Redemption Song: Tom Aspinall Looks To Put His Lost Year Behind Him At UFC London

The Manchester heavyweight returns at the O2
08:00, 20 Jul 2023

It was supposed to be Tom Aspinall’s big night. A coming-out party against UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes in his home country at the O2 Arena in London. Their five-round main event promised fireworks. Two big-hitters on the cusp of a title opportunity. It was over in 15 seconds. For Aspinall, the ramifications would last for a year.

15 seconds into the fight, a seemingly innocuous two-punch combination from Blaydes barely glanced Aspinall. The Manchester fighter took evasive action but fell to the ground holding his knee. The fight was stopped and Blaydes declared the winner mere seconds into the London main event. That ruling, a quirk of UFC rules, will have hurt. But the long-term damage was the real concern for a fighter who had enjoyed an immense sense of momentum in recent times.


The damage was severe. Aspinall suffered a torn MCL, torn meniscus and damaged ACL. In an interview with UFC.com, the upbeat fighter joked, “The last time I went this long without punching something, I was 14 years old”. But he gets that chance on Saturday as he takes on Marcin Tybura. Aspinall returns to the scene of the crime at the O2 Arena in London hoping this time, his heavyweight main event ends in joy rather than heartbreak.

Former M-1 Global heavyweight king Tybura is a worthy but not insurmountable foe. Not a noted knockout artist, he had begun stringing stoppages together before Alexander Volkov beat him in 2021. Tybura has racked up two decision victories since and holds the 10th position in the heavyweight rankings.

Aspinall is up in fifth in the ratings as he edges towards his goal of becoming the first British UFC Heavyweight Champion in history. The current king is pound-for-pound great Jon Jones. It is a fight Aspinall called “a dream fight” on social media and one he would relish “when I deserve it”. After being robbed of a year of his career, Aspinall knows he can’t afford to slip up against Tybura if he is to prove deserving of such a bout.


The British big man had been in the form of his life before the Blaydes setback. 5-0 in the UFC with every opponent stopped before the final bell. The likes of ex-champion Andrei Arlovski and current seventh-ranked contender Alexander Volkov were dealt with in impressive fashion. Finally, it seemed, Britain had a heavyweight worthy of replicating the achievements of Leon Edwards at welterweight and Michael Bisping at middleweight. Perhaps Britain could have a UFC Heavyweight Champion to call its own.

The knee injury put paid to that, at least for now. But a strong showing in London will get this train back on the track. At the age of 30, Aspinall has time on his side. But that time is not limitless. Another defeat here would send him to the back of the line. MMA isn’t structured like boxing and a loss would not be fatal. But with an entire division jockeying for position and a payday against Jon Jones, any setback would be tough to come back from. 

Aspinall won’t be thinking like that, nor should he be. This isn’t a precarious stumble to avoid defeat, this is a confident stride towards redemption. Aspinall has lost a year of his career and he wants it back. A strong showing at the O2, the very building that houses his greatest disappointment, can be his first step towards his finest achievement. The UFC Heavyweight Championship beckons. Will Tom Aspinall become the first British fighter to answer the call?

aspinall vs tybura*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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