Tom Aspinall Exclusive Interviews with OLBG

Updated: 531 Boxing and MMA

Tom Aspinall regularly talks to OLBG about his career, and gives his views on other fighters and news in the UFC. His latest interview with us was in February 2023.

Tom Aspinall Exclusive Interviews with OLBG
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Update: January 2024 - I have received death threats for calling out Jon Jones

Interim UFC heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall discusses the fallout from challenging Jon Jones, reveals receiving death threats, believes he's a nightmare matchup for Jones, and anticipates a rematch with Curtis Blaydes in the UK as a likely next fight.

Speaking to OLBG, interim UFC heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall says his campaign to fight Jon Jones is over and picks a rematch with American Curtis Blaydes as his most likely option.

Q. You have received a bit of a backlash for calling out Jon Jones, why? 

TA: “It's still something I'm trying to deal with myself. People on the internet are wild. You have to kind of see it for what it is. It's not real life, a lot of it comes from jealousy. People don't like to see other people do well, unfortunately that's the way of the world. With a lot of love comes a lot of hate as well. That's the way the cookie crumbles unfortunately.” 

Q. How does it affect you?

TA:  “I'm human so it affects me sometimes. But I try to just turn a blind eye to it and just crack on. The internet is a strange place. I clicked on my message requests by accident the other day and people are sending me death threats for wanting to fight Jon Jones, who's the best in the world and it's madness. You just think what the f*** is going on in your life that you want to say that you want to kill somebody else because they want to fight, it's madness.”

Q. Can you explain the back and forth with Jones from your point of view?

TA: “It's quite simple, I want to fight Jones but Jones wants to fight Miocic and that's it. Jones is great at deflecting the truth; he's like a politician. When I start talking about wanting to fight him he starts talking about resumes and history and the things that he's done that's better than me. I have no qualms whatsoever about saying that his resume is better than mine. What I say in return is - it doesn't matter about resumes, I just want to fight him and beat him right now and he doesn't want to do that. There's not one interview, one post, one clip anywhere online where Jon Jones says he wants to fight me. I don't know why. I don't want to be the guy that says he's scared to fight me because the guy had a million fights and fought millions of good people, but I know one thing for sure, he is not keen on fighting me right now.”

Q. Why?

TA: “Jon Jones is smart and he's taking the easier fight for more money. If the shoe was on the other foot, I'd do exactly the same thing. The guy is going to get a lot more money for fighting Stipe, probably, and it's going be way easier of a fight as well. Jones doesn't feel he needs to jump in with a young dangerous guy with no miles on the clock. He'd rather jump in with 40 year old Stipe who hasn't fought for four years. It's obvious that's what he's doing, anybody with a brain would do that.” 

Q. What are the UFC saying?

TA: “The UFC do not want it, I don't know why this is happening, money I guess, I don't know what's going on, it's completely unheard of that when you've got a healthy champion - and I know Jon Jones isn't healthy at the moment but he will become healthy - and when he returns it's completely unheard of [to not make the fight between champions]. It's strange. People say 'I knew it was going to happen this way when I took the interim fight' - I didn't. I thought that the interim fight meant I'd get the next shot and I'm quite disappointed that I've been put to the side, so I'm stuck and I don't really like it.”

Q. He said you would not add to his legacy?

TA: “The guy is trying to give everyone a history lesson everytime he speaks and I respect what he's done so much, but we're talking about right now, we are not talking five years ago, so will I add to his legacy? Probably not as much as Stipe to be honest. I do understand his side of things but I'd wish he'd come out and say 'Tom, I'm not fighting you and these are the reasons why’-  the ones we've just talked about, but he won't.” 

Q. Does Aspinall-Jones ever happen?

TA: “No I don’t think so, I think he will retire before he fights me. He's already said as much. He's a smart guy and a politician the way he deflects questions and sneakily says he's the guy that's going to retire and not stick around longer than he should.”

Q. Why do you beat Jones?

TA: “I definitely don't have as many miles on the clock as Jon Jones, I'm younger and I'm fresher, bigger and faster. I'm a nightmare for Jon Jones and we both know it. But Jones is a smart guy and it's not about putting Jon down at all, it's actually doing the opposite, but fair play that he's sticking to the road he wants to stick to, he's got the UFC on board with it, which is the important thing.” 

Q: Is the campaign to fight him over?

