Curtis Blaydes and Tom Aspinall shared just 15 seconds in the cage on Saturday night but a good bit longer later that night.
Pictures emerged on Sunday of the two top-ranked heavyweights sharing a beer together in the fighter hotel, just hours after Aspinall suffered a potentially serious knee injury which brought a premature conclusion to the biggest fight of his life to date. And while big fights will await him down the line, it will likely be the last time we Aspinall in the cage for an extended spell — but he certainly didn’t seem to be letting the circumstances get him down, at least judging by the pictorial evidence you can see above (via Aspinall’s IG, btw).
But how did this happen? Blaydes detailed the circumstances to Ariel Helwani on Monday’s MMA Hour, via MMA Fighting.
“Random,” Blaydes explained. “I was in my room, obviously we’re in the same hotel. My dad, I guess he was in the lobby downstairs at one of the bars in the lobby area. He was down there, and he bumped into Aspinall’s dad, and my dad is a talker. He’ll make friends with anybody. He’ll be your best friend if you guys have a drink.
“So I guess he got to talking, and then my dad walked into my room and was like, ‘Hey, let’s go up to Aspinall’s room. He wants to have a drink with you.’ So I was like, ‘OK, I’m down.’ So then we go up there, and they’re really nice. The whole Aspinall [crew], his whole squad, his dad, his uncle, everyone, even the women. Everyone was super nice, super cool.
“We were up there for like an hour. A good, solid hour. They were nice guys, and the atmosphere was very friendly, very inviting.”
Some fighters would struggle to handle what looks to be a serious injury. Not Aspinall, Blaydes said.
“He handled it very well. He was upbeat,” he said. “He was fine. He knows he’ll be back. He knows he’s young. He’s already better than Derrick Lewis, I think he’s better than Tuivasa; I think he’s better than Gane. I think he’s more well-rounded. He obviously has the wrestling, he has jiu-jitsu, he’s very athletic on the feet. I believe that he believes he’s going to bounce back, and I believe it also. I don’t think this is the end of Aspinall.”
But Blaydes added that his visit to Aspinall’s hotel room might have had one unexpected consequence: he likes him.
“I wish I hadn’t gone up there, because now I like him!” Blaydes said. “I like the guy. You don’t want to fight someone you like, and I know we’re going to scrap again. I know, because he’s only 29, he’ll be back. I know he’s going to be out for eight, nine months, even a year, but he’ll be here, so I know we’re going to scrap again, and it’s hard to scrap a guy you like.”