|Mark Hominick, seen here at Friday's UFC 140 weigh-in, could be Canada's next MMA superstar. (DAVE THOMAS/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - He’s well spoken, personable, cares about his family and the community, and can take a punch (not to mention a kick and knee). Is Mark Hominick the next Canadian mixed martial arts superstar?
UFC officials in Canada are hoping so.
With UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre perhaps entering the — shall we say — autumn of his career, Canadian MMA fans have turned their attention to Hominick. Who knows how long GSP, who turns 31 in May and is currently out with an ACL injury, will be on top of his game?
But if Hominick keeps winning — and manages to defeat The Korean Zombie, Chan Sung-Jung on Saturday night at UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre — the Thamesford, Ont. native has a good chance of becoming a legitimate UFC star, and that would be music to the ears of UFC officials, who can only benefit from having a Canadian headline Canadian shows.
Without GSP headlining UFC 140, the second UFC show to be held in Toronto, organizers have had a difficult time selling out the Air Canada Centre. UFC 129 at the 55,000-seat Rogers Centre sold out in a matter of minutes in April.
“I’m a big Mark Hominick fan,” said Tom Wright, UFC Canada director of operations. “He really is the real deal. I’ve spent time with him, I’ve taken him to Ottawa. He’s relaxed when he’s with politicians, he’s great with fans, he’s a loving father, he’s got all these great qualities. And people loved him after they saw how he stood up and came out in that fifth round last April.”
Wright is referring to Hominick’s five-round unanimous decision loss to UFC champ Jose Aldo, considered one of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters in the world. Aldo controlled the first four rounds, but Hominick, showing tremendous willpower and conditioning, almost beat the Brazilian in the fifth. The match was ruled Fight of the Night, and Hominick made a ton of new fans in the loss. As Wright acknowledged, Canadians love tough fighters.
“Canadians love that ‘knock him down, but he’ll get back up’ deal,” said Wright.
Hominick, 29, likes to joke that he’s a 15-year overnight sensation. A University of Windsor business grad, he’s been training as an MMA fighter since he was teenager and turned pro in 2002. Since then, he’s run up a 20-9 record, and had won five straight before his epic battle with Aldo. And he’s a student of the game, always looking to improve.
“After the last fight, I went back to the drawing board, looking at what I can do to improve and filling in some of the holes,” said Hominick, who was trained by legendary MMA coach Shawn Tompkins, who died of a heart attack last August at 37.
“That’s the thing. If you look at some of the best fighters in this game, like Georges, every fight he comes in, he re-invents himself. Same with guys like Rashad Evans, they come in with a new skill set.”
If Hominick defeats the Korean Zombie, he’s hoping that gets him close to another title shot. But he’s willing to bide his time and keep fighting until the opportunity arises again.
Wright is confident that Hominick can get back to where the UFC offers him another title shot, and the UFC bigwig is also confident that, in the next few years, there will be other Canadians in line for title shots, including Kelowna, B.C. welterweight Rory MacDonald. The 22-year-old is 12-1, 3-1 in the UFC, and his only loss was to veteran UFC man Carlos Condit, 27-5, who will be fighting Nick Diaz for the UFC interim welterweight belt on Feb.4, at UFC 143.
In MacDonald’s fight against Condit, last June in Vancouver at UFC 115, MacDonald controlled the first two rounds before the experienced Condit came on in the third and earned a TKO. The bout earned Fight of the Night honours. It was later determined that if MacDonald had survived to the end of the round, he would have earned a split decision win. MacDonald was supposed to meet Brian Ebersole at UFC 140 but had to withdraw because of an injury. Even GSP has said MacDonald is a better fighter than he was early in his career. Wright believes with the increasing popularity of MMA fighting in Canada, more quality fighters will emerge out of the Great White North. And with UFC planning to launch The Ultimate Fighter reality series in Canada soon, Wright says even more Canadians will come to the forefront.