TA: “He knows I'm trying to fight him and I'm not that guy who's going to keep crying about it. I've had a go, he doesn't want it, I'm not going to keep going for it. That's it. Hopefully the Blaydes fight, or the next fight with whoever that may be against will be enough to make Jon Jones stick around to fight me, and that's it, I can't really do anything else.”

Q. What will Jones-Miocic look like?

TA: “You've got to respect both guys, the resume on them is incredible but I don't think it's unfair to say that they're both past their time at this point, so that fight would look like two extremely crafty veterans - guys who are both champions in their own right and two of the best to ever do it-  but the fight would be a slowed down older version of that for sure.”

Q. What are the options if Jones is tied up?

TA: “With the Jon Jones palaver and the all the politics around that, I was thinking maybe they'd give me some freak show kind of fight against Brock Lesnar, or maybe at UFC 300 they'd do something a bit out there like Alex Pereira, but that doesn't look likely now, I have absolutely no idea about my next move, I'm kind of waiting about. 

Q. Will you be ready for UFC 300 if an opportunity presents itself?

TA: “I absolutely would be ready for UFC 300, I believe now it's about three months away and I have been training twice a day since a week after my last fight, so my body is in good shape right now. I could easily turn it up a few notches and be ready for UFC 300.  But there isn't really a realistic opponent. The only realistic ones would be Pereira or Lesnar and they're not really realistic. Everyone else is kind of tied up right now so my hands are tied.”

Q. What would it be like to face Lesnar?

TA: “I'm a WWE fan, so I am a fan of Brock Lesnar, so if he's fighting I'm watching. Just because it's fun, I'm not particularly a fan of his fighting style, I don't think he's particularly exciting and he's in his mid to late 40s now. But if he's fighting I'm watching. And of course I'd be excited to fight him, just from a fun angle and the bants of it all, saying I fought Brock Lesnar would be pretty cool.”

Q. What do you want to happen next?

TA: “I feel like I should be fighting for an undisputed title, that is the reason why I took a risk in fighting Pavlovich in New York, to put me next in line for the undisputed title. I thought that is what the interim title was for, but apparently that's not the case right now and it's all politics going on at the top.

Q. Bisping said you may be reluctant to defend the interim?

TA: “I'm not anti-defending the interim title at all, but in an ideal world, I want my next fight to be for undisputed, but it doesn't look like the UFC will strip Jones, so one of them would probably have to get injured or something like that and I'm definitely not banking on another man getting injured. I'm on my own journey but if one of them does get injured and can't make the fight I will be ready to step in.” 

Q. What’s the most likely scenario for you?

TA: “I think that I'll have a rematch with Curtis Blaydes in the UK. I win that and then the UFC have no choice but to have me fight for the undisputed title, in that case I'd have to wait out to see what happens with Jones and Miocic. But I'm a fighter and I just want to fight. I want big fights and I want the fights for all the glory. I feel like I've proved that to this point. I've been getting a lot of hate and pressure online from people just for saying that I want to fight the best guys in the world. That's what fighting and being the champion is about. The champion is the guy who beats all the other guys and I'm just trying to be that. I'm not being entitled or political or anything like that. I'm trying to be the guy who beats the other guys. I'm not trying to offend anyone or step on anyone's toes.” 

How motivated are you for Blaydes?

TA: “I'm motivated by every fighter, they're the most dangerous guys in the world. But I've got one loss on my record and it's by injury to Blaydes. And if he wins his next fight - which is a tough fight - if he wins it makes sense to do me and him again at this point, because let's be honest, I'm not going to get Jones or Miocic fight the way it's going. There's roadblocks everywhere and it doesn't sit very well with me. And there's nothing against Blaydes, I respect him a lot, he has my respect more than most people in the division. I like Curtis but professionally he has a win over me and I don't want him to.”

Q. AJ-Ngannou?

TA: “I think it's great what Ngannou has done, I didn't give him a chance against Fury and I think the fight could have gone either way. I think it's great he's got this other massive fight coming up against Anthony Joshua and he's getting paid loads of money. He's obviously an absolute specimen. He's obviously a much better boxer than everyone thought. I think his chances are quite high, beating Joshua. If you have asked me that question one year ago I would have said Joshua would have smoked Ngannou easily- in Joshua's last fight he looked really really good, he was really letting his hands go which we haven't seen in a while-  but it's a 50/50 fight who, knows what happens.”

