On Saturday, Blaydes faced off against Aspinall in the main event of UFC London. The bout was over practically before it began, with Aspinall injuring his knee just 15 seconds into the bout. Later that night, the British heavyweight posted a photo to his social media of the two sharing a beer in their hotel. Speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Blaydes revealed how the meet up came about.
“Random,” Blaydes said. “I was in my room, obviously we’re in the same hotel. My dad, I guess he was in the lobby downstairs at one of the bars in the lobby area. He was down there, and he bumped into Aspinall’s dad, and my dad is a talker. He’ll make friends with anybody. He’ll be your best friend if you guys have a drink.
“So I guess he got to talking, and then my dad walked into my room and was like, ‘Hey, let’s go up to Aspinall’s room. He wants to have a drink with you.’ So I was like, ‘OK, I’m down.’ So then we go up there, and they’re really nice. The whole Aspinall [crew], his whole squad, his dad, his uncle, everyone, even the women. Everyone was super nice, super cool...
“We were up there for like an hour. A good, solid hour. They were nice guys, and the atmosphere was very friendly, very inviting.”
Although an official diagnosis of Aspinall’s injury has not been revealed, the belief is that the English fighter suffered a tear to one the ligaments in his right knee, which will likely require surgery and some extended recovery time. For a man who was on the cusp of a title shot with a win, that’s a big blow, but Blaydes said Aspinall was in surprisingly good spirits when they met.
“He handled it very well – he was upbeat,” Blaydes said. “He was fine. He knows he’ll be back. He knows he’s young. He’s already better than Derrick Lewis, I think he’s better than Tuivasa; I think he’s better than Gane. I think he’s more well-rounded. He obviously has the wrestling, he has jiu-jitsu, he’s very athletic on the feet. I believe that he believes he’s going to bounce back, and I believe it also. I don’t think this is the end of Aspinall.”
The meet up with Aspinall might have even gone too well. Blaydes said after having a drink with the fighter and his team, it would be harder to fight him in the future when the two inevitably meet up.
“I wish I hadn’t gone up there, because now I like him!” Blaydes said. “I like the guy. You don’t want to fight someone you like, and I know we’re going to scrap again. I know, because he’s only 29, he’ll be back. I know he’s going to be out for eight, nine months, even a year, but he’ll be here, so I know we’re going to scrap again, and it’s hard to scrap a guy you like. ...
“I didn’t know anything about him [before]. I was in the middle. I was indifferent. I didn’t like him or not like him, but now he’s a nice guy. I know he’s got kids, he’s a dad, he’s a good dude. So it was nice to meet him. Nice having a beer.”
For the time being, that won’t be an issue. Aspinall likely will be out for months, if not a full year. In the meantime, the heavyweight division will march on. In September, Ciryl Gane faces Tai Tuivasa in the main event of UFC Paris, and with the heavyweight title picture in question, Blaydes wants to fight the winner of that fight in a title eliminator.
“In my head, that’s what I envision,” he said. “Who else is available? I’m not going to fight someone again who is ranked below me. I did it for Aspinall because again, I knew a win over him would be legitimate. He’s ranked [No. 6], but he could easily be top-five, so that was different.
“But I’m not going to fight someone below me. I want the winner of Gane-Tuivasa. I feel like I’ve earned it, I deserved it. I’ve been in the top-five since 2018, ever since I beat Alistair. I deserve a title-eliminator fight.”