Last Saturday at UFC 295: Prochazka vs Pereira, Tom Aspinall became the third English champion in UFC history when he defeated Sergei Pavlovich by first-round knockout in Madison Square Garden to earn the interim heavyweight belt.
Hoping to follow in his footsteps is Dana White’s Contender Series grad Mick Parkin. The British heavyweight began his professional mixed martial arts career in 2019, and recently spent time training with Aspinall in preparation for one another’s upcoming fights.
Aspinall said leading up to his fight with Pavlovich that one of the biggest challenges during camp is finding heavyweight training partners in England. Parkin has been one of the handful of heavyweights to train with him on his way to winning the title.
Fighting out of Castletown, Parkin makes the drive on Mondays and Tuesdays to spar with similar sized fighters at Aspinall’s gym in Wigan. Helping Aspinall has only made Parkin reach a new level himself, and he’s eager to show a more polished skill set the next time he competes in the Octagon.
“It’s really hard to find big guys [to train with],” Parkin said. “We’ve got maybe [three] bigger guys at our home gym. Down at Tom’s place, there’ll be eight or nine big guys who are all professional fighters who are quite competitive. We’ll go down there to get some competitive rounds in with big guys. I think it’ll be ever better now that [Aspinall] is champion; more people will want to come and there will be even more big guys on the mat now.”
“I’m always trying to get better with my team and my coach. They’re always trying to make us better, not just coasting through. I feel like I improve lots every fight. From last fight to this fight, I’ll be like a completely different fighter.”
In July, Parkin got his first taste of UFC competition against Jamal Pogues in his promotional debut. Fighting in front of his friends and family at the O2 Arena, Parkin cruised his way to a unanimous decision victory, extending his undefeated record to 7-0.
“I was quite happy to go three rounds,” Parkin said of his debut. “I felt good and comfortable in there. Looking back, I could’ve pushed a little bit more with certain things, maybe could’ve gotten a finish. Overall, I’m still happy. It was a UFC debut, I didn’t come away with any injuries, I felt pretty relaxed in there and it was good experience. Pretty much perfect, I’d say.”
“I didn’t feel [much pressure] in my debut; I felt completely relaxed. I think there’ll be less pressure this second fight, but, honestly, I just take the fight as it comes, not the occasion, but the fight itself. I feel pretty good.”
Parkin makes his second walk to the Octagon this Saturday at UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig in Las Vegas. Now fighting back at the APEX, where he earned his UFC contract on the Contender Series, Parkin arrived over a week early to get used to the time difference and get his sleep schedule back to normal by fight day.
He’ll face UFC newcomer Caio Machado, another Contender Series grad who picked up his contract on the show this past August. Machado has won his last seven fights, scoring three knockouts and two submissions in that span.
“He’s definitely dangerous,” Parkin said of Machado. “Being a big guy, everybody is. I don’t want to take any punches off him. I think he’s quite wild and aggressive. I think that’s good stylistically for me. It’s a great matchup for me, I’m looking forward to the fight.
“I think I’m better than him everywhere. He’s definitely still dangerous, but I think I can dictate where the fight goes.”
Don't miss a moment of UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prelims start at 2pm ET/11am PT, while the main card kicks off at 5pm ET/2pm PT.