“My goal is to make a statement as to why I deserve this title shot in
this division, and that’s what I’m going into this fight to do."
An unbeaten UFC record. It’s the goal of any mixed martial artist, but it’s a feat few can claim for any length of time. Even fewer will walk away from the organization without tasting the bitter pill of defeat.
Mark Hominick is one of those select few, having left the UFC after 2006 victories over Yves Edwards and Jorge Gurgel. Nearly five years later, the Thamesford, Ontario native has no regrets.
“I was a 145-pound fighter, and that’s what I looked at,” he said when asked about his mindset at the time. “I thought Yves Edwards was a great matchup, the same with Gurgel, and I knew I could beat those guys, but my goal in this sport is to be the best in the world, and my opportunity to do that was at 145.”
So he walked away, despite the momentum that he built in the world’s largest MMA organization. He returned to Canada, fighting in the TKO organization while mixing in Stateside bouts for the WEC, Affliction, and Ring of Fire organizations. He won more often than not, and kept his name alive in MMA circles, but there were no action figures, trading cards, or video game appearances for “The Machine”, only the determination to fulfill a dream on his terms.
“I was training with (trainer) Shawn Tompkins and (UFC fighter) Sam Stout, and Sam was a 155er, and we’re like okay, Sam can fight at ’55 in the UFC and I can go to the WEC or wherever the best fights were for me at the time,” he recalled. “But at times, people hadn’t heard my name in a few years and they would be like ‘I remember you bursting onto the scene and then going off the radar.’ So it was frustrating on that end, but I had long-term goals that I wanted to be the best at my weight.”
And as the years progressed, Hominick’s initial instincts proved to be correct, as frustrating losses to Rani Yahya and Josh Grispi began translating into victories over Savant Young, Bryan Caraway, Yves Jabouin, and Leonard Garcia, all but one of which took place in the Zuffa-era WEC, which reintroduced Hominick to fight fans on a consistent basis.
“It was cool to be a part of the WEC because it kind of had that almost cult following,” said Hominick, 19-8 as a pro. “The fans really understood that when you watched WEC you were really gonna get a good show every time. It didn’t matter what part of the card you were watching, you’re gonna get a great fight. So I was proud to be a part of that, but now I’m at the point in my career where you want that exposure and you want to be fighting on the biggest stage possible and that’s with UFC.”
Yet his return to the Octagon didn’t come without a price, and for Hominick that price was that his first fight back would be against former training partner George Roop this Saturday night. But as one of the truest pros in the game, Hominick is able to put his relationship with Roop to the side for 15 minutes or less this weekend.
“It was difficult at the start, but once I got into camp I put that aside,” he said. “It’s part of the game really. If you’re in the same weight class with some of the top guys, sometimes you’re put against a teammate. The thing with George, we’re teammates, but we’re not the best of friends like I am with someone like Sam Stout or Chris Horodecki. I own a gym together with them, and there’s a difference between training partners and best friends.”
The Three Musketeers of Team Tompkins, Hominick, Stout, and Horodecki have been nearly attached at the hip for years, and most expected that the reunion of all three in the Octagon following the merge of the WEC into the UFC would be one of the ‘feel good’ stories of the New Year. But after posting a 2-2 record in the WEC, Horodecki was released, postponing what Hominick hopes will be an eventual reuniting of the Ontario trio.
“We’re a family, and sometimes those things happen,” said Hominick. “We were all really frustrated because we know Chris’ potential, but on the other end of it, he’s got the potential to get a string of wins and come back to the top. He belongs amongst the guys in the UFC, so he’s just gonna have to go back to the grind and win his way back up. When you’re with a team that’s always fighting and that’s been together for so long, you’re gonna get ups and downs, and this is just a little wave in the ride right now.”
Impressively, the bond between the three remains tight, and to see the fighters grow up in public and still stay together is a testament to the job done by their longtime coach, Tompkins.
“He’s the reason why we’re here, we know that, and we’re always going to be together because of that unity he’s created,” said Hominick of Tompkins. “You kinda look at the guys who gym jump a lot, and it frustrates me because loyalty is a big thing, it’s a big thing in our camp, and it’s a big thing in a lot of our victories. There are always things you can improve on, like bringing in different coaches, like Keebo Robinson for us, or different wrestling or jiu-jitsu coaches to add to the game, but we’re still a unit.”
And this MMA version of Team Canada will be bringing it on Saturday night, when Hominick collides with a familiar face in Roop.
“It’s a good matchup,” he said. “We’re both gonna get in there and we’re gonna bang, and we’re both coming off big wins, and those are the kinda fights I want. He knocked out “The Korean Zombie” and kinda woke up everybody to realize who George Roop was, so now I’ve got to take that momentum from him and run with it for myself.”
A win for Hominick secures a title shot against UFC featherweight boss Jose Aldo later this year, and the 28-year old knows what’s at stake. Yet having said that, he is using the Roop fight not as a distraction on the way to bigger things, but to prove in his UFC return that he is worthy of a championship fight.
“My goal is to make a statement as to why I deserve this title shot in this division, and that’s what I’m going into this fight to do,” he said.
Looks like that decision to walk away in 2006 was a pretty smart one.
“I’m five times the fighter that I was back then,” said Hominick. “Maybe if I had a couple of bad matchups right after Gurgel, like a strong wrestler like Sean Sherk, at that point in my career, it might have been devastating for it. So I look at the past and I’m glad I made those decisions.”