Amidst all the messages Tom Aspinall received after being crowned the UFC Heavyweight Champion, it was one from Leigh Leopards owner Derek Beaumont which sparked the most emotion.
Atherton native Aspinall defeated Sergei Pavlovich in Madison Square Garden, New York on Saturday night, knocking the Russian out in just 69 seconds to win the belt.
All the more impressively, he did so on just two weeks’ notice too, with the fight only arranged after an injury to fellow MMA star Jon Jones saw another scheduled battle called off.
30-year-old Aspinall earlier this year attended Leigh’s ‘Battle of the Borough’ clash against eventual Super League champions with Wigan Warriors, and in an interview pitchside with Sky Sports‘ Jenna Brooks, revealed his allegiances lay with the Leopards.
Beaumont jetted off to the Big Apple to watch UFC 295, and got to witness first-hand a devastating first-round KO. Notably, ahead of the bout, England head coach Shaun Wane was amongst those to send on his well-wishes, but a few days on from his triumph, Aspinall has detailed just what a message from the Leopards’ chief meant to him.
UFC champion Tom Aspinall opens up on emotional message from Leigh Leopards owner Derek Beaumont in wake of triumph
The newly-crowned heavyweight spoke to YouTube channel ‘@MMAFightingonSBN‘ in the latest episode of their regular feature, ‘The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani‘.
On Beaumont’s message, he said: “I got a lot of great messages, I’m so lucky to have gotten so many great messages, and I got a lot off a lot of fighters who I look up to and a lot of celebrities who I look up to.
“To be honest, and this is wild, but the area that I’m from, we have a rugby team here and there’s a guy who owns the rugby team called Derek Beaumont.
“The team’s called Leigh Leopards and he sent me a message. He’s not a high-profile guy, he’s not a celebrity, but he just sent me a video message and it was one of the most powerful messages I’ve ever seen.
“He said, and I’m getting a bit choked up thinking about it, that I’ve got everything – I’ve got the speed, I’ve got the power, I’ve got the grit, I’ve got the determination, but the one thing that I didn’t have was an opportunity.
“I got my opportunity, and I took it, and it paid off.”