath for the current UFC heavyweight champion.
Aspinall had reeled off five impressive wins inside the famed Octagon before his crushing 15-second defeat to Curtis Blaydes at UFC London last summer.
He suffered a devastating knee injury in the main-event of the O2 Arena card, snapping his winning streak. But the 30-year-old is fit and raring to go as he headlines the highly-anticipated UFC London show on July 22.
He takes on Poland's Tybura and he's eager to make a 'massive statement' to reintroduce himself in the UFC heavyweight division. The fifth-ranked UFC contender is plotting big things after his return bout and even has his sights set on Jones, who returned to the promotion by claiming the vacant UFC heavyweight strap.
Asked about his trajectory amid enduring his first loss in the UFC, he told SPORTbible: "The division has completely changed since I last fought a year ago. Obviously, the champs left, we've got a new champ who is one of the best ever, being Jon Jones. A couple of guys at the top have took losses and stuff.
"The division is in a good spot. They've got a lot of up-and-coming contenders who're young. Because the heavyweight division used to be full of swingers and brawlers and guys who're in the back end of the career, whereas now it's a lot of contenders who are in their prime or not even in the prime yet, so I think it's a great time to be a heavyweight."
Former foe Blaydes, former UFC heavyweight king Stipe Miocic, Sergei Pavlovich, Ciryl Gane and Jones currently sit above Aspinall in the UFC heavyweight division. He's targetting them all and hopes to land a No.1 contender bout to fight for UFC gold.
"I think they're all interesting fights to be honest. As soon as I get this fight done, I can start looking at fighting for No.1 contender spot," he said. "I'm not looking past this guy at all; I think that's where a lot of his opponents have gone wrong. He doesn't have the best physique in the world. He doesn't do anything particularly dangerous or spectacular that catches your eye, so people just look past him. And I'm definitely not going to do that. I'm taking this guy more seriously than I've ever took any guy before. This is got to be a massive statement win for me. I'm taking him very, very serious."
As mentioned, Jones beat Gane to claim the UFC heavyweight title. Despite the Frenchman's defeat, Aspinall likes the bout against him, stating it's an 'excellent fight' and a contest he'd 'love'.
On potentially fighting 'Bon Gamin', he said: "Absolutely. That's an excellent fight for me. I'd love that."
Aspinall rates Gane highly but doesn't think he fared well against 'Bones' at UFC 285.
"I don't think he did very well," he exclaimed. "To be honest, I don't think anybody can say that he did very well. I'm sure he'll tell you that himself.
"I think he made a couple of errors in the fight, and he just couldn't come back from it. When you're fighting a guy like Jones, you just can't afford to make them kind of errors, because he's so good and experienced that you'll struggle to get him off, basically. And he just really struggled with that.
"You just can't make an error. You can't afford to come back at the top level. It's too difficult."
Jones appears set to face Miocic next. It could be his final outing in the UFC, having flirted with the idea of walking away from the sport.
That'd disappoint Aspinall, who expressed his desire to face the fighter considered the GOAT of MMA. But being the UFC heavyweight champion is what matters to him the most.
"I'd be slightly disappointed. But what matters to me is being the UFC heavyweight champion. That's what matters to me," he admitted. "I'm not bothered if it's against Jon Jones. It would be nice. It'd be really nice to fight him, and I say fought him. But I wouldn't be too bothered if he left. He can do whatever he wants. The guy's one of the best to ever do it. He's not going to hang around for me."
So, Aspinall could potentially fight for the vacant UFC heavyweight title in early 2024 if Jones does indeed retire this year. Should Gane return to the win column while the Brit gets another win before the year's out, it could set up a monstrous Aspinall vs. Gane showdown for the UFC heavyweight championship. Of course, a very hypothetical situation, but a scenario which Aspinall positively likes.
"That'd be nice," he added. "When you dress it up like that. That sounds very nice. But at the same time, it's just hypothetical at the moment."
Tom Aspinall will be fighting at the O2 London for UFC FIGHT NIGHT: ASPINALL vs. TYBURA. To book your tickets, please visit, https://www.axs.com/uk/events/482598/ufc-fight-night-tickets.