Cage Warriors return to Liverpool on Saturday night with a heavyweight clash taking centre stage in the main event. At the Exhibition Centre, training partner of Darren Till, Tom Aspinall, looks to remain the heavyweight to beat in the promotion when he takes on French newcomer, Michael Ben Hamouda. The winner could place themselves in position to fight for the vacant title in the future if Cage Warriors decide it is the right time to bring back the belt.
Following an almost three year break from MMA to pursue a career in professional boxing, Aspinall (6-2) made his comeback to the cage in February where he also headlined in Liverpool. However, the bout only lasted just over one minute and ended in devastating fashion when Aspinall checked a kick and broke his opponent’s leg. It was a sickening injury to watch and put a dampener on the northerner’s return.
“No, I wasn’t happy with the way that fight ended up,” said Aspinall. “It made me feel a bit sick to be honest with you. It’s not what you want. Obviously you and your opponent are trying to hurt one another but the way I look at it is that I just want to hurt my opponent for ten seconds and for them to then be alright. I’m not trying to hurt anyone long term so it wasn’t nice and I felt that it was a bit of an anti-climax.”
Aspinall emerged from that contest absolutely fresh and would have liked to returned to competition quicker than he is. However, he also acknowledged that when Cage Warriors offered him other dates, he had some issues going on in his personal life which meant he wouldn’t have been in the correct mindset to prepare for competition anyway. Despite this, Aspinall believes that everything happens for a reason and in his seven months away he has improved considerably which he is looking to showcase for the fans on Saturday night.
Recent online videos have shown Aspinall preparing for this main event alongside teammate, Darren Till, at Team Kaobon in Liverpool and have generated some online discussion. The footage shows the pair going extremely hard and looking completely exhausted after many of the exchanges. However, this is how Aspinall believes he prepares best and said the team take lots of precautions to make sure damage is kept to a minimum.
“We train hard as training has to be as realistic as possible compared to a fight without getting injured,” explained Aspinall. “It’s all about finding that balance and I feel like I’ve been doing it long enough to judge properly. I’ve been injured in light spars before and I’ve seen people badly injured in light spars. On the other hand, I’ve seen people have really, really heavy spars and they’ve been fine. At the end of the day, I think you have to prepare by fighting as you do in the cage during training. I like to prepare as close as I can to that when I’ve got a fight coming up.”
The former training partner of Tyson Fury will stand opposite Michael Ben Hamouda (2-0) on Saturday night and intends to make the statement that he was prevented from making during his Cage Warriors debut. The Frenchman is appearing in the promotion for the first time and this will be his first time competing in England after winning his two bouts last year in France and Switzerland. Ben Hamouda is coming off of a 42-second knockout against Adel Ghaddou last September and is looking to take the scalp of the biggest opponent he has faced so far. Aspinall is someone who likes to study his opponents a lot during his preparations but this has been quite difficult during this camp.
“He and my previous opponent are both French and MMA has been illegal over there so I feel as though there isn’t much footage out there of French fighters,” suggested Aspinall. “I’ve only seen one of this guy’s fights and that was only a highlight video so I’m basically going to go in there not knowing much about him. I can only work with what I’ve got and what I’ve got is a two-minute video of him so we’ll see how it goes but I’m confident.
“From what I’ve seen he looks a bit wild but he’s aggressive,” continued Aspinall. “He is a big guy and is dangerous which is all I can say about him really. I do realise he poses a threat so it’s the same as every other heavyweight. I’m going to be on my game.”
“The UFC is definitely the long term ambition for me going forwards. In fact, the title is the aim, not just getting in the UFC. I think I can reach it one day but at the moment for me it’s just about getting experience. I’m not in a rush to get to the UFC, get in the top ten or even win a Cage Warriors title. I’m not really bothered about that kind of stuff. I want to focus on doing what I’m doing in the gym during fights as I haven’t really shown a lot of what I can do during my bouts at the moment. I’d like to get to the point where I’m comfortable enough in my fights to showcase my true ability which is a focus of mine at the moment.”
Cage Warriors 107 will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass at 9pm BST on Saturday night. Fans in the US can watch from 4pmET/3c.