Campaigning publicly for such an opportunity is a different story. After trying and failing to get the current and former champs’ interest, he plans to forge his own path, wherever that leads.
Left in the lurch by a rescheduled title fight between Jones and Miocic, Aspinall believes it’s pretty obvious why he isn’t fighting either at the moment.
“I’m too dangerous, man,” he said. “Simple. I’m too risky for these guys. Who knows, one day maybe when the shoe’s on the other foot, and I’m on the back end of my career, I get put in a situation like that, I’ll do the same thing. I’m not blaming anybody.
“I want to say how much respect I have for both guys. These guys are friggin’ heroes of mine. That is part of the reason that I would love to get the opportunity to fight them. But if it’s not happening, it’s not happening. And the crying’s over.”
Aspinall volunteered to fight on the banner April 13 card in Las Vegas and said he was presented two separate options, neither of which came to fruition.
“They offered me Stipe, and I was like, of course,” Aspinall said. “And like one hour later, they came back and were like, ‘No, Stipe just wants to fight Jones.’ Then there were talks about Alex Pereira moving up to heavyweight. As I said, mate, I’m not the kind of guy who’s gonna start turning down fights. I’ve never turned down a fight in my life, and I’m not going to start now.
“When I started hearing rumors about that, me and Alex, we did a little bit of online flirting back and forward. But we have a couple of mutual friends, and it came to light that Alex isn’t gonna move up to heavyweight yet. I respect Alex, respect his decision. He’s a champion in his own right.
“Fair play. I’m not going to push for that anymore.”
UFC 300 remains without a headliner, to the great consternation of fight fans around the world. Aspinall isn’t ruling out an appearance on the spring card – after all, he won the interim belt on two weeks’ notice when Jones pulled out a UFC 295 headliner against Miocic due to injury and he faced Sergei Pavlovich.
Jones and Miocic are expected to meet later this year when Jones is healthy enough to compete. That means Aspinall faces a potentially long layoff if he chooses to wait for the winner.
The way Aspinall sees it now, he’s the true king of the heavyweight division, undisputed belt or not, and it’s beneath the king to complain when a challenger won’t fight.
“I did a little bit of online crying, and a lot of people are on my side, of course,” he said. “I’ve openly said, I don’t think the thing that’s going on with Jon Jones is right. I don’t think that the UFC’s decision is right. But that’s just my opinion, man. I state my opinion. I respect their opinion. I respect their decision. I respect everything that Jon Jones and the UFC have done and are doing, and a lot of people told me online, ‘Hey Tom, you need to stop crying.’
“And I thought, oh, you know what? I f****** need to stop crying about it. They’re right. I do need to stop crying. I need to move forward with it, and move on with my career, and prove that I’m the best, and that’s exactly what I intend on doing.”
In a recent interview, Jones didn’t outright dismiss the possibility of fighting Aspinall. But he also told the British heavyweight to stay active and keep winning fights.
“I absolutely agree,” Aspinall said. “I’ve shown nothing but respect for Jon Jones. I respect him more than a lot of people, put it that way. I respect everything that Jon Jones has done in the sport. It’s incredible and I appreciate the advice. I won’t let you hold me back.”