TOM ASPINALL is set to make history at Madison Square Garden tonight – but his life could've been oh so different had he walked away from MMA.
The burly Brit will look to make history at 'The World's Most Famous Arena' early tomorrow morning when he fights for the UFC's interim heavyweight title in the co-main event of UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden.
Standing between the Wigan warrior and becoming Britain's third UFC titleholder is Russian wrecking machine Sergei Pavlovich.
Dad-of-three Aspinall, 30, has blasted through all but one of his opponents since making his debut on Fight Island in July 2020.
UFC glory and writing his name into the promotion's history books is just a matter of hours away for the 30-year-old.
But his life could have been oh so different had he decided to stick to his decision to walk away from the sport after struggling to get fights and keep his family financially secure.
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He told SunSport earlier this week: "I've had a couple of tough times earlier in my career and stuff with injuries and with not being able to get matches and I was really struggling for money at a few points.
"Which is tough because I've got children and stuff. It was tough."
Aspinall was convinced to continue fighting by his dad and long-time coach Andy and his mum – who helped him while he was enduring financial despair – following a frank and honest sitdown.
That conversation fortified his belief that he would one day compete for UFC gold and eventually compete in The Big Apple.
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He continued: "On the other hand, I expected to be here. I expected to be UFC heavyweight champion, I expected to fight in New York one day.
"It is and it isn't [surreal]."
Aspinall is proud as punch with what he's achieved in his career, although he won't sit back and smell the roses until he calls time on his career.
He said: "When I think about how far I've come and stuff, it's good, but I don't really have time to do that.
"I think that's something I'll look at when I'm retired.
"Because at the minute, I'm just in the moment. At the minute, I'm just looking forward to Saturday.
"And I'll think about all that stuff when I'm done with this sport."
Aspinall must pass one of the toughest tests in mixed martial arts in Pavlovich to achieve his dream of winning UFC gold.
The Russian behemoth – who was the backup fighter for the cancelled fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic – is a heavy favourite having knocked out his last SIX opponents in his first round.
Aspinall has had only TWO WEEKS to prepare his shot at UFC gold but is confident of defying the odds and bringing home the belt.
"I like that the odds are against me. I like that a lot.
"I'm fighting the scariest in MMA, in my opinion, in the worst circumstances without a training camp. But I think I can win.
"I'm not the kind of guy who shows up for money. I ain't signing up and showing up if I don't think I'm gonna win.
"I truly, truly believe that I can win on Saturday night and that I'm going to win.
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"I'm an absolute winner and I'll find a way to win, no matter what the circumstances.
"The odds are definitely stacked against me, and it will be even better when I win the title on Saturday night."
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