Interview: Tom Aspinall believes Conor McGregor will make UFC comeback

Tom Aspinall spoke exclusively with NordicBet following his stunning victory in November at Madison Square Garden to become UFC’s interim heavyweight champion.

The British star previewed the possibility of a crossover fight against boxing’s WBC titleholder Tyson Fury as well as a possible fight against Francis Ngannou and his upcoming Saudi showdown with Anthony Joshua and the return of Conor McGregor.

Francis Ngannou can KO Anthony Joshua

I: Francis Ngannou – how do you rate his chances vs Anthony Joshua?

TA: I think it’s a 50/50 fight. If you would’ve asked me two years ago about this fight, I would have said that is the stupidest question somebody has ever asked me. AJ will walk over him, easy. As someone who has done a lot of sparring with Tyson Fury and has seen him up close and watched him spar a lot of rounds, I think Tyson Fury’s level of boxing is absolutely incredible. I can’t say enough great things about him. To see what Francis Ngannou did to him is mind-blowing for somebody like me.

Now I’m really high on Francis Ngannou’s boxing level. I think he’s brilliant and has a chance against anybody. If he can do what he did against Tyson Fury, he has a chance against anybody. When you’re talking about two power punchers in him and Anthony Joshua, I’m going to be absolutely glued to the TV. It’s going to be incredible, and I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

Fight with Ngannou is unlikely to happen

I: Could you fight Francis Ngannou in the future?

TA: I don’t know how that would work out now with him being over at PFL and possibly sticking to boxing while I’m at the UFC. I have five fights left at the UFC in my contract so there’s no chance of me leaving the UFC anytime soon. I’m not interested in leaving the UFC at this point in my career. It doesn’t look like Francis Ngannou is coming back to the UFC so I don’t see how it would happen right now.

Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk Preview

I: How much of an impact is Fury’s cut ahead of the Oleksandr Usyk fight?

TA: Not much, it won’t have much of an impact. As soon as the cut is healed you are good to go, no problem. You might have to be careful with sparring but if he gets the right sparring partners, he’ll be fine.

Tyson has fought a million fights anyways and has sparred a million rounds, so he doesn’t need to spar that much either way. As long as he keeps that cut safe, he’ll be good to go so no problem. The cut looked quite big, but I’m sure the guy is worth millions, so he’ll be seeing the best doctors in the world, and they’ll be giving him the right advice. If the doctors are saying it is fine for the May date, then I’m sure that’s sound advice from his side.

I: Do you see him as the favourite against Oleksandr Usyk?

TA: Oleksandr Usyk is a very tricky customer. He is very good, but I would say Tyson Fury will beat him. The pure size of Tyson Fury and the speed he has, will be able to keep up with Usyk and he’s way bigger. A big man always beats a good small man in my opinion, so he should get the win.

‘Impossible’ for Fury to beat me in MMA

I: Would you welcome a boxing or MMA fight with Tyson Fury?

TA: If there’s money to be made then I would do it but right now my goal is to be the best UFC heavyweight champion of all time and I have at least five fights left with the UFC. But I also want to finish my career in the UFC. Never say never but I have a lot more work to do in the UFC.

Tyson and I have trained MMA together before as well and he’s a good, big strong guy who knows how to fight. It wouldn’t take him too long to pick up the grappling side of stuff, but against somebody like me who has been grappling since they were 18 years old, it’s going to take some catching up to do. If we’re going to have an MMA fight, it’s obvious that I am going to have the grappling advantage because I’ve been grappling for 23 years, and he’s not been grappling yet and that would be a massive advantage on my part.

To get used to grappling (it would take years), but to compete with grappling against a guy who has been grappling his whole life like me, is pretty much impossible. To be able to compete is what I am saying. To get taken down and get up off his back against someone like me who has been training and grappling his whole life is nearly impossible if being totally honest.

New division makes sense

I: There is talk of a new division with Conor McGregor being in it at 165lbs, what are your thoughts on that?

TA: Around lightweight and welterweight there are a lot of really high-level guys so they could potentially do another weight. I wouldn’t do 165lbs though because that’s really close to 170lbs so I don’t know why they wouldn’t make it 162lbs or bang in the middle.

You have to look at a lot the guys in the divisions. If you’re talking about flyweights for example, I think it’s pointless because there’s not many really good flyweights. To be honest, there’s a lot a great flyweights, but there’s not loads of guys in the flyweight division so what’s the point in putting another one similar to flyweight? But around lightweight and welterweight there’s loads of guys there. The top 15 is absolutely stacked so it might be worth looking into doing another one.

Conor McGregor will make UFC comeback

I: What does Conor McGregor have left, and do you think he will return to the UFC?

TA: I think he will return. I mean he seems quite frustrated with the UFC from what I can gather from his interviews. He seems like he wants to come back, I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, that’s to do with him and the UFC. I think he’s going to come back, so I would definitely be interested to see him back.

I have no idea (what he has left in the tank). When Conor is good, he’s amazing. If you look at his fight against Jose Aldo or Eddie Alvarez, he was absolutely phenomenal. He does have that in him somewhere and I think if he can bring that back out then who knows. But I don’t know where his body is at or where his mind is at. I don’t know him personally, so it’s hard for me to say on the outside, but I would like to see him return definitely.

I: If it wasn’t for the Floyd fight, could Conor have performed better against Khabib?

TA: I highly rated Khabib and I don’t think you can look at Conor’s performance and say he just lost it because he fought Floyd Mayweather. I think that would have happened regardless. But saying that, I think Conor fought really competitively against him anyway and still put up a decent performance. I think Khabib’s amazing, though. You can only answer these questions if you know Conor personally and I don’t, so it’s hard to say.

Wayne Rooney being open to boxing is good for the sport

I: What’s your thoughts on Wayne Rooney being open to boxing and would you help train him?

TA: I didn’t realise he was looking at going into boxing, but I think it’s really good for boxing. Even the YouTubers boxing, I think it is good for boxing. I don’t know why you would think otherwise. I think the only people who hate it are boxers who are not doing too well financially out of it, because they are kind of jealous at the people doing it and are making a lot of money.

If Wayne Rooney wanted to have a boxing fight, I would watch it. I would definitely watch it because it brings eyes to the sport, and I think that is always a positive thing. If a famous person from another sport or just a famous person is bringing eyes to your sport, then that is positive in any capacity so I’m all for it.

I’m not a boxer, I am an MMA fighter but if he wanted to train with me then I would potentially be up for it if that’s what he wants to do.

Last updated: 29.02.2024