Aspinall in no rush as Britain’s UFC heavyweight hope eyes title-winning legacy

Tom Aspinall goes in search of a fourth straight UFC win when he faces Sergey Spivak exclusively live on BT Sport this Saturday evening – but don’t expect any big-name call outs if the Salford man gets his hand raised.

By George Mills Published: 1 September 2021 - 10.35am

The mantle of Britain’s ‘next big thing’ has been both a blessing and a curse to those who have been christened in the role over the past few years.

For all the opportunities that follow, the pressure of fulfilling that potential can weigh heavy on a fighter, rushing them through doors they’re not yet ready to open.

Tom Aspinall need only look across the mats at Team Kaobon comrade Darren Till’s early journey in the UFC to remember the perils of having too much too soon.

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Till burst into title contention in the welterweight division over the course of a whirlwind 18 months beginning back in 2017.

But heading into a fast-tracked title shot against Tyron Woodley at UFC 228 in September 2018, Till had really only defeated two ranked opponents in Donald Cerrone and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, the latter in a controversial decision on home soil, before facing the dominant king of the division.

Since then, Till has won just once through a mixture of injury, inconsistency and bad luck – but with a little more patience on his route to the summit of the 170lb division, might things have turned out differently?

Maybe so. But Aspinall is clear that he does not want to countenance those same doubts over his readiness when he does reach the heady heights of title contention.

Speaking exclusively to BT Sport’s Nick Peet this week, the Salford powerhouse explained why he won’t be jumping into battle with any of the top contenders any time soon.

“We’re all going to have to fight each other anyway,” the 28-year-old said.

“So what’s the rush? Let those guys all fght each other and then I’ll be a couple of years behind them. I’m not in any rush to get up there. I’ve got a lot more experience to gain first before I start attacking that [group].

“I ain’t lacking confidence. That’s one thing I don’t lack. Go and watch me fight”
- Tom Aspinall

“I say stuff like that and people say ‘he’s lacking confidence’. I ain’t lacking confidence. That’s one thing I don’t lack. Go and watch me fight.

“But I am smart. I won’t do stuff that I don’t feel like I’m ready to do or because someone else wants me to do it. I will do exactly what me and the team want to do and do it at the right time.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys go up quick and down even quicker. I don’t want to be like that.”

But former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping believes challenges may arrive at Aspinall’s door faster than anticipated if he continues his ascent through the heavyweight division.

How to watch

Click here for your ultimate viewing guide for UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Till on BT Sport.

“Unfortunately, he’ll become a victim of his own success if continues beating people, that is what’s going to happen” Bisping said.

“He just beat Andrei Arlovski, a former champion and a legend of the sport.

“However, Andrei is, with respect, towards the end of his career. Tom still passed the test with flying colours.

“Now he’s facing [Sergei] Spivak who’s not a name brand but if you know the sport you know he’s a tough guy and he’s ranked. If he beats him, Tom’s going to move up the rankings and then it’s nothing but ranked opponents.

“If he continues to win, a year passes, two more fights or three more fights – if he wins three fights, he is 100% in title contention this time next year.

“That’s the way it goes, welcome to the UFC.”

So what can we expect from Aspinall when he makes his fourth Octagon walk this weekend?

The 10-2 fighter is making a name for himself as a clinical finisher, picking up two performance bonuses inside his first three UFC appearances.

Relying on eye-catching speed and distance control learned during his early years training as a boxer alongside the Fury family, Aspinall cuts a composed figure inside the Octagon despite his venomous intent.

Aspinall had originally been slated to fight Russia’s Sergei Pavlovich before a late change of opponent saw Moldovan Sergei Spivak get the call up on a week’s notice.

Arguably a more well-rounded fighter than Pavlovich, Spivak may well bring out the best of Aspinall yet with the Brit not needing to turn to his grappling with any consistency in the UFC.

But with six submission wins to his name, Spivak may present jiu-jitsu black belt Aspinall with a slightly different look than he has seen so far in the promotion.

Whatever happens on Saturday night, one thing is for certain: we’re watching a star in the making in Tom Aspinall.

Make sure you catch every minute of the action on a cracking evening dominated by British talent this Saturday evening, exclusively live on BT Sport 2 HD from 7pm.