Tom Aspinall has always valued the slow and steady approach to his MMA career, preaching patience over an expedited road to a premature title shot. That philosophy felt even more prophetic once the UFC heavyweight championship landed in the hands on Jon Jones, a man widely considered to be one of the greatest fighters of all-time and a former UFC light heavyweight titleholder who waited 13 long years before finally moving up in weight.
But how about now?
At age 30, fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in July 2022 and set to headline the UFC’s return to London this Saturday against Marcin Tybura, does Aspinall finally feel ready to test himself against heavyweights like Jones, the very best in the world?
“Yes,” Aspinall confidently said at UFC London media day.
“That’s my dream fight,” he explained. “My goal in the future moving forward is not only to win [at UFC London], but I want to excite Jon Jones. Like, I want him to look at me and think — I keep saying it in interviews and stuff, but at this point he probably doesn’t know who I am. He probably doesn’t, and that’s fine. But I want him to watch me fight in the next few fights and think, ‘I need to stick around for this guy. This guy deserves [to fight me].’ I want him to look at me and think, ‘I need to test myself against this guy,’ and be excited about guys like me coming through and want to take that challenge.”
Aspinall may not be far away from getting what he wants.
The English powerhouse was 5-0 under the UFC banner until he suffered a freak knee injury just 15 seconds into his most recent outing against Curtis Blaydes. While the setback obviously forced Aspinall to the sidelines for a year of recovery, it did little to hurt his stock as one of the most promising up-and-comers in the heavyweight division. Aspinall remains a young, blue-chip talent in a weight class forever in need of fresh faces and new names, so he knows just one good performance in his UFC comeback could do wonders toward garnering him the kind of momentum that leads to a dream showdown with Jones.
“Heavyweight MMA kind of has its own rules, in my opinion,” Aspinall said. “If I’m, like, ranked No. 5 and I fight rank No. 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 the No. 1 contender. And that’s just the way it works, mate.
“It doesn’t always come down to rankings — it’s impressive performances. So it all depends on how the fight goes Saturday, what kind of finish am I going to get, what kind of win am I going to get, how the fight’s going to go. I don’t know, we’ll just see.”
At this stage of his career, Aspinall is confident he matches up “pretty good” with Jones.
The bigger question, however, is whether Jones will still be around by the time Aspinall climbs into the title picture.
Jones is currently slated to face ex-champ Stipe Miocic on Nov. 11 at UFC 295 in his first defense of the heavyweight belt. “Bones” has repeatedly teased that the fight could be the last of his legendary career, but Aspinall is determined to entice Jones to stick around. A statement-making performance against Tybrua could go a long way in that regard.
Because when asked about Jones vs. Miocic, Aspinall made it clear that he expects Jones to leave New York’s Madison Square Garden with the belt still wrapped around his waist.
“I think it’s interesting,” Aspinall said. “I think it’s difficult to pick a winner, really, because Stipe now is getting a little bit long in the the tooth, I would say. He’s got a lot of miles on the clock and he hasn’t fought for like two or three years now, and that’s going to be difficult. And yeah, I think it’s difficult to know where Stipe’s at, at this point; whereas, Jon Jones, we know exactly where he’s at, he’s just had a great performance.
“So it’s heavyweight MMA, you can never say exactly what’s going to happen at obviously the highest level, but I would say that Jon Jones has the edge, definitely.”