'I went from having £20 in the bank to headlining UFC London' – British star Tom Aspinall reveals incredible journey | The Sun
TOM ASPINALL will top the bill at the O2 Arena for the second time in the space of four months on Saturday night – but life as a mixed martial artist hasn't always been sunshine and rainbows for the UFC's latest heavyweight prospect.
In fact, the Wigan warrior – who locks horns with heavyweight mainstay Curtis Blaydes – was once so skint during the early stages of his career that he contemplated walking away from MMA.
Aspinall told The BBC: "MMA in the UK, especially being a heavyweight, it's near enough impossible to make a career out of it. I had absolutely no money and I needed to provide for my family.
"Some days I'd only have literally 20 quid [to my name]."
Aspinall's financial woes were by in large down to a lack of activity – which was often the result of opponents doing a runner at the last minute.
He recalled: "Being a heavyweight MMA fighter in the UK is very tough. I had three little kids and not had a fight in two years because opponents kept pulling out all the time.
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"There's just not a lot of active heavyweights, so it's difficult to get fights and people want to protect their records. Yeah, it was just a tough time."
Aspinall would often have to lean on dotting dad Andy – the man responsible for his introduction to martial arts and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black – for money.
He admitted: "There were times where I wanted to turn my back on the sport and do something else. And I had absolutely no money.
"Sometimes I had to lend money off my dad to go put fuel in my car to go to the gym."
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Lending his son cash to pursue a dream was never an issue for Andy, who saw his child's potential from a very young age.
He said: "Me and his mum, we sat him down and we lent him money – we helped him out. There was lots of arguing and crying.
"[And we told him], 'Please, give it a go and see how you get out.'"
Money issues are, thankfully, now are thing of the past for Aspinall and his young family thanks to five wins and four £36,000 bonuses.
But splashing the cash on unnecessary purchases is a trap the once-skint man-mountain refuses to fall into.
He said: "I got four £50,000 bonuses in the UFC and now I've got a good contract as well. So my last fight, I earned a fair, decent, amount of money.
"Some people get money and they start acting like an absolute c**k.
"If you're an idiot, it's going to show everybody how much of an idiot you are when you've got money. And if you're normal, it's not really going to change you too much."
Aspinall attributes the position he currently finds himself in – perhaps only one fight away from a title eliminator – to the support of his family and his overwhelming self-belief.
He said: "In those tough times, that's when you really have to believe in yourself. I was going over and above to make this dream happen.
"If I had money, I wouldn't do half the stuff I was doing. Because I was desperate and I was scared.
"But sometimes you need that to push yourself to the next level.
"I know what it's like to, literally, have next to no money. I know both sides of the spectrum.
"There was loads of times that I was really scared. But fear, fear makes you really sharp. Fear makes you do things that you can't usually do."
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With financial security secured for his family, Aspinall can now focus on continuing to hone his skills in preparation for the inevitable clashes with the heavyweight division's elite.
He said: "At some point in the next ten years, I'm gonna have the UFC belt around my waist."
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