‘Jones knows I exist!’ – Aspinall targets UFC belt

'Jones knows I exist!' - Aspinall targets UFC belt

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Tom Aspinall speaks to Michael Bisping after defeating Marcin Tybura
Aspinall has won six of seven UFC bouts with five first-round finishes

One year ago, Tom Aspinall laid on his back after losing to Curtis Blaydes at the O2 Arena, clutching an injured knee in agony which had haunted him throughout his seven-fight UFC career.

Aspinall first sustained the injury in 2020 but after it buckled against Blaydes in London – something Aspinall describes as “being one of the best things to ever happen to him” – he was forced to have surgery.

Now Aspinall, 30, trains without worrying that his leg might give way at any point, and it appears to have given him a new assertiveness inside and outside the octagon.

“I’m so well trained and I think now I’m really maturing as a person, as an adult, as an athlete and I think I’m going to be UFC heavyweight champion of the world,” said Aspinall.

Throughout the entirety of fight week, Aspinall appeared more confident than he ever has, answering questions from the media with class, honesty and a sense of humour.

In his post-fight news conference he repeatedly looked over to his team-mates and coaches from Manchester, thanking them for their help in his recovery from injury.

Aspinall’s 258lb muscular frame is bigger than he has ever weighed in for a UFC fight before, but that has not affected his speed inside the octagon.

During the one minute and 13 seconds he spent fighting Poland’s Tybura, Aspinall appeared just as quick, agile and technically sound as he ever has.

“I got in the octagon and I felt so calm, I’ve never felt as calm in my life,” said Aspinall.

“I could see everybody, feel everything and hear my coaches from the beginning. It was special.

“It was such a confidence builder for me, it really was. I knew I could do it, but to show everyone else I could do it.”

He continued: “I feel I have a lot of secrets people don’t know about in my game, and only really people who train with me loads know how good I am.

“I learned so much from [my injury] and really figured out who I am in the adversity of it all and what I want to do and who I want to surround myself with.

“I feel good about everything and really needed that reset.”

‘Jon Jones knows I exist!’

Previously when Aspinall has won convincingly in the UFC, he has been reluctant to call out his next opponent, often saying he is happy to fight anyone with whom the promotion sets him up.

But not this time.

During his time off injured, Aspinall refocused on his goal of becoming a UFC champion, and after dismantling Tybura, wasted no time in planning his route to that goal.

Confidence radiated from Aspinall as he assertively told the media he would travel to Paris on 2 September to set up a fight with the winner of Ciryl Gane and Serghei Spivac, before setting his sights on heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

American Jones is widely-regarded as the best mixed martial artist of all time and appeared to reply to Aspinall on Twitter,external-link writing “sounds good lol”.

Aspinall beamed with excitement when he was told about the tweet.

“Jon Jones knows I exist! That’s a win in itself, I’m buzzing with that,” he said.

“I want to win my fights going forward of course, but I want to motivate Jones to stick around and fight me, that’s the absolute dream.

“A guy from Atherton fighting Jon Jones, that would be incredible.”

Aspinall believes he has the game to beat Jones too.

The 36-year-old is also a former light-heavyweight champion and in 29 bouts, has lost only once via a disqualification.

“I think I match up well. I’m young, fresh, not got loads of miles on the clock,” said Aspinall.

“I’m big, fast, strong, heavy – not like a lot of opponents he’s fought in the past. And I think he knows that too.”

But he may have to get past Gane or Spivak first if the UFC set up that fight, and it looks like one in which the former is interested.

“Great performance Tom, careful what you wish for. See you in Paris,” Gane wrote on Twitter.external-link

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