Tom Aspinall won’t say he’s the best MMA heavyweight in the world. But he is the best MMA heavyweight in the world right now.
Aspinall can’t discount UFC heavyweight champ Jon Jones, who remains on the horizon after being forced to pull out of UFC 295 due to injury. But at this very moment, he believes he’s the best by default.
“That’s straight-up facts,” Aspinall said after UFC 295 on The MMA Hour. “I’m not trying to blow my own horn. Jon Jones is inactive right now. Francis Ngannou is inactive right now in MMA. As it stands right now, on today’s date, I am the No. 1 MMA athlete at heavyweight in the world.”
Aspinall fought on just over two weeks’ notice at UFC 295, taking on Sergei Pavlovich, who’d knocked out his previous six opponents in the first round. After getting clipped with a few shots, Aspinall found Pavlovich’s chin and put him down in 69 seconds, capturing the interim title put up in Jones’ absence.
The UFC has indicated it plans to preserve Jones vs. Stipe Miocic, the originally billed headliner for UFC 295. But the idea of waiting for the winner of the fight between aging legends has Aspinall pitching another idea.
“I think that Stipe and Jones is an absolutely amazing match up,” he said. “But in my opinion, that was an amazing matchup for this past weekend, and I feel like the shine of that fight has kind of gone. I don’t know how anybody else feels about that, but I feel like now, they need to make either me and John Jones, or me and Stipe, because what’s kind of the point in the other stuff? Let’s move forward, let me fight one of the legends now, and let me move forward with my career, as opposed to doing this other stuff and wait around.
“[Jones vs. Miocic] was amazing. That’s an amazing match up. But I don’t want to see that, and I don’t think anyone else wants to see that in a year’s time. Let’s move on from that now, and let me fight one of the legends and beat the legends.”
Aspinall hopes the UFC will agree and make new plans, particularly if the promotion is able to secure a U.K. arena that he could sell out in summer 2024.
“I know Stipe seems to be pretty hell bent that he wants to fight John, but I’m the champion right now,” Aspinall said. “I can sell out the UK shows, no drama, and I know these guys are looking to do a stadium over here. What a way to do it with a UK heavyweight champion of the world.”
Jones congratulated Aspinall on his win, an uncharacteristic gesture for a champion known to throw stones at potential challengers on social media. The former light heavyweight kingpin and current titleholder has reportedly looked at the Miocic bout as his swan song, but Aspinall hopes he can convince “Bones” to stick around longer.
“I’ve got a little taste of greatness now, and I want to keep that going,” he said. “I want to go down as the best heavyweight to ever step foot in the octagon, ever. I’ve just turned 30 years old. I’m perfectly capable of doing that.”