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The golden generation of English MMA

UFC 295 marked the UFC’s 30 year anniversary. Training out of Salford in the UK, Tom Aspinall cemented himself in English MMA folklore by becoming interim heavyweight champion. His first-round knockout of number three ranked Russian heavyweight Sergei Pavlovich means that Aspinall becomes just the third ever English UFC champion.

Aspinall’s rise to the top is phenomenal given his first fight was in 2020 which was the final event held at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, which acted as the temporary home of the UFC during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aspinall’s stunning victory in Maddison Square Garden ensured UFC gold was final wrapped around his waist.

Aspinall wasn’t booked to fight again this year however due to the withdrawal of active champion Jon Jones’ from his upcoming fight against number four ranked heavyweight Stipe Miocic, this handed the opportunity to the brit on just 10 days’ notice to write himself in the history books of English MMA.

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Aspinall visibly emotional after becoming interim heavyweight champion  

The devasting knockout of Pavlovich means that Aspinall has finished seven of his last eight opponents now setting up a fight against the winner of the Jones vs Miocic contest.

Aspinall’s unbelievable speed and devasting power has changed the perception of the heavyweight division. Gone are the days of the ‘slugfest’ fights we’re used to seeing in the 265-pound division.

The Englishman represents a new young breed of heavyweight fighters on the rise however he has one more test to overcome.

Jon Jones. A fighter who has reigned supreme for over a decade despite dealing with his fair share of controversy away from the octagon. As fight fans we’ve seen challenger after challenger submit to his will. After dominating for 15 years with 22 wins at light-heavy weight, Jones earlier this year made the decision to move up a weight class.

In March many people thought Jones faced his toughest test to date in former French heavyweight champion Cirly Gane.

The fight was a blow out.

Jones dominated Gane quickly taking him down to the ground and submitting him within three minutes of the first round. With this win Jones reenforced his greatness within the sport.

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Jones winning the belt at UFC 285

If what the majority of fight fans believe, and Jones defeats future hall of famer Stipe Miocic, a historic fight with Aspinall will inevitably occur.

This would transcend English MMA like never before. Aspinall would relish the chance to fight arguably the greatest combat sports fighter we’ve ever seen. Many have tried and many have fallen short, although many fans believe Jones has finally met his match.

The fight would once again bring English MMA to the fore, questions have been asked as to whether the Englishman will ever get his dream fight because of the unknowns regarding Jones’ future in the sport.

Regardless of future matchups for the 6’4 interim heavyweight champ, Aspinall’s win means he joins Birmingham based fighter Leon Edwards as current English champions in the UFC.

Leon Edwards sent shockwaves around the world of MMA with his emphatic head kick knockout of former Nigerian Welterweight champion Kamuru Usman last year. Going into that fight Usman was the heavy favourite after handing Edwards his only loss in their first fight in 2015.

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Leon Edwards head kick knock aginst Kamuru Usman at UFC 278

Usman is widely considered one of the greatest welterweights of all time but despite this Edwards beat Usman again in London in March, ending the pairs long-lasting rivalry once and for all.

Edwards is set to defend his title against outspoken number 3 ranked welterweight contender Colby Covington in Las Vegas next month. This PPV event will be the last UFC card of 2023.

If Leon Edwards is victorious on December 17th he will start to be considered as one of the best fighters to ever grace the 170lb division.

Covington’s notorious post-fight interview at UFC Fight Night 119 in 2017

Another Englishman making noise in the UFC will also compete at UFC 296 on the undercard to Edwards vs Covington.

Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett will make his long-awaited return after suffering an ankle injury in his victory over Jared Gordan last time out.

Despite only signing with the UFC in 2022, Pimblett has already become a fan favourite because of his brash personality. Having already won four out of four fights the young prospect has by far his toughest test yet in former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson.

The Ultimate Fighter season 13 winner has 21 UFC fights to his name and is considered a true veteran within the sport.

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Paddy Pimblett (Left) alongside the first ever English UFC Champion Michael Bisping (Right)

If the Liverpudlian is to overcome the icon in ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson, he will elevate his status within the lightweight division.

2023 has already been a historic year for English MMA crowning our second and third ever champions. As a country we should be enormously proud of the ground-breaking achievements of these fighters and the way they’ve represented our country on the global stage.

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Tom Aspinall’s Walkout at UFC 295

Michael Bisping the first ever English UFC champion has inspired fighters like Leon Edwards and Tom Aspinall to carry the flag for fighters from these shores.

If Edwards successfully defends his belt and Pimblett is to overcome the tricky veteran in Tony Ferguson, then December 17th could cap off a quite extraordinary and flawless year of fighting for the golden generation of English MMA.

Author

  • Sam Brady

    Sam Brady, 21, is a sports editor for the Sports Gazette specialising in all things Football and MMA. Experienced in live commentary and sports writing Sam is also a fanatical Manchester United fan however he'll be quick to remind you he doesn't remember Sir Alex's Reign because that ended when Sam was ..... 11.