Tom Aspinall on ‘scary fight’ with Curtis Blaydes: ‘That pushes me to a whole new level’

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Tom Aspinall is planning to put on a show when the UFC returns to London this summer.

In March, Aspinall headlined the UFC’s first event in London in three years, and he did so in style, submitting Alexander Volkov in the first round, and sending the fans into a frenzy. The event was such a success that UFC President Dana White decided the company needed to run it back, and so now, Aspinall will headline the promotions return to the O2 Arena this summer, where he will be taking on divisional standout, Curtis Blaydes. And it’s a booking that Aspinall could not be more happy about.

“If they’re coming back to the U.K., obviously I’m not going to miss that opportunity,” Aspinall told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “That night in March, that was something special and if we have the opportunity to do anything even close to that again, I want to be a part of it. Why would I not? Why would I not want to be a part of something like that? I’m not going to pass that opportunity up, so we got it again. We’re going again. July 23, Aspinall vs. Blaydes, in the big smoke, in the O2 Arena, London, England, what more could you want?”

Blaydes, who is currently the No. 5-ranked heavyweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, presents another step up in competition for the ascending Aspinall. Though he has suffered some setbacks, Blaydes is one of the most well-respected fighters in the division and he’s coming off one of the best performances of his career, a second-round knockout of Chris Daukaus back in March. But Aspinall believes that the threat Blaydes poses to him is going to reveal new depths to his own game, which means another crowd-pleasing performance comes July.

“Curtis Blaydes is probably the toughest fight in the division for me stylistically,” Aspinall said. “But I’m okay with that because that pushes me to a whole new level. That pushes me to levels I’ve never been before, and that’s what I need. If I’m with someone that’s going to make me comfortable, I’m going to stay exactly where I am and do the exact same work that I’ve been doing. If you’re going to give me someone that I think is a scary fight and you’re going to give me fear, you don’t want to see me scared, because I end up doing stuff like I did in the O2 the time I fought. I end up doing some crazy stuff that I’ve never done before. So me with a massive fight with a really tough guy, that’s dangerous. That’s dangerous for any heavyweight.”

Outside of the nuts and bolts of the matchup, the fight is an interesting one for the heavyweight division. With champion Francis Ngannou currently sidelined, the UFC is reportedly looking to make an interim title fight between two-time champion Stipe Miocic and two-time light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but thus far nothing has been set. Meanwhile, two of the division’s other top fighters, one-time interim champion Ciryl Gane and fan-favorite Tai Tuivasa are set to face off in September in a bout that could have title implications. So for Aspinall, while a win over Blaydes would be the biggest of his career, it still might not set him up for a title shot.

And, ever the patient man, Aspinall is perfectly alright with waiting.

“I’m not even interested in it,” he said. “I’m not. I never thought that I was going to be talking about a title after five UFC fights, six UFC fights. I feel like I’ve got more work to do. I’ve got a lot more work to do, more proving. I don’t want to be one of these people who gets here by talking. That is not me.”

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