INTERNATIONAL: Alexander Volkov is set to take on Tom Aspinall on a Fight Night card in the UK capital.
Russian UFC veteran Alexander Volkov has salvaged the Fight Night main event on Saturday by arriving in London despite fears that he would be forced to miss his contest with home favorite Tom Aspinall.
The 34-9 heavyweight and Moscow native were snapped in the UK capital, meaning he can now face 11-2 contender Aspinall at the weekend.
Their fight was thrown into jeopardy given developments influenced by Russia's military operation in Ukraine.
Unlike bodies such as FIFA and UEFA which have banned Russian teams, the elite MMA championship of the UFC has not prevented Russian athletes from being able to participate individually in international events.
In boxing, the British Boxing Board of Control has announced a ban on Russians and Belarusians from being able to compete in the UK.
Separately, there were also concerns that Volkov would not be allowed into the UK after a British member of Parliament announced how “the UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit" in the military operation in Ukraine.
Yet these fears have been allayed with number seven-ranked heavyweight Volkov now able to seek his fourth win in his last five outings, while number 12-ranked foe Aspinall looks to prolong an unblemished record in the UFC where he is similarly unbeaten in four fights.
Aspinall had been willing to adapt last minute in the possibility that Volkov wouldn't have been able to turn up.
"Would it really be a Tom Aspinall fight without any drama, without any changes?" he asked BT Sport.
"Basically, every fight I've ever had, I've had some kind of opponent switch, even this one, it wasn't always supposed to be Volkov. What can you do? You've got to roll with the punches.
"Hopefully he will make it, I personally don't have control about what is going on in the world, the UFC doesn’t, Volkov doesn't. If there's a change, we'll go with that as well," Aspinall noted.
Now that the main draw at the O2 Arena will go ahead as planned, Aspinall knows he has to be wary of the "6ft 8in, rangy Russian" who has "great kicks, great takedown defense" and is "really underrated on the ground as well".
Volkov has also gone five rounds "70,000 times," Aspinall said, which the Brit has never done before, therefore giving his Russian foe "all kinds of advantages".
"I'm aware of how good this guy is and how big an event this is. My goal is just that, I'm not thinking about anything else," Aspinall admitted.
"But I'm dangerous man, I need to hit you once and that's it," Aspinall bragged. "I don't just need to punch you, I can do a whole load of things to finish the fight that nobody has ever seen before. That's a massive advantage.
Other highlights of the London show include 17-1 featherweight Arnold Allen taking on Dan Hooker in the co-main event, and Liverpool loudmouth Paddy Pimblett fighting his second bout in the UFC against weathered Mexican Rodrigo Vargas.