We recently spoke with UFC featherweight contender Mark Hominick and discussed a number of things from his upcoming UFC 129 championship bout with Jose Aldo tomorrow night to how he mentally prepares to prove his detractors that he’s no underdog.
Check out what “The Machine” had to say about his team, his huge opportunity tomorrow night, the fight that changed his career and much more.
You hit a rough patch between 2007 and 2008 where you went 2-3. What was your turnaround fight that you realized you had to get serious and get things back on track?
The Affliction fight with Savant Young was the turnaround fight for me. Before that I went two [wins] and three [losses] in five fights. I was fighting some of the tops guys who were some of the best in the world, but I kind of hit this rough patch. Something just clicked in that fight. I knew what I was capable of and I told myself that I had to just go in there and perform. Since then I haven’t lost. Each year I’ve set a goal for myself. Last year’s goal was to get into the top ten in my division and this year it was to win the title. Everything has been going according to plan and I’m ready for this opportunity.
All of the Team Tompkins guys, thanks to Shawn’s training methodologies, are known for their technical boxing-based stand-up. What sets your style apart from other fighters’ styles?
We know how to strike for MMA. You could put Floyd Mayweather in the Octagon and he wouldn’t be dominant. I think the style that we bring works for MMA. Our footwork is the key. That’s one thing I’m really impressed with Aldo about is that he can move too. I think this fight is going to be exciting and I think everyone is going to get their money’s worth.
Jose Aldo is a pretty dominant fighter. Do you see any weaknesses in any of his past performances?
He’s never even been close to being touched so we don’t know if he has any weaknesses. He can go five rounds and I can go five rounds. My last fight I finished in 88 seconds and we’ve seen Aldo finish a fight in eight seconds. We both are capable of finishing a fight quickly or of going at it for five rounds. I have to be prepared for anything. I’m glad I had the fight with Roop where I could show that I could finish quickly, but historically I get better as the fight goes on. I’m glad I made a statement with that knockout, but generally I like to be patient, feel my opponent out, pick my punches and not get excited and rush in too quickly, which takes restraint, but it’s something that comes with experience. He doesn’t have too any weaknesses that we’ve seen, but you can’t go in there and make him out to be a god. You can’t have too much respect for him. You need to focus on showing what you’re capable of doing, not what he’s likely going to do.
A lot of people aren’t giving you much of a chance in this fight and I know you’d like nothing more than to prove them all wrong. You’re confident that you have the perfect skill set to beat Jose. What makes a certain type of opponent more difficult for one fighter to beat than another?
People think it’s a cliché, but in MMA styles really do make fights. There’s really no set formula. ‘A’ can beat ‘B’ and ‘C’ can beat ‘A’ and ‘B’ can beat ‘C’. Sometimes a guy comes along who matches up perfectly with an opponent, has the performance that he needs to and takes him out. It’s happened time and time again.
An injury kept you out of a proposed bout with Jose earlier in the year. How hard is it for a guy like you who is always in the gym year round having an injury that basically makes it so you can’t train, let alone fight?
MMA is my passion and my life. I surround myself with it every day. When I had the cast on for six weeks, I was running and doing whatever I could training-wise, but I was also in the gym teaching and working on technique. That’s one thing about the guys in this sport, when they aren’t training or fighting, a lot of us are always picking up something from constantly being around the game. Even watching fights, I break down how I would have done something differently or if something works I’ll make a note to try the same move in practice. You always have to evolve.
Did you think you’d be offered another shot when you turned down the fight and it was offered to Josh Grispi?
I didn’t dwell on it too much. My manager called me to ask me what I thought about fighting Aldo on January first. It would have only given me three weeks of prep time and for a five-round fight against the best guy in the world in our division, that’s not how you do it. I knew it would come back around. I think that things in life happen for a reason and look at the opportunity I have now. I’m fighting on the first UFC card on my home soil in Ontario and I’m in the co-main event fighting for a title. You couldn’t paint a better picture. The timing is right and everything worked out much better.
You’ve had a media frenzy enveloping you here in Ontario since the fight was announced. How crazy has that experience been for a quiet guy from Thamesford and what are you expecting the crowd to be like come fight time?
It’s part of the job and I accepted that when I got into the sport. I just have to remember what’s important and keep the big picture in focus.You could feel the buzz at the press conference. You could see and feel the buzz. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fighter, you’re going to want to be a part of this show. We’re going to be a part of MMA history. It’s an amazing experience and opportunity. Everything I’ve worked for these past 16 years comes down to one night. I’m going to put in every possible ounce of effort I in me have into working to make sure I’m successful.
Besides this huge opportunity to potentially become a UFC champion, you have some other exciting things going on in your life. Are you a bit freaked out that the baby could come early and you might miss it?
It’s going to be a crazy time. My wife is due five days after the fight. It came down to a timing thing, but it’s all good news we’re looking forward to. That’s another reason why Shawn is came up here for the whole training camp, so I could be close if anything happened.
That’s one thing that sets your team apart. You’re always looking out for one another because you’re a family as much as you’re training partners.
Chris, Sam and I were all in Shawn’s wedding party and he was my best man. That’s the relationship we all have. He’s a lot more than just a trainer and a coach to us. Shawn gets just as excited as we do when we win and he takes our losses just as hard as we do.
One of your biggest weapons is your outstanding cardio. Do you see this fight being decided by who has more gas in the tank in the later rounds?
He’s a guy that can go 10 rounds or 20 rounds if he needed to. I don’t think cardio is going to be an issue. We both have the capability to go 25 seconds or 25 minutes. At this level and at 145 cardio typically isn’t an issue.
How have things changed for you as far as how you approach a fight mentally as you’ve matured as a fighter?
Before the fight with Savant I used to be so concerned with what my opponents were going to do, but I went into that fight with a different attitude and I concentrated on what I was capable of doing. As a fighter, you’re in the cage by yourself. Whatever makes you mentally strong and whatever motivates you, you need to do. I have Shawn around me encouraging me, but it’s something that I try to work on myself to make sure I have a mental edge over my opponent. I had issues where I was so concerned about my opponent that it ended up hurting my performance. It’s a constant battle to make sure your head is where it needs to be.
Fighting in front of your friends and family can be a double-edged sword when it comes to pressure. Do you see it as a positive or negative?
I’m undefeated in the UFC and he’ll be making his debut in front of 55,000 people – many of whom will be Canadian fans cheering for me. I definitely don’t want a loss on my UFC record and I don’t want to lose in my hometown or home province, but I think he has as much, if not more pressure on him to perform because he’s the champ and he’s heavily favored in this fight. It’s obviously nice to have the support of fans, but you should go out and perform the same if you’re fighting in front of two people or 20,000 people regardless of whether they’re booing, cheering or whatever. You just need to be focused on the task at hand.
Some say the difference between champions and everyone else isn’t just their level of skill or natural abilities, it’s their heart. Do you think that’s an accurate statement?
I got dropped in the Jabouin fight. I don’t even remember parts of the fight. I was basically out and I fought back. I was fighting on instinct. I remember having him hurt and then I remember being in full mount. There was probably twenty five seconds of that fight where I wasn’t there; I was just surviving off of instinct. That goes back to your conditioning, your will to fight and your heart. If there’s quit in you, it will come out then because you’re fighting on your last instinct. That’s what separates the champions from the rest. Frankie Edgar proved that point. He showed who he is as a fighter when he survived the first round of his last fight with Gray Maynard and came back to win the fight. You pretty much have to kill him to make him quit and that’s why he’s the champ.