Q. How is training with world strongest man Eddie Hall getting on?

TA: “Eddie is a strong guy; he was literally at one point the strongest man in the world. But lifting weights up and down - it only translates to MMA to a degree and at the same time doesn't help you that much, so Eddie's quite raw and he's been training for four or five months now and he's in this MMA tournament with a couple other strong men in it in Qatar next month. Eddie comes up and trains with us once or twice a week, he is an all-round athlete but when it comes to MMA technique he's pretty raw but the guy he's he's going to be fighting are going to be the same level as him so it's going to be entertaining and I'm looking forward to it and I'm probably going go over and watch it. Eddie has asked me to go with him so I'm probably going to go. I'm not sure if he wants me in his corner.”

TA: “The guy is f****** massive, he's like six three, hundred and eighty  kilos, he's a big dude and he's very athletic for a man his size and in the small amount of time he's been doing it he has definitely improved and for the level he's fighting at he'll definitely do just fine.” 

UPDATE: July 2023 - I am the Messi of MMA, I snubbed Chael Sonnen to be like Khabib and GSP, I’ve trained for Tybura like he is Jon Jones

  • Just like Lionel Messi, ‘my fight IQ and my decision making is better than anybody else’
  • I will feel unsettled until I knock Marcin Tybura out at the 02 Arena
  • I want to make as much money as possible, but I won’t be like Conor McGregor or Chael Sonnen to do it
  • I don't give up sex before a fight, but hypnotherapy has been brilliant

Just like Lionel Messi, ‘my fight IQ and my decision making is better than anybody else’

TA: “I think a lot of people look past the Tybura and that's silly. I think a lot of his opponents have done that because he doesn't have the flashiest style and he doesn't have a super dangerous technique. I think that people look past him and that's completely the wrong thing to do because he's been in the top ten for years, he's won seven of his last eight at heavyweight, that's an unbelievable record.

“But on the other hand you're talking about me being healthy now, and you're talking about me in a very good mental space, the best that I've ever been in my career. He's got a lot of fights, he's got a lot of experience, but as a reference to football, there's loads of footballers that can tackle, but when Messi runs at them full blast, they can’t get near him, and that's how it is with me. 

“I'm very intelligent as a fighter, a lot of people look past my decision making. I feel like I'm one of the best decision makers in MMA. I see openings and capitalise in a split second. People say I'm really fast and he just wins his fights with speed, but I think that my fight IQ and my decision making is better than anybody else.  I'm really, really smart and it’s not something that a lot of heavyweights have. They have a lot of knockouts and if they get on top of you it's going be hard to get them off, I'm not that I'm not saying that can’t happen. But what I'm saying is that my fight IQ is extremely high in comparison to a lot of the other guys in my division.”

“I like Tybura as a person, he's a very nice guy, and I have met him on multiple occasions, I know his coaches and his friends, we’ve got mutual friends. But the poor fellow is getting me on my absolute best day. It's going to be a very bad time for him because right now he's the guy who's coming between me and the upper echelon of the division, which is where I want to be, and I want to be fighting for the title. I'm not messing about anymore. I’m not taking my time anymore, and he's the guy who's in my way right now, and I've been training for this guy like I'm training for Jon Jones.”

“I’ll feel quite unsettled until I go in there and knock somebody out.”

TA: “I’ll feel quite unsettled until I go in there and knock somebody out. That's what I want to do. The last fight I had was a year ago, and it was embarrassing, and it didn't end well, and I got injured. I’m a winner and it hurts to know that I've gone like over a year without winning. I want to go in there and win and I'll be a bit on edge until I can go in there and get back to what I'm good at, which is winning and not being injured; I’m sick of being injured, I'm sick of being on the sideline and everyone asking about my knee. I just want to get in there and just put that behind me. I want to put that to bed. I just move forward.”

Chael Sonnen actually said that he was open to helping me out” but I’m modelling myself on respectful figures like Khabib and GSP

TA: “Me and Chael Sonnen have spoken a lot since he made those comments, so I can kind of relate to it a bit more after speaking to him a little bit more. I feel like the American way of selling a fight is a little different, just because you don't have a brash personality doesn't mean that you don't have a good personality. And I think the way that he looks at it from his perspective, he’s see’s promoting a fight a bit like pro wrestling, in your face kind of way, and I don't think that necessarily translates to having a good personality, in my opinion. You have just got to look at GSP and Khabib, two of the most popular guys to ever fight in the sport of and very, very nice people and respectful, humble people, who don't go out of their way to sell a fight.”

