British UFC star Tom Aspinall has been criticised by fighting legend Chael Sonnen for his humility in talking about the heavyweight title.
Sonnen was famously outspoken throughout his iconic career in the sport, with some arguing that he talked his way into world title fights that he hadn’t earned with his performances. And he feels that Aspinall approaches the media like a “13-year-old fan” who doesn’t understand how to go about getting himself to the top of the promotion.
Aspinall has said on a number of occasions that he is solely focused on his next opponent; No.4-ranked Curtis Blaydes. He and Blaydes will headline The O2 arena in London in July, but the winner is not expected to be automatically inserted in an interim title fight as the division waits for Francis Ngannou to return next year.
And Sonnen believes that Aspinall needs to either get somebody else to speak for him, or start talking himself up more aggressively in order to progress. “Tom Aspinall, you’re putting me in a hard spot,” Sonnen said in a YouTube video where he declared that the Brit could be the future of the UFC’s heavyweight division. He has not only beaten, he has stopped former world champions.
“Aspinall has felt the pressures of booking five-round contests, stepped out at the end of the night in the main event and not only won but finished opponents. Aspinall does interviews like a 13-year-old fan. I’ve been telling people for a long time that this is the guy.
“I have firmly contended that the future of the heavyweight division is not stumbling around the streets somewhere, they’re already signed to the organisation. They just haven’t got their push and I specifically brought you the name Tom Aspinall, I’ve got a mole inside his camp and I’m talking about how much I love his boxing but every time he’s in the cage he goes for the takedown.
“He had fisticuffs with Arlovski [the former heavyweight champion], comes in after the bell and double legs him, which British guys just don’t do. He’s a special talent.”
The former fighter is a big fan of Aspinall’s but believes he is blowing his opportunity in the UFC outside of the cage by remaining overly humble when speaking to the press. The Brit often insists that he isn’t rushing to a title fight, which has been a criticism in the past of his teammate Darren Till among others.
The Manchester fighter is pals with the Fury family, including world heavyweight champion Tyson and his brash father John. But he has opted not to adopt their infamous trash talk as he works his way towards a shot at gold.
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“I go back two months and Aspinall cuts an interview that he should not receive a title shot,” Sonnen continued. “Somebody else should, he’s not ready for it. Alright, we’ve got a young guy who wants to show a sense of humility, who never should have done an interview that said that. But everybody’s got to make a mistake before they can make a correction.
“Quickly, his manager, his team, for God’s sake his father is going to read the interview and sit him down in private to say ‘don’t ever do this again’. He is underselling himself, and by the way he’s now a main-eventer, in a very rare club now that he has main-evented in a heavyweight class that barely has 20 guys who could fog a mirror.
“Nobody did that and they must have thought that the interview was pretty cool, they must have thought it was pretty cute that he was out there being humble. He’s done it again!
“He’s a legitimate fan which I understand and he does come across as a very sweet guy. But [if I’m the promoter] I can’t put him back in a main event or a title fight or anything that he says he doesn’t belong in, nobody can!
“We gave him the opportunity, we put him in the main event and let him fight in front of his home country which sold out, largely because of Paddy Pimblett but he got the credit because he’s the main event.
“We’ve put him there and done everything we can possibly do, got him the media opportunities and then he fanboys out and puts over Francis Ngannou. What are we doing here and why are we doing it? What do you think these interviews are about?”