BRITISH UFC star Tom Aspinall faces the biggest fight of his career next month (March).
And the title-hungry heavyweight knows an historic victory over veteran Alexander Volkov would catapult his blossoming career to another level.
Aspinall, who heralds from Wigan, has been making waves ever since he made his UFC debut in July 2020.
The 28-year-old has won all four of his matches – and impressively as well to set-up a mouth-watering showdown with Russian Volkov as the headline bout at UFC London on 19 March.
Aspinall’s clash with Volkov is a fight fans are salivating, not least because it pits the prospect against a proven champion.
Volkov has been starring in UFC since 2009 and former heavyweight champion in two different promotions of the sport.
But it is at UFC Fight Night 204, when the octagon returns to London’s O2 Arena, that the Aspinall and Volkov will both try and cement their own place in history.
And for a schoolboy who first got involved with mixed martial arts aged seven years old, it’s taken a 21-year journey for the North West fighter to earn his title-shot.
He followed in his father’s footsteps and enjoyed boxing and wrestling while many of his friends were focused on less physically-demanded pursuits.
It wasn’t long before a young Aspinall found his calling and, after a successful amateur career, he was happy to put his head on the parapet and make the leap to professional level.
Aspinall won five of his seven fights but, due to a lack of fights, became disillusioned with the sport and then disappeared from the scene over two years.
He made his comeback by agreeing a five-year deal to fight in Cage Warriors, the London-based cage-fighting company.
Again, it wasn’t long before the UFC came calling – and Aspinall’s career has taken off after impressive victories against Jake Collier, Alan Baudot, Andrei Arlovski and Sergey Spivak
It’s perhaps unsurprising that John Fury, father of boxes Tyson and Tommy, has already tipped him for the top.
“Tom Aspinall will do big things in the UFC,” declared Fury senior.
And he’s well-placed to judge having seen Aspinall spar with both his sons before making his name in UFC.
Aspinall recently revealed Tommy “smashed him up” when the pair used to spar together.
But Fury senior has no doubts about the 6ft 6” UFC star’s career prospects.
“He’ll probably be the first MMA fighter to do mega things in boxing as well,” added Fury senior.
Perhaps he will, but for now the UFC is understandably Aspinall’s focus as he tries to make headway in a brutal sport which has seen Conor McGregor become world famous.
Aspinall has finished all four of his opponents in the octagon, but Volkov has real pedigree.
He boasts an impressive record of 34 wins from his 43 professional fights, with 22 of them having been achieved by knockout.
Aspinall’s record of 11 wins from 13 fight is very respectable, but he lacks the experience of his Soviet opinion, having fought a third of his tally of contests.
And that’s why this fight is so intriguing as the rising star of the division tries to prove he can mix it with one of the UFC’s most experienced competitors.
Aspinall has won three of his fights inside the first round, with Arlovski having been the only fighter who has taken him in the second round.
A rear-naked choke hold saw off Arlovski in Las Vegas back in February 2021, before Aspinall wasted little time in dispensing with Spivak with a devastating combination of elbows and punches in his last fight in September.
It will have been a wait of six months before Aspinall finally fights again, but he will likely been unphased by the challenge and will undoubtedly look to buzz of the home support.
It’s been a three-year wait for the UFC to return to the UK, primarily because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It provides the perfect stage for Aspinall show prove what he is made of.
UFC Fight Night 204 confirmed fight card…thus far
Alexander Volkov vs Tom Aspinall (heavyweight)
Arnold Allen vs Dan Hooker (featherweight)
Paddy Pimblett vs Kazula Vargas (lightweight)
Molly McCann vs Luana Carolina (women’s flyweight)
Gunnar Nelson vs Claudio Silva (welterweight)
Nikita Krylov vs Paul Craig (light heavyweight)
Nathaniel Wood vs Liudvik Sholinian (bantamweight)
Jack Shore vs Timur Valiev (bantamweight)