“I don't think a lot of these guys put on an act in terms of Chael Sonnen, Conor McGregor, Colby Covington, I just think they just play up a little bit, making their own personality traits bigger for the cameras. I just don't really have an interest in doing that.  I want to make as much money as I can out of sport. But I also want to do it by being myself. I think people like GSP and Khabib did that really well and they were still very successful and popular as well. I definitely don't want to fight, and then nobody knows who I am, I definitely don't want that. So it's just finding that middle ground where you need people to be invested enough that they want to watch you, but also you don't want to be swept under the rug as well. 

“When we both explained our points, he understood my point a bit more. Chael actually said that he was open to helping me out with that kind of stuff which I do appreciate. I can speak to Chael If I need help selling myself and telling my story a little bit more, which is definitely something I could do a little bit better.”

“I don't give up sex before a fight..but hypnotherapy has been brilliant”

TA: If there’s anything that can give me a half percent improvement, I'm doing it. I’m taking all the supplements I'm allowed to take. I’m sleeping in the spare room every night. I'm making sure I get eight hours of sleep. I’m napping during the day. It's not. I do hypnotherapy twice a week. I do cold water, I do saunas. I do massage. I do absolutely anything for a half a percent. If I can get half a percent better at anything; recovery, mindset, technique, skill. I'm doing that.

No. I don't give up sex before a fight. I don't see why people would, to be honest.  I just don't get why people would, I don't really understand that. I see people don't do it like two weeks before and then you think , well, you've done it all the time that you're sparring, so when your training is tapering off, why stop it then? It's weird. I don't understand it. I don't know. I've never actually done it. But I don't really want to do it either.”

“Hypnotherapy is fantastic. I just feel like it just brings my anxiety level down in general. I think that most of my performance is anxiety based, because when I fight I'm super sharp, because I'm so anxious. You definitely need a level of anxiety, but saying that if you can keep it at bay and not let it overtake you, which is what's happening with my hypnotherapy. I feel like that's helped me massively and just made my general mood a lot better.”

“I never wanted the O2 to be a place that's taboo or bad luck because it's not.”

TA: “If I could have chosen anywhere in the world to fight it would be at the O2 because I never wanted the O2 to be a place that's taboo or bad luck because it's not. I want to go in there and redeem myself and put some good memories back in there. I don't want it to end with me getting injured. It’s a special place for me and I want it to continue to be a special place, and I feel like I owe a lot to the UK fans to go in there and show them I'm just not that guy who falls over with a sore knee after 15 seconds. I want to be the guy who's known as the next UFC heavyweight champion.

“I'm going to go in there and fight. I have to focus on that. Not all this other stuff. I need to go in there and enjoy myself and not let that outside noise bother me because that's when emotions will start running a little bit high, and with my style, I'm emotionless. I can't be over emotional about anything because it affects me. So I've got to be in there and be as calm as possible, and that's when I'll deliver.”

“I'm not just going to turn up to someone's Dad's sixtieth, just because they've asked me to go”

TA: “I've not trained with anybody other than a heavyweight for nine months. I feel like as a heavyweight, there's no place really to be training with anybody but heavyweights. The difference that it makes on your body is absolutely massive. If you're a big, heavy guy and you're training with guys who are not big and heavy, it's quite easy on the body. It's quite unrealistic.”

“I’ve said no to interviews and social stuff - I feel like I'm being selfish, but in a good way. I feel like I've just got a lot more mental clarity from saying no to people, and being a bit more firm and strict about everything, it just pays off massively, because now I'm in a really good routine and I feel like I'm recovering from my sessions really well. 

“I'm not turning up to social events that I shouldn't be at. I'm not just going to turn up to someone's Dad's sixtieth, just because they've asked me to go. And that's what I was doing before and I was doing interviews with people with barely any following, just because somebody I know asked me to do it. I'm just not doing that kind of stuff anymore. 

“I've got to be very, very selfish. I've got to remember that like I'm one of the top athletes in the world, and I'm trying to be the top athlete in the world, and I have to take it very, very seriously, and that that doesn't just come in the gym, that comes outside the gym as well.”

UPDATE: February 2023 Exclusive Interview ahead of Jake Paul v Tommy Fury

The whole world would watch Fury vs Ngannou 

“Tyson Fury said he wants to fight Francis Ngannou in MMA gloves inside a cage but with boxing rules, the whole world would watch that. There's nothing I would enjoy more than that fight. That would be absolutely awesome. If they did three five minute rounds and they were allowed some kind of clinching as well, maybe let them clinch for like 30 seconds, let them have some under hooks and that, I'd love to see that more than anything else.”

