UFC champ Tom Aspinall almost pulled out of title-winning fight at UFC 295

Random back pain almost robbed Tom Aspinall of the chance to win the UFC interim heavyweight title before he won it at UFC 295.

On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Aspinall revealed what happened to his back and just how close he was to pulling out of his fight with Sergei Pavlovich at this past Saturday’s pay-per-view event. A video he posted to social media showed him doubling over after throwing a punch in the gym.

“I just wanted to get one good spar under my belt before we basically leave and travel to the U.S.,” Aspinall said. “This was in the fourth round of sparring. Never experienced anything like it before. I just had a crazy back spasm, and my back just seized up. Nothing really even happened, and my back just stiffened up really badly. I was basically unable to work out from that point onward.”

A couple of days later, Aspinall contemplated pulling out of the fight. He couldn’t move or walk, and thus, he was unable to train for the biggest fight of his life.

Aspinall underwent treatment for his injury, and his outlook changed on whether he could compete.

“It did get a little better, and luckily, my team was amazing and just shifted everything around so I could get some really good treatment,” he said. “For a couple of days there, I just like, s***, what am I going to do?”

Aspinall took the fight on just over two weeks’ notice after heavyweight champ Jon Jones injured himself and was forced to withdraw from a fight with Stipe Miocic.

“I’ve accepted the fight, the world knows about the fight now, and I can’t move,” he said. “We got stuff working, but seriously, nearly the worst-case scenario out there. No training camp, and then the small training camp that we did within the two weeks, I couldn’t really participate in most of the stuff I was doing, anyway.

“So yeah, it was wild. It was absolutely crazy. I didn’t have a visa. I had to do a million phones with the visa thing, the travel, and go to London a couple of times, which is the opposite side of the country from where I live. So it was absolutely crazy.”

The U.K. vet didn’t tell the promotion about his injury troubles. Fight week was “a lot of anxiety” as the event approached.

“I was completely aware of what I put myself up against,” Aspinall said. “This guy, Sergei Pavlovich, has the most knockouts in the UFC. He’s on a six-fight, first-round knockout streak. Nobody wants to fight him, especially on two weeks’ notice.”

Luckily for Aspinall, what started as the worst-case scenario turned into the best-case scenario. After taking a few hard shots from Pavlovich in the opening moments of the fight, he found his footing and returned fire with a two-punch combination that sent the Russian to the canvas. With a few follow-ups, Aspinall realized his dream of becoming a UFC champion.

His back is fine now.

“It was just some freak thing that went on for a week,” he said. “It was really, really weird. It’s not like an ongoing injury. Everything’s fine. But it was just like my back seized up. A lot of anxiety over the last couple of weeks, to be honest. But I’ve been doing a lot of, I don’t want to say soul-searching, I’ve been doing a lot of knowing where I’m at, and finding what I’m like as a person.

“Ultimately, this is what draws me to this sport is, I want to find out what I’m like as a person. What is Tom like when s*** goes south? And a lot of stuff has been going south for me in this buildup, a lot of obstacles are coming my way. But as I kept saying in the pre-fight interviews, I know one thing for sure, I’m definitely not going to win the fight by watching it on TV.”

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