SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

UFC 295: Tom Aspinall says 'scary' Sergei Pavlovich will bring the best out of him

UFC 295

Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York Date: Saturday, 11 November

Coverage: Follow text commentary on BBC Sport website & app from 05:00 GMT on Sunday 12 November

Tom Aspinall has compared himself to a honey badger before facing Sergei Pavlovich for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 295 in New York on Saturday.

Britain's Aspinall, 30, stepped in with just 17 days' notice for the bout following an injury to Jon Jones.

Honey badgers are small mammals, known for their aggressive nature towards larger predators when threatened.

"I'm pretty scared, but I do my best work scared," said Aspinall.

"He's a scary, intimidating guy. But fear is something I have a really good relationship with. It gives me a superpower - the more scared I am, the better I do in the fight.

"I'm the 'Honey Badger' moving forward, so I'm happy with that. That's cool."

Aspinall, dressed in a purple flowery shirt he said he bought "especially for the occasion", was speaking to the media before the pair's highly anticipated fight at Madison Square Garden.

In replacing the bout between heavyweight champion Jones and Stipe Miocic, Aspinall has the chance to become only the third British UFC title holder in history, after Michael Bisping and Leon Edwards.

Since making his UFC debut in 2020, he has finished six of his seven fights with the only blemish on his record coming against Curtis Blaydes last year, where Aspinall suffered a serious knee injury.

But in 31-year-old Russian Pavlovich, Aspinall is facing an opponent he describes as "the most dangerous man in the UFC", who has won his past six fights by first-round knockouts.

Despite Pavlovich's stoic presence, Aspinall was confident throughout the media conference, joking with the crowd, shaking his opponent's hand and putting his arm around him following a face-off.

"I'm confident either way. I would have definitely liked more time to prepare, but I know one thing - I'm not going to win the fight sat on the couch watching it," said Aspinall.

"I'll be in there, I'm dangerous, and it takes one shot at heavyweight. Why not be here having a go?

"As I get old I've realised not everyone can perform under pressure, not everyone can make the right decisions and thrive under the lights. But I'm one of the very few people who can do it."

'The samurai versus the tribal warrior'

Jiro Prochazka and Alex Pereira face off before their light-heavyweight title fight
Prochazka (left) is fighting for the title he vacated one year ago

The main event is a light-heavyweight showdown between the Czech Republic's Jiri Prochazka and Brazil's Alex Pereira.

The bout has been billed by critics as an exciting clash of cultures, with Prochazka practicing bushido - the moral code followed by Japanese samurai - and Pereira embodying the spirit of his tribal ancestors in Brazil.

Speaking to media on Wednesday, Prochazka, 31, said he sees the fight as "warrior versus warrior".

"I don't want to speak about my samurai character - it's true I've been inspired many years by the bushido," said Prochazka.

"This type of focus for a fight and everything in your life, to do it with full focus, and give all your heart to your performance - that's why we are warriors, because we go there and there is nothing less."

Prochazka is fighting for the first time since beating Pereira's training partner, Glover Teixeira, for the title in June 2022 during an epic back-and-forth contest.

Scheduled to defend his belt in a rematch with Teixeira six months later, Prochazka was ruled out of the fight with a shoulder injury, before vacating the title.

American Jamahal Hill later became champion by beating Teixeira, before also relinquishing his title because of an injury.

Former middleweight champion Pereira moved up to light-heavyweight in July, defeating Jan Blachowicz, and is aiming to win a second title in just his seventh UFC fight.

Should Pereira win, he will break Randy Couture's 11-bout record as the UFC fighter to become a two-division champion in the shortest number of fights.

He is also a former two-weight world champion in kickboxing promotion Glory, and says it would be a "pleasure" to be considered among the greatest combat sports athletes of all time.

"I don't know what the criteria is for calling somebody the greatest, I don't think about it that much," said Pereira.

"When I did what I did at Glory I wasn't thinking about the Hall of Fame or anything like that, I just wanted to be champion and I did it - same thing in the UFC.

"But if I get this, of course it would be a pleasure and I would love to be considered [among the greatest]."

Across the BBC banner
Across the BBC banner
Across the BBC footer
Across the BBC footer