“I would have loved to see Jones-Ngannou but I think what Ngannou has done is really good. I respect people who stick to their views and if something is not right for them they still stick by what they believe. I really respect that on a personal level. If someone is convinced of something and they won't move on it, you have to respect that in any walk of life.”

Jake Paul has made Tommy Fury take training seriously - Fight prediction is 50-50

“It's a 50-50 fight between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury. I like Jake Paul and Tommy Fury is a mate of mine, I've known him since he was 14 years old. I've not seen him train for a while but I spoke to his brother recently, Roman Fury. And Roman said he's really turned a corner in his training. He said something has switched in him and he's looking amazing in the gym and has really turned the corner, and I guess that's true because Roman's not said that on any media outlet, he wasn't saying it to big Tommy up - sometimes people say things to the media that aren't true. Roman said it in a private situation, so if he's saying that I believe that's the truth and I think it's going to be a 50-50 fight.” 

Scouring the UK betting sites we can see that bookies don't quite agree with Tom on this being a 50-50 but the odds are close. They have Jake Paul at a best priced 1.73, Tommy Fury at best priced 2.45 and the draw at 15.  It's 1.73 that the fight will go the distance with the shortest price method of victory a Jake Paul win by Decision or Technical Decision at 2.8. You can see what the boxing betting experts think by checking out the latest boxing predictions here

I’m not interested in doing anymore Michael McIntyre stints, it was fun but I’m focused on fighting

“Going into the programme I had been away, I hadn't trained for weeks, I'd been eating rubbish.  And then they've got me taking my shirt off on the TV. No-one told me I'd be taking my shirt off, I'd have gone on a diet for a week if I'd known, or at least done a bit of training. So they told me to take my shirt off and I was thinking do I have to take my shirt off? But it was funny. Chris Ramsay is a comedian and apparently a fan of mine. It was fun, but for me I'm interested in fighting, I'm not into celebrity stuff, it doesn't bother me. I'm more interested in fighting.”

Sparring is exhausting, I might not make UFC286 but there’s a slim chance

“I spoke to the UFC before Christmas about UFC286 and they just said keep them updated if I wanted to be on the show or not. Especially for a UK show, I'm a pretty big draw, and without sounding arrogant, it's up to me whether I want to be on that show or not. I'm sure they'll try to get me on it if I want to be on it. I'm just waiting to see where everything is at. 

“If I want to get on that show I'm sure they'll allow me. There's no cut off date per se, but if I give them a reasonable amount of notice, if I give them six or eight weeks, I'm sure they'll do their best to get me on. But it also depends on the division, it's got to be a fight that makes sense. It's got to be someone I'm interested in fighting, I'm not just going to fight some unranked guy, it's got to be someone who is a good fight for me. My gut feeling is I'm not going to be on the card but who knows, I'm feeling pretty damn good in sparring, I've done my first two spars this week. My cardio is exactly where it needs to be, I'm strong as hell because I've been lifting loads of weights, my timing is good because I've been drilling loads, even though I've not been sparring. 

“I feel really good and who knows, I might have a couple more spars and think stuff it, let's go for it, there’s a slim chance of that happening. Throughout my UFC career so far I've always been a bit keen to please everyone else, whether that's the UFC, fans, people around me - and I do not want to do that anymore. I think it's upto me now. I've got my foot in the door pretty good, I'm in a really good spot and will come back when it's right for me. Not just because I'm pressured into it. I might turn around next after two great spars again and feel like I can fight in nine or ten weeks, or I might think I'll come back when it's right. I don't think having this break has done me any harm, it's actually got me in a good spot mentally. I went on a wild run of being really active and finishing everybody and now I'm ready and getting my body ready to do what I set out to do, which is be UFC heavyweight champ of the world.”

“I've been doing everything until this point, except full MMA sparring. I've even done some boxing sparring a few times. I've rolled and wrestled but there's nothing quite like MMA sparring where anything can happen and it feels good, it feels so good. But I did forget how tough it is to be honest. It's really hardwork. I forgot how exhausting it is to have someone punching and kicking you in the face and everything. But it's a lot of fun to be back.”

