‘Nobody really knows what I can do’ says fit-again Aspinall

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Tom Aspinall is raring to go following a long lay-off and admitted even he does not know what he is capable of after a long-term right knee injury.

Aspinall made a dazzling start to his UFC career with five finishes in as many fights to move to the cusp of a heavyweight title shot, but he risked competing despite being compromised once too often.

He suffered a torn MCL, torn meniscus and damaged ACL last July after throwing a leg kick seconds into his showdown against Curtis Blaydes, which was stopped as Aspinall sunk to the canvas in obvious agony.

Tom Aspinall suffered his first defeat in the UFC last July (Adam Davy/PA)
Tom Aspinall suffered his first defeat in the UFC last July (Adam Davy/PA)

He told the PA news agency: “I had such a good surgeon, such a good physio and I feel that I’m in the best place I’ve ever been mentally and physically, and I can’t wait to show everybody where I’m at.

“Nobody really knows what I can do, even myself. I’ve done most of these fights without doing most aspects of MMA – I couldn’t be on my knees for too long and grapple which is a massive part of MMA.

“I couldn’t do long sessions, I couldn’t train for longer than an hour because my knee would just start swelling up, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t do footwork drills because my knee was so unstable.

“I just got a little bit too greedy, I just gambled on myself one too many times but now it’s done. I’m dealing with absolutely no pain and now it just feels great. It’s like I’ve got a new leg.”

While there were low moments in the days after his last fight, Aspinall was quickly able to get back in the gym but he used his time on the sidelines to recharge mentally following a busy past few years.

He said: “I feel like I needed a break. I just got to live a little bit normal without having the anxiety of having to fight someone in six weeks or eight weeks or different things coming up.

“I don’t want to do that again this summer, I’ve got that out of my system now, I can’t wait to get going again. But it was also nice to have a little break from it and just be normal for a little bit.”

As for how he handled the tough periods out of action, Aspinall revealed negative comments on social media have fuelled him.

The 30-year-old said: “I kind of like that. It fires me up big time, when someone’s like ‘he’s never going to be the same again after this injury’, they’re talking about the wrong guy.

“Definitely people saying that I can’t do it spurs me on, big time.”

Getting back into the win column against Tybura, ranked 10th, will put him a step closer to his ultimate aim of challenging for the UFC heavyweight crown, currently held by all-time great Jon Jones.

The American is a “dream opponent” for Aspinall but has been teasing retirement after a proposed bout with Stipe Miocic. Aspinall, a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, is content to work his way back for now.

Aspinall added: “I believe in it now more than ever. It was one of the worst experiences that I’ve ever had to go through. But the next few years are going to be very, very interesting.

“Whether Jon Jones will stick around or not, who knows? I’ve got a good few guys to take out before I start thinking about that.”

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