It will be interesting to see how Mark Hominick will look back at 2011 after time passes and dulls the immediacy of a year in which he truly lived through the highest highs and lowest lows, both personally and professionally. From birth and death to wins and losses, Hominick experienced it all in the space of 12 months that will culminate in his Saturday bout against Chan Sung Jung in the main card opener of UFC 140.
Starting out in January with a blistering 88 second stoppage of George Roop, Hominick went on to challenge Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight crown in April, a bout that not only marked his first world title fight, but his first appearance in his home province of Ontario. And though he lost a Fight of the Night award-winning battle to Aldo in front of over 55,000 fans at Rogers Centre in Toronto, his gutsy effort and strong finish gained the classy Canadian even more followers for his second march toward the belt.
“I would say it’s like a 15 year overnight success,” said Hominick of his long-awaited arrival on the world stage. “I think that’s the way it works with anything you’re passionate about. You see the same thing with musicians or people in any kind of art, movie stars, whatever it is, they work the grind for years and years and get that one opportunity, and all of a sudden they’re in the limelight. That’s the opportunity I’ve been given, and now it’s my responsibility to run with it.”
The reaction to the bout was as good as a fighter can get from a loss, and two weeks after the final bell, the good vibes continued with the birth of his daughter, Raeya. Yet in August, a sudden heart attack tragically claimed the life of Hominick’s longtime coach Shawn Tompkins, a crushing blow not just to the Thamesford native, but to the mixed martial arts world. It was one that reminded Hominick of just how fickle fate can be.
“The birth of my daughter was definitely life-changing and the greatest thing that’s happened to me,” he said. “It was an eye opener. You realize that you’re not the most important thing around and you put your daughter ahead of everything, and it’s always for the better. And with Shawn, it was such a shock and I honestly don’t even think it’s hit me yet. I think it’s gonna hit me the closer it gets to the fight, that last week and in the dressing room. But I’m looking at it as I have a responsibility to carry on his legacy, and the way I do that is I go out there and I fight.”
It’s the only reaction Hominick and his close teammates, Sam Stout and Chris Horodecki, can have. They’re fighters, so they fight, but what they will also do is bring a piece of their coach with them wherever they go. And if there is any solace taken in the passing of the 37-year old Tompkins, it was that he got to see one of his prize pupils fight for a world title in front of the biggest crowd in UFC history. And despite the outcome, as Hominick and Tompkins walked from the Octagon back to their locker room after the bout, you could see the pride in the coach’s face after seeing his fighter give his all for 25 minutes.
“It’s crazy,” said Hominick. “It’s almost like he (Tompkins) reached that point too. And we said the same thing: we were fighting for our world title. We worked so long and so hard for so many years to get to that point, and it was such a satisfying feeling to know that all the years were finally paying off just to get to that point. He kinda reached that Nirvana just like me, just getting there, and it was a surreal feeling. But now it’s our responsibility to carry on his legacy by moving forward.”
So it was back to the gym, back to getting ready for a fight, and now with an added incentive – to represent his coach for a new generation of mixed martial artists.
“I think it’s re-motivated the group and brought everyone closer together,” said Hominick. “It’s weird how a tragedy brings everyone closer, but it really does, and the team’s never been closer. We’ve all had to pick up a piece of his leadership and all fulfill it, and we’re all motivated to carry the legacy on.”
Horodecki was the first core member of Team Tompkins to return, and he fought to a draw with Mike Corey in a Bellator bout in November. Stout returns in January to battle Thiago Tavares at UFC 142, and Hominick is back this week to face “The Korean Zombie,” in a bout that is even more intriguing than usual now that Jung showed off a slick submission game in finishing off Leonard Garcia with the “Twister” in March. It’s a move that never ended a UFC bout before, but Hominick wasn’t surprised that the home run swinging slugger turned black belt for the night.
“I think he’s always had the skill set to go anywhere, but right away he got kinda poster boy’d as this guy who likes to throw down and never back down,” said Hominick of Jung. “And all of a sudden he got knocked out by George Roop and I think he went back to the drawing board and said ‘okay, I don’t have to swing for the fences and throw caution to the wind every time to win.’ I think after that fight he realized that he had to make some changes.”
It’s almost the same tag placed on Hominick over the years, but his solid ground and pound work late in the Aldo fight and seven career submission wins (including tap outs of Yves Edwards and Bryan Caraway) show that he’s not just a striker.
“People always overlook my ground game, but I have some big submission wins,” said the 29-year old. “But my strength is definitely on my feet, that’s where I like to keep the fight, and that’s where I do my best work. I’m still considered a striker, but I’ve been doing this professionally for over 11 years now so if I’m gonna be pegged for that, I don’t think it’s gonna change anytime soon. (Laughs)”
That perception is not something that bothers him though, especially if he keeps the fans happy with his performances. That will definitely be the case on Saturday, as the young man who wasn’t able to fight in his home province for all of his pre-2011 pro career is now going to make it two in a row in Ontario when he faces Jung. Is this going to be a habit?
“It is a pretty surreal feeling, but I thought it was definitely fitting, especially the way the last fight ended, to finish the rest of the story here in my home province, and then move forward,” said Hominick. “I know the fans are eager to see it, and I’m ready to perform for them.”
He’s also ready to get back in line for another shot at Aldo, and in a relatively wide-open contenders’ race at 145 pounds, a couple good wins could be all it takes to shoot him back to the front of the line.
“The division is still relatively new,” said Hominick of the featherweights. “The first title fight was at UFC 129, so I think any time that you get the opportunity to be on a Pay-Per-View and the main card of any card and put on a performance, you’ve pretty much cemented your spot as a contender. And the guys who make the loudest noise in their fights are the guys that are gonna be remembered and pushed up fastest. So I think that’s the important thing – going out there and making statement fights that people remember and make them want to put you in the spot as vying for that title.”
So what’s more important, winning or being exciting? Mark Hominick, the 15-year overnight success, has figured that equation out just fine.
“It is a fine line, but I think my style caters to being in exciting fights,” said Hominick. “Anyone who likes to throw down and stand up, you’re gonna be a fan favorite. So I’m lucky that my style and my skill set caters to that. I worry about winning, and that’s my main concern; I just think the way I do it is a lot more exciting than other people do.”
Mark Hominick - A Year He Will Never Forget
"People always overlook my ground game, but I have some big submission wins. But my strength is definitely on my feet." - Mark Hominick