Tom Aspinall got UFC title call at 4am – and plans to party with Michael Bisping

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    In the early hours of the morning, while the birds sang and the people of Britain slept, Tom Aspinall received the most important phone call of his life.

    On just two weeks' notice, the Atherton-born heavyweight has received the biggest opportunity of his career — a fight for the UFC interim heavyweight title at the historic Madison Square Garden, against Russian icon, Sergei Pavlovich. Having returned from a crushing knee injury sustained against Curtis Blaydes, the British powerhouse bounced back with a destructive performance against Marcin Tybura, to earn his shot at glory.

    However, in the midst of a deep sleep, Aspinall nearly missed his opportunity, initially opting for a few extra hours in bed over answering the all-important phone call. In an exclusive interview with Daily Star Sport, he said: "It wasn’t actually Dana, to be honest; it was his right-hand man. I was asleep.

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    "It was like 6am. So, I was sleeping; my phone was ringing; I missed it, actually. I just heard the last bit, and you know when you pick your phone up, and you see who it is like [pulls a tired face]. Then it went off, I was like, ‘It’s 6:05, I’ve got three hours until I have to leave, I’m going back to sleep'.

    “I put the phone down, but I couldn’t sleep. I thought, ‘What am I thinking? I’m going to have to ring him back'. I called him and asked him, ‘What’s going on’? He replied, ‘Are you healthy’? I said, ‘Yes, I am’. He said, ‘Can you be ready to fight in two weeks’? I said, ‘I can be ready if you want’. I said, ‘Why, what’s gone on’? And he replied, ‘I’ll ring you tomorrow, and I’ll tell you what’s happened’.

    “So, fast-forward 24 hours, actually less, he rang me at 4am the next day, so I was asleep again. I answered the phone and I was like, ‘Hello’. He said, ‘I’ve woken you up again, haven’t I’? I was like, ‘Well, yeh, it’s 4am; I’m usually asleep at this time’. He said, ‘Right, Jon Jones is injured’. He told me the whole story, and I just said, ‘I’m in, get me in, I’ll be ready in two weeks’.”

    Incredibly, his shot at UFC gold comes under the same circumstances as his close friend and MMA legend, Michael Bisping. Like Aspinall, the former middleweight champion jumped up at the last minute to take a fight with fierce rival, Luke Rockhold.

    In a monumental upset, 'The Count' defeated his arch-nemesis via first-round stoppage to become the first Brit to reach the pinnacle of the sport. And with Bisping and Aspinall joining forces for their 'Tales From the Octagon' tour in December, the heavyweight would love to win the belt and show it off to the fans.

    He laughed: "Michael Bisping is an MMA legend. He’s a dear friend of mind, so to replicate him would be fantastic. To win a title under any context would be amazing, but to do it like Bisping did is what dreams are made of.

    “That would be a great time. I’m sure me and Bisping will put away a few beers that weekend. Bisping is a wild guy after a beer, loves a beer. It’s going to be good, if I can turn up with a belt even better. Showing off the belt at Tales of the Octagon would be great.”

    And should he win, the 257-pound monster will celebrate with his good mate and KSW Heavyweight King, Phil De Fries. The towering Sunderland fighter has trained alongside Aspinall throughout his career, and has gone on his own impressive run all while eating pizzas and drinking beer during camp.

    But when De Fries' brother-in-arms walks out to face power puncher Pavlovich at UFC 295 on Saturday evening, the 37-year-old will take his role as cornerman very seriously.

    Speaking on their relationship, Aspinall asserted: "Phil defended his title the week before I last fought, then he came and did my corner, so we went out after that. It was a good time. Phil’s in good shape, he’s training for something that’s coming up, which hasn’t been announced yet. Phil’s a good guy, loves his pizzas, loves his beers.”

    Aspinall's eagerly anticipated fight is scheduled for approximately 5am, live and exclusively on TNT Sports.

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