Cyril Gane will be tough for Jon Jones, but he won’t feel the effects of ring rust

“I think Ciryl Gane is a tough fight for Jon Jones. I highly rate Gane. He's really good and has a style unlike a lot of other heavyweights. You could make a case that me and Gane have similar styles. Jon Jones, even though he's coming up to heavyweight, is better off sparring light heavyweights who are light on their feet and good movers because that kind of work is really hard to find at heavyweight. Maybe do a mix of both, spar a heavyweight for a round and then a light heavyweight. He needs to get someone who is a good mover - Gane's style is really rare for a heavyweight - he's not just a plodder and a swinger. There's a lot of techniques, setups, and his movement is great. It's a tough fight for him but Jon Jones is one of the best to grace the Octagon, so you can never count him out.”

“I would have been a good sparring partner, but he's not asked me. I'm not saying I'm exactly the same as Cyril Gane, but there's not many guys who are our size and can move like we both can. It's pretty rare. Our style are different but the footwork and movement we have is not something a lot of heavyweights have.”

“I don't believe in ring rust, I think it's a load of rubbish but it does depend on who you are. I actually feel better because of the time out. It is sometimes good to take a break from the pressure of it all. But someone like Jon Jones who has had five million title fights, it's not going to affect him too much. His timing might be off a little bit for a couple minutes, but it's not going to be a massive factor for him. The biggest factor is the move up in weight, he's not going to be miles bigger than everyone else, he's going to be a smaller guy in most fights and that's way bigger factor than having three years out. For an upcomer without experience ring rust may be a real thing but we are talking about one of the best guys ever, who has had a ridiculous amount of title fights, I don't think it will be any issue for him.”

“Heavyweight MMA is the wildest division in the most unpredictable sport in the world. I can't pick a winner. You're only one punch away from getting knocked out. Let's be realistic, don't put your mortgage on anybody winning in heavyweight MMA. It's wild.” 

“I'm very athletic, I'm not one of these big plodders, so I think that my speed would be the difference if I fought Jones. I'm quicker than Jon Jones, I'm fresher than him, in that I've not had a million title fights, and I've not got a lot of miles on the clock, so I have that to my advantage if I'm fighting someone like Jones. But I'm not saying it would be easy because it absolutely would not.”

I’d like to fight Rozenstruik, Romanov, Tuivassa or Tybura

“I've called people out in the past and they never seem to give me the fights. I've done it a few times, I called out Sergei Spivac, granted I did end up fighting him, but didn't get him when I first called him out. I called out Blagoy Ivanov, but they didn't give me that. And I also called out Tai Tuivassa and they did not give him either. So that's three times and they've not even given me them and don't even like calling people out. I did that because I felt like the UFC wanted me to. But to answer the question who is on my shortlist for a return fight, there's a lot of good heavyweights coming up. Marcel Tybura is fighting soon. If he wins that's a potential fight. I think Jairzinho Rozenstruik is potentially a good fight for me because of where we are in the rankings. I know Alexandr Romanov is fighting Alexander Volkov, that's a big ask. I don't think he beats Volkov, but if he wins that's a potential fight. You've got Tai Tuivassa, there's loads. And also I've noticed, especially in the heavyweight division, they're not really as bothered about the rankings as they are in other divisions, like Volkov just beat Rozenstruik, now he’s fighting Romanov who just lost to Tybura. Ones coming off a loss and ones coming off a big win and they're still putting them together. It's a free for all and I'm ok with that, I'm not here to avoid anyone. Rankings don't mean anything to me, anybody in the top 15 can beat each other or any given day.”

Leon will beat Usman

“I'm backing Leon to beat Usman. I think the whole altitude thing was a factor the first time round. I've not fought at altitude myself but I know Leon was looking great in the first round and then seemed to go a little bit flat for a few rounds. Leon has never had problems with gassing before in all of his fights, I've seen them all. A c-level Leoncan beat Usman pretty easily.”

I want to fight abroad - I know I’m not a big name internationally but I’ll have traveling support

“I think I could definitely have that Ricky Hatton style support when I eventually fight abroad. I think that even though I'm not as big a name internationally as I am here, I’ll have that travelling support when I eventually fight abroad. I think that's on the cards. A big group of people with me when I fight aboard. Maybe not Vegas first, maybe a little European away day to warm us up, let the people get used to travelling, then let's see where it goes. It's going to be great.”

I’m not ruling out an unexpected return at UFC London next year

My ego wants to go 'stick me on the card I'm good to go' but I need to think long term which I've not been doing and need to get everything right.

