Tom Aspinall looks on before his heavyweight bout against Curtis Blaydes during...

Tom Aspinall looks on before his heavyweight bout against Curtis Blaydes during UFC Fight Night at the O2 Arena on July 23, 2022 in London. Credit: Getty Images/Julian Finney

Put aside for a moment the two weeks’ notice and the quotes about the coolness of fighting in New York, and UFC heavyweight title contender Tom Aspinall got straight to the point of the task assigned to him this Saturday.

“I'm fighting the scariest guy in MMA in my opinion, in the worst circumstances possible without a training camp,” Aspinall said Wednesday at UFC 295 media day in Manhattan. “But I obviously think I can win.”

On Saturday, Aspinall (13-3) will challenge Sergei Pavlovich for the interim heavyweight title fight. The bout developed quickly after Jon Jones withdrew from his first heavyweight title defense against Stipe Miocic after tearing a pectoral muscle during training.

“I've got this absolutely massive Russian going to come at me on Saturday throwing absolute bombs,” Aspinall said. “So if I were to think past that, that will be a little bit silly,” Aspinall said.

Nothing about Pavlovich’s resume is silly, unless you define it colloquially around his opponents’ inability to escape the first round against him. Only one of his last six opponents have reached a fourth minute against Pavlovich (18-1), and that was all of three seconds. His 15 finishes all came in the first round. The last time Pavlovich started a second round in a fight was more than six years ago.

“If you look or Tom looks at my previous opponents, they're all tough, durable, strong guys,” Pavlovich said through a translator. “And so I think now Tom is the next step and probably he's the next step that I have to take to get further. So if you look at me, if you look at what I do, we do hard work, train hard to make sure that we achieve that next goal.”

Pavlovich was training as a backup fighter for the Jones-Miocic bout in case something happened. And it did.

Pavlovich passed on discussing a potential title unification bout with Jones, should he win the interim belt Saturday against Aspinall.

“We have a saying in Russia that we don't divide the fur or bear that hasn't been killed yet. So I'm one of those guys that doesn't do that. First, I gotta get the title, then we'll think about.”

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