After Jones (27-1 MMA, 21-1 UFC) suffered a torn pectoral muscle that forced him out of a scheduled bout with Miocic at UFC 295 in November, the promotion introduced an interim title to the scene. Aspinall (14-3 MMA, 7-1 UFC) claimed that belt in emphatic fashion, scoring a vicious 69-second knockout of Sergei Pavlovich in a short-notice bout on the same UFC 295 card which Jones was meant to compete on.
Although Aspinall is now the interim champion, he will not fight Jones next. Both Jones and UFC CEO Dana White are adamant the showdown with Miocic still has to happen, despite the fact Miocic hasn’t fought since March 2021, and hasn’t won since August 2020. That’s been immensely frustrating for Aspinall, and he’s vocalized as much in engaging with multiple back-and-forth exchanges with “Bones.”
Whether that will lead to a fight between them, remains to be seen. Jones, 36, said he’s taking his career fight-by-fight at this point. He won’t make any promises to unify with Aspinall if he gets past Miocic, but he won’t fully rule it out, either.
“I’m really going to base whether I continue on how I compete against Stipe, how I heal up from this injury,” Jones told Submission Radio. “I could blow Stipe out of the water or it could be an absolute war, and I feel like I need to take one step at a time before seeing what I do next. But the Tom fight is definitely not off the table – especially with how I’ve been feeling being out here. I feel just totally reinvigorated and just reenergized just being around all these fans, so I can’t just walk away. The ball is rolling in a really positive direction for me to continue my career.”
Jones said Aspinall ultimately is “not important enough yet to determine my schedules and my decisions,” but that doesn’t mean they won’t fight. Jones has injury recovery and a fight with Miocic to get through before it becomes realistic in his mind, though, and he doesn’t think it would be wise for Aspinall to wait for all this to play out.
According to Jones, the best way for Aspinall to lure him into a fight would be to stay active and defend the interim belt, and as a result it will only increase the potential significance of a fight between them.
“If I were him, I would get after it, I would get after it,” Jones said. “If you truly believe that you’re the best in the world, then get after it. Go out there and compete, and the real fans will count your victories as champions. But don’t let me slow you down. Go out there and kick butt and make your money.”