It’s been a year filled with extreme highs and lows, inside and outside of the Octagon, for mixed martial artist Mark ‘The Machine’ Hominick.
The Thamesford native became a household name in Canada after coming up just short in his quest to become a world title holder in front of a record-setting 55,000 fans at the UFC’s first ever event in Toronto.
A couple of weeks after UFC 129, Hominick became a father. A few months later he lost his longtime coach and friend, Shawn Tompkins.
And in December he was knocked out by the Korean Zombie at the ACC in just seven seconds.
But on Apr. 21, almost a year to the day after his spectacular loss to featherweight champ Jose Aldo at the Rogers Centre, the 29-year-old takes on Eddie ‘The Filipino Phenom’ Yagin at UFC 145 in Atlanta, GA.
And with one well-timed right cross or a guillotine choke he could put himself back in the hunt for another title shot.
“I’m not thinking about the title shot, I’m going out there and I want to win,” Hominick told The Sun recently. “But in the back of my mind, I do understand this is my career, this is my livelihood (and) winning this fight puts me back on track.”
If he manages to get another crack at the title, he wants it to be because he’s earned it, just as he when he got his first shot at the belt.
“That really changed everything in my life,” Hominick said of the Aldo fight. “It really gave me an identity in the sport.”
In the basement of his home in Thamesford, a town with a couple thousand residents east of London, he shifts his daughter Raeya from one arm to the other as he points out his UFC 129 memorabilia on a shelf next to the various belts he has held over the years.
“It was a night that was going to go down in history, so just being part of it was special,” Hominick said. “But then having a fight that people remember is something that I’ll definitely (always) cherish.”
It’s rare for a fighter’s stock to go up after a loss and a year later he’s still a little taken aback by all the attention.
After taking a beating for four rounds, Hominick ended up on top of the champ delivering some serious ground and pound while a haematoma on his forehead swelled to the size of a grapefruit and his very pregnant wife, Ashley, sat on the edge of her front row seat.
Had there been more time on the clock in that fifth and final round, he may have left the Octagon as the champ.
Instead, he went back to the dressing room feeling dejected.
The bout won Fight of the Night honours, but it wasn’t until he went home and watched it that he realized just how special it was.
“If I had that same fight five years ago, it wouldn’t have mattered because no one would have seen it,” Hominick said. “But it was on the biggest stage, on the biggest card in UFC history.”
Hominick is relatively new to the UFC, but he has been around the sport a long time.
He began training and competing in MMA at 13, turned pro at 19 and was a Canadian champ during his years at university in Windsor, where he studied business.
Hominick and numerous other title holders from a now defunct promotion called TKO, including Georges St.-Pierre, fought in 2006 at UFC 58 — a card billed as USA vs Canada.
The UFC didn’t have a featherweight division yet, so Hominick moved up to the 155 pound lightweight division to fight Yves Edwards. He won that bout and another one three months later.
But after his second UFC appearance, Hominick returned to fighting at 145 pounds — mostly for a promotion called World Extreme Cagefighting, which was owned by the UFC’s parent company Zuffa.
Hominick made his way back to the UFC when it absorbed the WEC early in 2011. He beat George Roop in January and then took on Aldo in the division’s first title bout.
The lighter divisions have since been a major boon for the UFC, which itself has exploded in popularity the last few years, especially in Canada.
Hominick remembers not long ago piling into a van with other fighters and driving to the U.S. to fight in smokey bars in front of 50 fans.
So last year’s highly anticipated event at the Rogers Centre, made possible when Ontario finally lifted its MMA ban, illustrates how much the sport has grown, he said.
Dealing with the media demands while training for a title fight gave Hominick a small taste of what life must be like for GSP, who ironically also co-headlined UFC 129.
“Seeing how far he has come, the ambassador he has become to the sport, he’s been a big role model for me,” Hominick said.
GSP was sidelined last fall by a knee injury that forced him to give up his welterweight title and he’s not expected to fight again until November at the earliest.
With St.-Pierre out, Hominick is one of Canada’s brightest hopes in the UFC. He’s uncomfortable acknowledging it, but he knows he needs to Unfortunately he suffered a setback in December when he lost to Jung Chan-Sung.
“It was definitely a tough pill to swallow,” Hominick said of the disastrous fight. “I came out too aggressive, fought out of character and paid the price.”
There was a lot of pressure on him to live up to the expectations of fans and carry on the legacy of Tompkins, who died four months earlier.
“The way I erase that (loss) is by having a dominating performance,” Hominick said. “So that’s what I’m focused on doing.”
After saying goodbye to his wife and daughter, Hominick drove down the road to the first of his two workouts a day at the Adrenaline Training Centre — a gym he owns with fellow fighters Sam Stout and Chris Hordecki.
His strength and conditioning coach, Brian Fletcher, has trained Hominick for four years and said he’s never seen the Machine in better shape.
“He’s actually stronger now than he was for the Aldo fight...much stronger,” he said.