“I'm not ruling it out (fighting at UFC London). At the minute it's still like 14-15 weeks away.  And at this point I've not done much heavy training. It's just been rehab really. But can I get ready in 14 weeks? The answer is yes. Will I be ready to start a title run in 14 weeks, I don't know. And if I don't know - that's not the answer I'm looking for. It's highly unlikely but not a complete no at this point.

“I can't afford for that [the injury] to happen again. I'm not talking about finances, I'm talking about my ego. My ego can't take that again. Me on my back, clutching onto my knee - it's just not going to happen again. There's just no chance I can let that happen again. The knee has to be one million percent. My ego wants to go 'stick me on the card I'm good to go' but I need to think long term which I've not been doing and need to get everything right.

“My dad doesnt want me on the card, it's as simple as that, my dad says don't be on the card. I should listen to him more.

“I'm not kicking just yet, but I've been doing a bit of sparring and stuff. I can full-on wrestle now which is great. I literally started that this week. I'm looking to get signed off by the physio in 8-12 weeks, he reckons, completely signed off and back to full on training, I'm really happy with it all.

“I get asked every time I step out of the frigging house. Realistically I'd love to give someone a date when i'm coming back and be like 'yep this is when i'm coming back' but it's not as simple as that. It's not as easy as coming back on this date. Bodies are complicated and pretty big injuries like i've had, they're quite complex. So I can't say this is when i'm coming back, who knows, I might hurt the knee again. It might start swelling up again, you never know. When I feel ready I'll be back.

“There still is [doubt in my mind about the knee]. I want that to be gone because that's what I've been dealing with the last four or five years with this old injury. I've been dealing with 'I can't do this because of the knee and I can't do that'.  I don't want to train or fight like that anymore. I want to fight free of that, that's why I'm not giving the comeback a time frame because I want that to be completely free before continuing with my career.

I considered retirement after suffering injury

“I seriously had to ask myself the question after the injury ‘is this what I want to keep doing?’ Getting hurt like that in front of all those people, it was tough mentally. I seriously had to sit on that for a week. Do I want to keep on doing this? I have other ways of making money. It's not just fighting I have in my life. I could take the same energy and put it into something else. But ultimately I really, really want to do this sport more than I ever had before. So I had the conversation with myself for about a week after. And then I started telling myself I can definitely come back, change a few things, and now I think I'm going to be UFC heavyweight champion.” 

I had to borrow money to feed my kids and put petrol in my car…

“I've not been lucky on this journey, it's been a f*****g tough one. I didn't really have a teenage life really. No college life, no adult life. I was literally in the gym. From being 14 years-old I've been in the gym everyday working in the cold and also in the summer - when everyone's going to Magaluf and all that sh*t. When everyone else was at these parties I was in the gym with a load of sweaty men in their 30s. I was 16 getting battered. So it's not been easy. I had three children by the time I was 25. I had no job, no fights, I was just in the gym everyday and some people, family friends, actually said to my wife 'you need to get a man that's going to support you properly' rather than this guy who is living in a dream world kind of thing. It's paid off now but at one point I felt like an absolute bum. I wasn't in the gym, I wasn't fighting. I'd have fighters pullout of fights, I had nothing.  I had to really, really believe in myself to go through it.

“I had to lend money off people. I see myself as a responsible person, a responsible parent. So it's quite embarrassing when you're a fully grown man and you've got to ring your mate up and ask him for twenty quid for fuel so you can get to training. I was doing personal training as well on the side, teaching a bit of jiu jitsu - that would get me by. But it wasn't consistent. If I didn't have any PT clients that day, I'd have to rely on friends and family to borrow the money to put fuel in the car or to buy the kids sandwiches. It was tough but this is what you have to go through. I wouldn't change anything that happened. I'm happy with the person I am right now and with what I've got. Compared to some people I've had it easy, I would not change anything now.” 

The Changes I am Making

I was wasting way too much energy on sh*t that did not serve me. If I was in training camp someone said to me 'will you come to my cousin's birthday they're a massive fan' i'd be like 'ok, go on then'. So it would be a wasted afternoon that I could have spent in the gym, resting or training. Or I'd turn up to training sessions and the biggest guy in the room would be a lightweight and I'm a heavyweight - what's the f**king point? Is that going to help me become UFC champion, fighting a lightweight that's going to be easy to deal with.

 That's not serving me. Stuff like running loads of errands, saying will you come to this place or that place  - I can't be doing that sh*t. Will I do this interview or that interview 'oh my mate has just started interviewing and he's got ten followers, will you help grow his channel' and I'd say 'go on'. Sh*t like that. What am I doing? That's not going to help me to get to where I need to be. 

