I quit high paying job to teach my son MMA in our back garden – now he’s set for world title fight at UFC 295
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I quit high paying job to teach my son MMA in our back garden – now he’s set for world title fight at UFC 295

Nov 11, 2023

Tom Aspinall’s world-class potential was first spotted by his father.

The British mixed martial arts star hopes to become the interim heavyweight champion by beating Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 295 in New York on Saturday night. 

Pavlovich and Aspinall came face-to-face for the first time on Thursday in what will be the biggest moment of their careers

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Pavlovich and Aspinall came face-to-face for the first time on Thursday in what will be the biggest moment of their careersCredit: Getty

Aspinall’s journey to the top of his sport started 18 years ago when his dad walked away from a lucrative job in order to help harness his son’s athletic ability and eventually open a Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) school.

“I did 25 years in IT,” Andy Aspinall told talkSPORT.com.

“I was a contractor for a long time making good money and then I was an IT manager.

“I got offered a redundancy payment that I didn’t have to take, but Tom was very good at jiu-jitsu and there weren’t many jiu-jitsu schools open.

“I just decided to teach jiu-jitsu and hoped that Tom at 12, and my other son at 9, would teach jiu-jitsu because they’d have a career then.”

It was a bold move, but one that worked out as Andy’s eldest is now one of the UFC’s biggest stars, and his other son, Joe, makes a living teaching BJJ.

He added: “I had some money then, so it was alright. I’m glad I did it.

“Not just for Tom’s fighting. I’m glad I did it because I didn’t like the environment [in my old job]. I don’t like politics and I like the quiet life. This has been the quiet life.”

Aspinall is one of the UK's leading BJJ coaches

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Aspinall is one of the UK’s leading BJJ coachesCredit: Aspinall BJJ
He helped his son become a UFC superstar

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He helped his son become a UFC superstarCredit: UFC

However, Aspinall’s long journey to the pinnacle of MMA wasn’t without its hiccups and he needed a helping hand to push through when times got tough.

From training in his back garden to changing sports and overcoming injuries, the 30-year-old contended with a multitude of issues but managed to overcome them with the help of his father.

“A couple of times he’d given up,” Andy admitted.

“He didn’t want to fight MMA because there was no opponents.

Aspinall is on the cusp of becoming the UK's third UFC champion

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Aspinall is on the cusp of becoming the UK’s third UFC championCredit: Getty

“He didn’t want to train at the gym because it was too far to go every day and he didn’t want to do it because there was no one to train or fight with.

“We went boxing and he had one pro fight.

“And then, he didn’t want to fight because he didn’t like the boxing model. He didn’t want to fight people and get a padded-out record, he wanted to fight people who were equal to him.

“So, he stopped boxing.”

He'll fight at one of the world's greatest venues after starting his career in Andy's garden

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He’ll fight at one of the world’s greatest venues after starting his career in Andy’s gardenCredit: Tom Aspinall – instagram

Despite his rocky road to the UFC, Aspinall’s dad insists he always knew his son had elite-level athletic ability and would ultimately reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport.

En route to Madison Square Garden on Saturday, he has seen off big names in Alexander Volkov and Andrei Arlovski.

“He was 12,” Aspinall Sr. proudly replied after being asked exactly when he knew his son had world champion potential.

“He used to win lots of jiu-jitsu competitions, so I just knew he could be really good at something where you take instruction.

“It could’ve been Rugby League. It could’ve been a range of sports and it just happened to be MMA.”

It’ll be a proud moment for the 60-year-old when his son features at the UFC’s 30th anniversary show in a potentially life-changing fight this weekend.

Ultimately, Andy is just like any other dad – he wants to see his son happy, healthy, and rewarded handsomely for putting his life on the line for people’s entertainment.

He concluded: “I’m just there to help him make as much money as he can.

“I don’t think money is the objective for doing it. I think he does want to be the best at what he does and then the money will just come, hopefully.”


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