Tom Aspinall: The UK’s UFC Heavyweight Hope
By Jack Maher
Out of all the UK based fighters in the UFC, only one currently flies the flag in the heavyweight division.
UK fighters have made waves in divisions such as bantamweight, welterweight and middleweight over the years. But never has a fighter from the United Kingdom ever truly left their mark in the sport’s biggest division at the highest level. The country’s only real claim to relevancy in the division being that Alastair Overeem briefly lived in London as a child. Although Ian Freeman did briefly shine with a stunning upset win over Frank Mir back in 2002.
The recent emergence of Tom Aspinall however, means that this could be about to change.
Fighting out of the North-West of England, Aspinall burst on to the UFC scene last year, with two big stoppage wins over Jake Collier and Alan Baudot on Fight Island. The 27-year-old earned his stripes in BAMMA and Cage Warriors, and has looked great in his early UFC appearances.
Growing up competing in multiple combat sports, Aspinall can add his time spent in boxing, wrestling and Muay Thai to his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, on paper a very well-rounded base for a career in MMA.
Aspinall’s scheduled opponent for Saturday night, former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, is someone who will be looking to test the finer details of Aspinall’s skillset.
While Arlovski is no longer the king of the weight class, and hasn’t been for some time, the grizzly veteran has more than enough left to beat a raw and untested prospect.
If there are serious holes in Aspinall’s game, Arlovski will likely find them. While the main talking point of Aspinall’s UFC career so far has been his impressive speed and heavy hands, the 6ft 6in Englishman may need to call upon his wider set of talents to beat an opponent who has truly seen it all.
Never one to be star-struck however, Saturday night won’t be the first time Aspinall has been face to face with a big name; as he can list Tyson Fury among his old sparring partners, as well as training alongside fellow UFC fighters Darren Till and Mike Grundy at Team Kaobon in Liverpool. For a 9-2 fighter who’s wins have all came in the first round, Aspinall seemingly has experience beyond his years.
While it is too early to call just how far Aspinall will go in the sport, he is leading the way for British heavyweights in MMA, and a victory at the weekend on a UFC main card over a known name could potentially be the next step on his journey to finally establishing his country in the heavyweight division.
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