After having a beer with the guy, Curtis Blaydes became a fan of Tom Aspinall.
On Saturday, the Blaydes faced Aspinall in the UFC London main event. The match was practically over before it even started, as Espinal injured his knee just 15 seconds into the match. Later that night, the British heavyweight posted a photo on his social media of the two sharing a beer at their hotel. Talking with Ariel Halawani one day MMA watchAnd the Blaydes revealed how the encounter came about.
“Random,” said Blades. “I was in my room, and we’re obviously in the same hotel. My dad, I think, was downstairs in one of the bars in the lobby. He was down there, and he bumped into Aspinal’s dad, and dad talking. He’d make friends with anyone. He’d be a best friend. Yours if you guys have a drink.
“So I think he spoke, and then my dad came into my room and said, ‘Hey, let’s go to Aspinall’s room. He wants to have a drink with you. So I said, ‘Okay, I’m frustrated.’ And then we go over there, and they’re really cool. It’s all Aspinall. [crew], all his team, his father, his uncle, and everyone else, even the women. Everyone was so nice, so adorable…
“We stayed there for about an hour. Good hour, solid. They were nice guys, very friendly, very inviting.”
Although the official diagnosis of Aspinal’s injury has not been revealed, it is widely believed that the English fighter suffered a ruptured ligament in his right knee, which will likely require surgery and some lengthy recovery time. For a man who was on the cusp of a title chance, it was a huge blow, but Blaydes said Aspinall was in surprisingly good spirits when they met.
He handled it very well – he was an optimist,” said Blades. “He was fine. He knows he’s coming back. He knows he’s young. He’s already better than Derek Lewis, I think he’s better than Toivasa; I think he’s better than Jane. I think he’s more versatile. He obviously owns wrestling, he has jiu-jitsu, And he’s very athletic. I think he thinks he’ll recover, and I think so too. I don’t think that’s the end of Aspinal.”
Perhaps the meeting with Aspinal went very well. It will be tough to fight him in the future when the two inevitably meet, Blaydes said after having a drink with the fighter and his team.
“I wish I hadn’t gone up there, because now I love him!” Blaydes said. “I love the guy. You don’t want to fight someone you love, and I know we’re going to dump again. I know, because he’s only 29, he’ll be back. I know he’s going to be out for eight, nine months, or even one year, but he’s going to be here, so I know we’re going to get rid of again, and it’s hard to get rid of someone you love. …
I didn’t know anything about him [before]. I was in the middle. You are indifferent. I didn’t like him or didn’t like him, but now he’s a nice guy. I know he has kids, he’s a father, he’s a good guy. So it was good to meet him. Lovely beer.”
For now, this won’t be a problem. Aspinall will likely be out for several months, if not an entire year. In the meantime, the heavyweight team will continue. In September, Ciryl Gane faces Tai Tuivasa in the main event of UFC Paris, and with the heavyweight title photo in question, Blaydes wants to fight the winner of that title elimination fight.
“In my head, that’s what I’m imagining,” he said. “Who else is available? I will never fight someone else inferior again. I did it for Aspinall because I realized again that it would be legitimate to beat him. It was arranged. [No. 6]but could easily be in the top five, so that was different.
“But I’m not going to fight someone under me. I want the winner at Gane-Tuivasa. I feel like I won it, I deserved it. I’ve been in the top five since 2018, since I beat Alistair. I deserve a fight against the title.”