2022 has been a big year for the UFC in England. The promotion returned to the UK in March for the first time since the pandemic with an absolute banger of a card that saw a ton of local rising stars win. The atmosphere was electric as Tom Aspinall, Arnold Allen, Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann took the night away with their spirited victories.
The follow-up show was a little goofier. Darren Till was forced out of his big comeback fight against Jack Hermansson, who then decided to replace Chris Curtis late in a terribly boring fight. Seven of the eight preliminary fights also went the distance, leaving the crowd relatively flat. Molly McCann and Paddy Pimblett saved the show, but the main event ended with Tom Aspinall blasting his knee 15 seconds into his fight with Curtis Blaydes.
The UFC returns to London on March 18 for UFC 286, and the card reluctantly reunited. Despite reassurances, there are still concerns that Kamaru Usman’s hand is too injured for him to fight new Birmingham welterweight champion Leon Edwards. Paddy Pimblett has an ankle injury. Molly McCann is dating a fiancé. And Tom Aspinall doesn’t seem set to return, although he doesn’t want to shut the door on the event completely.
“My ego means ‘stick me on the map, I’m good to go,'” Aspinall said in a lengthy interview with OLBG. “But I have to think long term, which I haven’t done and I have to do everything right. I don’t govern [UFC 286] outside. Per minute is still like 14-15 weeks. And at this point, I haven’t done a lot of hard training. It’s just a detox.
“But can I prepare in 14 weeks? The answer is yes. Will I be ready to start a title race 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 it’s not a total no at this point.
” I can not afford [the knee injury] to reproduce. I’m not talking about finances, I’m talking about my ego. My ego can’t take it anymore. Me on my back, clinging to my knee – it won’t happen again. There’s no way I’m letting that happen again. The knee should be a million percent. My ego wants to say “stick me on the map, I’m ready to go”, but I have to think long term, which I haven’t done and I have to do everything right.
That sounds an awful lot like a no, and Aspinall wasn’t done.
“My dad doesn’t want me on the card,” he added. “It’s as simple as that, my father said, don’t be on the map. I should listen to him more.
” There is still [doubt in my mind about the knee]. I want it to go away because that’s what I’ve been through for the last four or five years with this old injury. I dealt with ‘I can’t do this because of the knee and I can’t do this.’ I don’t want to train or fight like this anymore. I want to fight without that, that’s why I don’t give a deadline for the return because I want it to be completely free before continuing my career.
So yeah, we wouldn’t expect Tom Aspinall to show up at UFC 286 other than as a spectator. Knee injuries aren’t something to rush into, and Aspinall is too promising a prospect to risk that kind of quick comeback.
It’s unfortunate that another big local star is likely to be left out, but the UK are spoiled for choice when it comes to exciting talent. They just didn’t have the same UFC hiccup. Now, the promotion will have to give them that shine as March 18th approaches.
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