Fighting out of Team Kaobon’s gym in Liverpool, Tom Aspinall is the latest UFC recruit to be signed from Cage Warriors. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping, and Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Aspinall is the 93rd fighter to make the move.
After beginning his combat sports career as a professional boxer, Tom switched back to his amateur background and chose the MMA route. BAMMA signed him to fight in their heavyweight division before Cage Warriors allowed him to step up, and now that has led to him signing a UFC contract.
“I found it limited,” he revealed.
“I spent years getting good at grappling and it just felt like I’d wasted the years. I was sparring 10/12 and I’d get six rounds in and I’d be bored. With MMA there’s always something coming at you that you don’t see. I couldn’t see myself doing this for another ten years just punching each other.”
Aspinall’s last appearance on a Cage Warriors card was an explosive one, stopping Michael Ben Hamouda in the first round at CW107. It took just 56 seconds for Tom to get the job done after landing a beautiful straight right.
“That win couldn’t have gone any better but I’ve nowhere near scratched the surface in my fights of what I can do.”
Despite it appearing to fans that the knockout win grabbed the attention of the UFC, Tom revealed they had already been keeping an eye on his performances.
“The UFC had actually been interested in me for a bit but I wanted to get as much experience as possible before. They were interested in me two fights ago and it got to the point where the Cage warriors promoter came to me and said ‘look, I can’t match you anymore.’”
Making just the two appearances at Cage Warriors events, making the move to fight for the UFC may appear to some as being too quick, however there is more to the move than meets the eye.
“My coach was saying I can get people to agree to fight but getting them to show is another story. I just ran out of options really. I was left with none and that’s why I’ve gone to the UFC. As I said before, I wanted to get some more experience and find my feet but was left with no choice.”
The majority of press lesser known MMA organisations received being negative or simply none at all the big heavyweight couldn’t speak highly enough of Cage Warriors.
“I can’t say enough good stuff about Cage Warriors to be honest, they’ve been really good to me. You hear mixed stuff but I’m friends with a lot of fighters and it’s a small community MMA and before I signed I’d heard some mixed reviews but they’re reliable and it’s not surprising that good fighters go from Cage Warriors to the UFC because they treat fighters so well.”
“It’s a top organisation and I’d recommend it to any up-and-coming fighters who want to fight against good opponents and progress to the UFC.”
The chance to sign for Dana White’s UFC is the aspiration for every professional and amateur MMA fighter. Having the talent to realise that dream isn’t the only thing required however, as self-belief is equally as important with Tom being fully aware of this.
“I’m buzzing they want me and of course I’m grateful but I knew they’d want me eventually. It’s not really a surprise to me but the ultimate goal now is to be the UFC heavyweight champion.”
“I really believe that I’ve got the talent to make waves in the division, but I don’t want to burst onto the scene. I want to start by fighting guys on my level. I do really think I have what it takes to be UFC champion one day but I’m in no rush.”
Looking towards his debut in a UFC cage, Aspinall and his team haven’t been told of a date.
“The first quarter of next year. They normally do a London or Manchester show around March but at the minute I’m not that fussy. I just want to get in there, get some wins, earn some money, win a title and then get out.”
At just 26, Aspinall has a bright future ahead of him with the potential for a long career. The majority of the top ten in the heavyweight division in the UFC are all into their 30’s showing the up-and-coming fighters they can spend a long time at the very top.
This is only the beginning for Tom, with things only looking up from here.
Photo credit- Tom Aspinall Instagram account