I would consider [moving to America], I'd consider anything that would help me. It's under consideration, I'm always on the lookout for stuff like that. I feel like at the moment I've got some really, really good training partners so I'm pretty happy but I do not rule it out. I'd definitely go somewhere else to train, but my last two camps in the UK and Holland have been really good and I enjoyed it and it worked out well. 

Zion Clarke is a hero

Image: Name cannot be blank/twitter

“It's quite unbelievable to see that. Fair play to him. Even doing exercise with the disability he's got - he's not letting it hold him back at all, nevermind doing one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. I can't believe someone has the mental fortitude to do that, it's unbelievable.  

UFC deserves more respect after Leon Edwards SPOTY Snub

“The UFC needs way more respect, especially someone like Leon. Leon really does have a story where he came from nothing to where he is now. He was overlooked by everybody, people did not respect him and see him as the frontrunner or being a title holder, everyone just thought he was an opponent. He was losing the fight and pulled it out the bag and what a story. It's just a shame that MMA is behind in this country, he should have been up there at least.” 

Image: Publicist

Leon Edwards next opponent rumours

“I thought it was going to be Edwards v Masvidal but I think Stephen Thompson would be a great fight, I'm a Stephen Thompson fan. I really like his style, does not get hit too much, I thought his last fight was brilliant, that's an interesting fight. But I would prefer to see Masvidal, it would be more entertaining and I'd enjoy the build up. I'd enjoy the needle as they say. I'd enjoy both fights but I'd enjoy Edwards v Masvidal build up more.”

Paddy’s close fight with Jared Gordon

“I've only seen the highlights to be honest and I'm not a judge. I know there's a big outrage about it and I know Paddy has rubbed people up the wrong way with his comments on fight week. Paddy puts an absurd amount of pressure on himself and fair play to him because he's still performing under pressure. It must be tough. He puts a whole load of attention and pressure on himself. I think he rubbed people up the wrong way with his comment on Ariel Helwani and stuff and I think a lot of people were biased against him but I don't know.” 

“I know Paddy personally and he's just being himself and fair play to anybody who is being themselves in the media. I know some people definitely try and play a character but Paddy definitely does not do that because I know him personally.”

Image: skysports

Jake and Paddy sparring

“If they're going to spar boxing it's going to be a tough time for Paddy because I think Jake Paul is a decent level professional boxer while Paddy is a good level MMA fighter. But if it's just boxing Jake Paul is going to get the better of him for sure. I think he's pretty good, everyone thinks he's a Youtuber but it does not mean he can't fight. He's just beat Anderson Silva. He might be a 48-year-old MMA fighter but he'd still outbox most of the UFC roster. He's a good, experienced fighter that can box and Paul beat him so fair play that's a good win.”

KSI and Dillon Danis

Gymshark, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

“He was on Ariel Helwani's show last night and I was expecting him to be funny but he was f**king boring.  I was expecting him to be this massive character who is funny and witty but he seemed a bit timid. Ariel was schooling him. He was a bit vanilla. I only know who KSI is because I've seen him on Gogglebox but I've seen Dillon Danis box and he looks f*****g terrible, so I would imagine that KSI will win.”

Darren Till

“I think that Darren Till's got all the talent in the world. But he needs to get his mind and body in the right spot. He's got a lot of long term injuries and I think maybe the losses he's been taking have affected his confidence a little bit. I don't know, I'd have to speak to him, I'm always team Till and want what's best for him. If he wants to carry on I'm sure he can but needs time to figure it out.”  

Conor McGregor Return

“Only he knows if he's got anything left to give, it does not really bother me. I liked Conor when he was really good. I just don't like the sh*t talking. I hate when there's loads of talk and nothing happens. It's like playground stuff, it gets boring. Am I bothered about Conor coming back? If he's fighting at a high level, yes, if he's not - I'm not bothered.”

Image: shutterstock/motorsports Photographer

Jon Jones Return

"He's been talking about coming back for three years. At first I was invested in it, I was like 'yes, Jon Jones is coming back to the heavyweight division, it's going to be awesome'. But now i'm like 'will you just f*****g fight or stop talking about it'. It's pretty boring at this point. I'd love to see it, I'm a massive Jon Jones fan. I think he's one of the best fighters to grace the Octagon but let's see it, let's get a fight booked and crack on. I am not going to fight him in 2023 but I might fight him before both our careers are over, I'd love that fight."

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