Tom Aspinall admits he’s ‘scared’ ahead of UFC title fight

Tom Aspinall takes on Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 295

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Tom Aspinall has admitted that he is “pretty scared” ahead of his encounter with Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 295.

The two heavyweights will meet at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday night for the interim UFC Heavyweight Championship.

Aspinall returned from a year-long injury lay-off with a win over Marcin Tybura in July, and had originally been due to face Pavlovich in September 2021.

Visa issues forced the Russian’s withdrawal on that occasion, but Pavlovich has since established himself as one of the sport’s top heavyweights with four consecutive knockout victories.

But while conceding to a degree of apprehension ahead of the fight, Aspinall is embracing his underdog status as he seeks a major victory in New York.

“I’m pretty scared, but I do my best work scared,” said Aspinall.

“He’s a scary, intimidating guy. But fear is something I have a really good relationship with. It gives me a superpower – the more scared I am, the better I do in the fight.

“I’m the ‘Honey Badger’ moving forward, so I’m happy with that. That’s cool.”

The honey badger, also known as the ratel, is a mammal that resides in Africa and Asia, and is known for its ferocity in the face of attack from larger predators.

A number of sportspeople have previously adopted the nickname, including Australian rugby player Nick Cummins and NFL star Tyrann Mathieu.

Sergei Pavlovich of Russia takes on Tom Aspinall at UFC 295

Only two British fighters have ever won UFC championships, with Aspinall hoping to follow Leon Edwards and Michael Bisping.

The 30-year-old stepped in with only 17 days’ notice following an injury to Jon Jones but is confident he is ready for the bout.

“I’m confident either way,” Aspinall said. “I would have definitely liked more time to prepare, but I know one thing – I’m not going to win the fight sat on the couch watching it,” said Aspinall.

“I’ll be in there, I’m dangerous, and it takes one shot at heavyweight. Why not be here having a go?

“As I get old I’ve realised not everyone can perform under pressure, not everyone can make the right decisions and thrive under the lights. But I’m one of the very few people who can do it.”

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