After becoming the third British UFC champion ever, Tom Aspinall has a number of options for his next move… from a fight with Jon Jones to a potential defence of the interim title – what’s next for the heavyweight star?
- British star Tom Aspinall won the UFC’s interim heavyweight title on Saturday
- Here, Mail Sport takes a look at the options for the heavyweight heading forward
- Eddie Hearn on his greatest-ever boxing venue: Listen here to The Hook
On Saturday night, Tom Aspinall wrote his name in the history books after becoming just the third British champion ever in the UFC.
Aspinall joined retired star Michael Bisping and current welterweight champion Leon Edwards as a British UFC title-holder after beating Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 295.
Aspinall accepted the fight on short-notice, following an injury to heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but still managed to step up to the occasion and became the interim title holder.
However, with Jones set to be on the side-lines until mid-2024 and little other options for the 30-year-old, Aspinall may have come to a crossroads already.
So, here, Mail Sport takes a look at the potential options for Aspinall after becoming the UFC’s interim heavyweight champion.
British star Tom Aspinall claimed the UFC’s interim heavyweight title on Saturday night
Aspinall produced a stunning KO to defeat Sergei Pavlovich during the main event at UFC 295
Possible fight with Jon Jones
It’s no secret that Aspinall’s immediate goal would be to unify his heavyweight title by facing current champion Jon Jones.
Speaking after his win over Pavlovich, Aspinall confirmed such desires and suggested that Wembley stadium would be the perfect venue for the bout.
He said: ‘I’ve seen Jon talking nice stuff about me on a podcast as well, it’s really nice.
‘Obviously it’s always nice to hear nice things about you, but from someone like that who I massively look up to even more so. Thank you, Jon, and just give me the opportunity. Let me do it, give me my dream fight.
‘I think if we do the greatest fighter of all time versus the UK heavyweight champion of the UFC in the UK, that would be insane. Let’s do it.’
However, the American is set for a lengthy lay-off after he tore a tendon in his pectoral muscle and was ruled out for an initial eight months.
And, while the fight with two-time heavyweight champion Miocic will not happen in November, Jones still appears keen on the matchup in the future eventually.
Jon Jones had initially been scheduled to headline UFC 295 before pulling out with an injury
‘The goal is to get surgery and get back to work as soon as possible,’ Jones said. ‘I guess it’ll be Stipe and I at a later date and that’s my plan.’
UFC supremo Dana White agreed with Jones’ take when asked about the future of the heavyweight division after UFC 295.
When asked whether Aspinall has overtaken Miocic in the race to fight Jones, White said: ‘No. You do those two [Jones and Miocic]. Those two both deserve that fight.
‘That’s the fight they want. JJ, as soon as he heard that he was injured, went right to LA and got the surgery. He’s already in physical therapy’.
It means that, if Aspinall wants to fight Jones, he’ll likely have to sit on the sidelines up until next summer – which is unheard of for an interim champion.
UFC chief Dana White has said that Jones will fight Stipe Miocic for his comeback fight
Fighting the No. 1 Contender
Shortly after Aspinall’s stunning knockout against Pavlovich, the number one ranked heavyweight contender Ciryl Gane was quick to voice his opinion on social media.
Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, Gane wrote: ‘Congratulations, Tom. You are now the champion and become the one being pursued, and I am the hunter. See you soon’.
Gane’s last fight came in September, when he delivered a brutal second-round knockout against Serghei Spivac at UFC Paris.
Prior to that win, Gane was submitted within the first-round by Jon Jones, who ended a three-year lay-off by beating the French star.
While a fight with Gane would no doubt be welcomed by UFC fans across the globe, it would pose a, somewhat, unnecessary risk for Aspinall.
The British star essentially has a fight with Jones guaranteed, even if he has to wait after Miocic, but could jeopardise that with a match-up with Gane.
The Frenchman would pose a serious threat to Aspinall’s interim title and, having only been defeated by Jones and Francis Ngannou, could be a massive obstacle.
Should Aspinall take on Gane and lose, it would leave him without an interim title and, once again, needing to prove his credentials.
Ciryl Gane has called for a fight with Aspinall after watching the British star win on Saturday
A ‘filler’ fight until Jones is ready?
Despite the face that a unifying fight against Jones is what Aspinall wants and a interim defence against Gane is likely what fans want – neither are all too likely to happen.
Aspinall won’t wait until mid-2024 to fight Jones and a match-up with Gane, as previously discussed, is a high-risk low-reward fight for the Brit.
However, it still remains important that Aspinall stays active whilst he waits for Jones and, so, one fight in between a bout with ‘Bones’ still makes sense.
Thus, another option on the table for Aspinall is to fight a lesser contender while he waits for Jones and Miocic to settle their differences.
One likely contender for that is number seven ranked heavyweight Jailton Almeida, who recently recorded an impressive win over Derrick Lewis.
Almeida is known for his impressive grappling ability – which is rare in the heavyweight division – and could pose a unique threat to Aspinall’s interim title.
Rising Brazilian contender Jailton Almeida could work as a fight inbetween Aspinall vs Jones
The 32-year-old is unbeaten in his six UFC outings thus far and has been on a collision course with the top of the rankings since his arrival in the company.
A bout with Almeida would be nowhere near the risk that a bout with Gane would be and would keep the interim champion active until Jones is ready to return.
However, despite suggestions this would be a decent match-up, Aspinall suggested that Almeida should take on Gane – with the winner then facing him.
When speaking on a fight with Gane, Aspinall said during his post-fight press conference: ‘I think he should fight Almeida. I think them guys should fight eachother first and see what happens then’.
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