In the time leading up to his sudden interim title bout with Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 295, Tom Aspinall experienced a host of challenging problems. Not only did he have to navigate around visa complications, but he was also dealing with severe back pain. This interim decision was precipitated by Pavlovich, who was originally pegged as the backup for a cancelled title fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic. However, Aspinall stepped up to fill the gap on less than three weeks’ notice, when the aforementioned fight couldn’t take place.
The British fighter opened up about the severity of his back pain, which became so intense that he was incapable of training for the majority of the limited time he had in preparation for the fight. At one point, Aspinall even experienced his back suddenly seizing up mid-training, with no identifiable trigger. He was incapacitated to the point where he couldn’t train or walk for several days. He admitted on “The MMA Hour” that this setback led him to contemplate withdrawing from the fight.
Aspinall relayed how desperate he was to get in at least one solid sparring session before traveling to the United States for the event. He experienced an abrupt back spasm in the fourth round of the spar, something he’d never endured before. Fortunately, his dedicated team swiftly rearranged everything and organized comprehensive treatment for him. It was a challenging time for Aspinall who had to strategize his next steps carefully. Compounding his challenges was the necessity of multiple trips to London to manage his visa issues.
Despite a frenzied two weeks, Aspinall managed to pull off an outstanding first-round knockout victory over Pavlovich at Madison Square Garden in New York. Although there was a great deal of anxiety in the leadup to the fight, Aspinall felt compelled to find out exactly what his true mettle was when confronted with severe challenges. With his back problems now calmed down, he reiterated that one thing was clear – he wouldn’t win just by watching from the sidelines.