The main event of UFC 295 was due to see Jones defend his heavyweight belt against divisional great Stipe Miocic, but that bout was cancelled on two weeks’ notice after Jones suffered an injury in training.
With Jones, 36, set to face eight months on the sidelines, the UFC pitted Aspinall against Pavlovich to crown an interim champion, and it was the Briton who triumphed at Madison Square Garden to become the third British champion in UFC history.
Aspinall, who admitted to being “scared” ahead of his fight with the Russian, caught Pavlovich with two clean right hands in the first round, wobbling him with the first and dropping him with the second.
And the Wigan fighter, 30, who could be elevated to regular champion in Jones’s absence, said he now wants the “dream fight” against the American great.
“Right now I want to take a little break,” he told UFC.com. “I don’t want to fight again this year. I’ve had enough of this nerves thing and pressure. I want a little bit of time off.
“I want to fight Jon Jones. I know there’s a lot of contenders coming up at the moment, but I want to fight Jon Jones. That’s my goal.
“He’s in my opinion one of top two greatest ever with GSP [Georges St-Pierre]. I want to test myself against him before my career is over and more importantly before his career is over. He’s coming to the end and I’m just getting started. That’s the fight I want, definitely.”
It is as yet unclear whether Aspinall will fight Jones next, or whether the UFC will rebook Jones versus 41-year-old Miocic. In that case, Aspinall would potentially have to defend the interim belt in the meantime. However, there is also a belief that Aspinall could be elevated to regular champion in Jones’s absence.
“I can’t even tell you, it’s been a crazy two-and-a-half weeks,” Aspinall said after his win, having fought through a bout of tears. “Oh, my God. I just want to say to everyone at home: Listen, if you ever get the chance to do something, and you’re scared to do it, you should f***ing definitely do it, because there’s a chance it’s gonna pay off.
“He’s a big, scary guy. I’ve never been as scared in my life as fighting this guy, but I’ve got a lot of power, too. And I believe in myself, I really believe in myself. I’ve worked so hard over the years.”