Wrecking my knee was blessing in disguise, insists Wigan's own UFC heavyweight hero

Wigan's own UFC heavyweight hero Tom Aspinall believes the serious knee injury that has sidelined him for a year was actually a blessing in disguise.
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The 30-year-old - who hails from Atherton, and has coached Jiu Jitsu at Elite Fitness Factory in Wigan, the gym owned by his Team Kaobon mate Mike Grundy - faces Polish veteran Marcin Tybura on Saturday at London's O2 Arena.

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It will be one day short of a year since Aspinall suffered a serious knee injury just 15 seconds into his headline contest against American Curtis Blaydes at the same venue.

Tom Aspinall is hoping to end a year of frustration with victory at the O2 this weekendTom Aspinall is hoping to end a year of frustration with victory at the O2 this weekend
Tom Aspinall is hoping to end a year of frustration with victory at the O2 this weekend
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And rather than be nervous about the prospect of getting back into the octagon, Aspinall insists he'll come back better than ever - because he had been wanting to get surgery on his right knee for five years!

Aspinall would regularly feel the joint 'locking up' while he was kneeling, which was manageable without surgery.

But having been forced under the knife, he feels he will be able to unlock an extra gear - which spells bad news for his opponents.

“It’s such a luxury,” he said. “I didn't even realise what a luxury it is to be able to train with two legs.”

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Aspinall was already regarded as one of the fastest heavyweights on the circuit.

And he can't wait to show off 'Aspinall 2.0' in the main event of Saturday's supercard.

“I just feel like that year off helped me find what’s right for my body," he said.

“It helped me figure myself out more as an athlete.

"Just going to the gym and smashing myself – four hours training a day and then just having the other 20 hours doing whatever I want — I’m not really like that anymore.

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"I live as an athlete now. I make sure I get the right rest, the right recovery stuff.

"My diet is good. Everything is in a good spot now.”

Aspinall won't have it all his own way against 37-year-old Tybura, who is in the best form of his seven-year UFC stint, with an impressive seven wins from his last eight fights.

However, Aspinall – who is defending an MMA record of 12-3-0 – is fiercely determined to do what it takes to propel himself back into the title picture.

“He's got me at the worst time he could ever get me because I am unbelievably hungry right now,” Aspinall told UFC.com. “I am ready to show everybody that I am just the next heavyweight champion.

"Honestly. I’m ready to show everybody what I’m all about.

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“I feel like I’ve been locked down for a year from doing what I love.

“I want that freedom again. I want to get in there and express myself and show everybody this is what I’ve been working on.

"Let’s not forget about me. I’m not the guy that falls over with a sore leg after 15 seconds. I want to go out there and show everyone what I’m all about.

"I think I want to feel free because that’s the feeling I love. Just freedom."

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