He's called the Crosby of fighting

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:15 AM ET

It's quite the plug for a fresh-faced 20-year-old to live up to.

"He's being billed by a lot of people as soon to be one day the best mixed martial arts fighters in the world," trainer Shawn Tompkins said from Las Vegas.

Numerous mixed martial arts websites are calling him the Sidney Crosby of the sport.

The best in the world? The Crosby of mixed martial arts?

None of this seems to cause Londoner Chris Horodecki much concern.

"I don't let that bother me too much. That's the way the media works. They love you one day, they eat you up the next," he said.

"My dad always said don't let your head blow up. That's something I never forget. Remember who you are. It's nice, but I just do what I do and keep my head straight."

Horodecki fights with Team Tompkins in London. He is 11-0 in the International Fight League and on Dec. 29 he will take on Shad Lierley in Connecticut for the IFL lightweight title. He leaves today for Las Vegas, where he'll spend the next month training with Tompkins, the founder of the gym.

The former Catholic Central high school student shares some traits with most of Tompkins' fighters. They are down to earth, focused and have their heads on straight.

Horodecki trains twice a day. And he spends time at the University of Western Ontario working out with the wrestling team.

He's also working at becoming a paramedic, but his schedule is making that part of his life a little difficult.

"He's very intelligent and focused," said Scott Paton, owner of Bodies by Paton in St. Thomas. Paton is Horodecki's strength coach and nutritionist, helping out since Tompkins spends a lot of his time in Las Vegas. "He's in tremendous shape and easy to work with. You tell him what to do and he does it."

Horodecki's movement up the MMA ladder may be surprising considering MMA is a sport in which fighters normally reach their prime in their late 20s or early 30s.

"But I've been doing this since I was 13," Horodecki said. "I met Shawn when he came to give a seminar on MMA at my karate class. Later, he gave a kickboxing demonstration. I thought 'Wow, he was the coolest guy in the world and what he was teaching, so practical, so unique. Six months later I was fighting."

Now he's the Polish Hammer. Full Contact Fighter, one of the sport's most respected publications, named him 2006 breakout fighter of the year. His first fight with Lierley is considered the MMA fight of the year, followed closely by two battles with Bart Palaszewski. They've been billed as must-see fights.

"He's grown by leaps and bounds," Tompkins said. "Do I believe he can eventually become the best martial arts fighter in the world? Absolutely, he can be the best in the world."

Tompkins has developed quite a stable, including fighters who have been champions in various organization, fighters such as Mark (The Machine) Hominick who fights in the World Extreme Challenge; Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout who fights in the Ultimate Fighter Challenge; and now Horodecki.

Horodecki is with the Los Angeles Anacondas in the IFL and he'll fight in Connecticut for the league lightweight crown (155-pound division.) All these fighters are trained and managed by Tompkins.

"He's a very, very good striker and excels at anti-grappling," Tompkins said. "He's very much a sniper. He picks his shots and for being young, he's also very good at taking a shot."

Being young isn't a factor, Horodecki said.

"It's an advantage. I'm not chasing the clock," he said. "I'm in no rush. I'm ahead of the game. People may think they have an advantage but I've been doing this for so long."

Passion is a word that virtually every fighter you talk to uses.

"I get a rush. I feed off the crowd. I love performing. I love getting up there," Horodecki said.

It's been a swift ride for Horodecki, a little quicker than even he expected.

"Did I think I would be here so quickly? I absolutely didn't," he said. "But I could've gone to school, gone to university, just like everyone else. My parents probably still want that but we're all different. We all can't be doctors or nurses or factory workers. But one thing led to another and here I am."


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