How is Mark Hominick supposed to defeat UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo? As accomplished, experienced and athletic as he is, most experts and insiders consider the hurdle of Jose Aldo insurmountable. Hominick, in their judgment, is worthy of respect if not rarefied air.
Hominick didn't use these words himself when I spoke to him on my radio show (MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan), but he told me part of the failures of Aldo's previous opponents was the Mike Tyson factor. That is, just as boxers in the early prime of Mike Tyson's career would walk into the ring intimidated by the phenom, so, too, do Aldo's opponents. They react in anticipation rather than fight proactively. They trade respect for fear. They fight to hang on, not to win.
Hominick knows the feeling. He points to losses in fights with Josh Grispi or Rani Yahya where he focused his attention too greatly on what his opponents planned to do. Even if he wasn't intimidated by them, he fought as if he was intimidated by their skills.
No more. Hominick is unequivocal in his praise of Aldo. He is under no pretension that snatching the title from the UFC featherweight Mike Tyson is going to come easily. He recognizes the oddsmakers and most experts view his chances of victory Saturday night as slim. The difference, he believes, will be fearlessness. He promises to walk forward, to back up the champion and prove as good as Aldo may be, he's never faced a fighter like Mark Hominick.
Not yesterday's Mark Hominick. Today's. The one who refuses to let fear do the fighting for him.
Audio and transcript of the interview below:
Luke: Mark, let me ask you sir, is the buzz already kind of surfacing in Canada? Are people talking about it more than they were two or three weeks ago?
Mark: It's been pretty steady since my fight on January 22nd. The city, the province, the nation's been in a buzz and you can't go anywhere without hearing something about the show. Ontario had it's first live show the other night with 5000 people, the first show, so it's huge already. The anticipation is building day by day.
Luke: Did you attend that?
Mark: No I didn't, I had to stay back and train. But my training partner Chris Horodecki fought in the co-main event and he won in the first round by rear naked choke. From the feedback, the fans are great and everyone's hungry for the sport. It's a good kickoff for the province to lead into MMA.
Luke: So where do you call home?
Mark: London, Ontario. I'm from a small town called Temsford, Ontario, just outside of London.
Luke: And you do all your training in Canada?
Mark: Yeah, I own a gym with Sam Stout and Chris Horodecki called Adrenaline Training Center in London. We go to Las Vegas with Shawn Tompkins with our training camps. But this time, since the fights like an hour and a half drive away from where we're at and my wife's due a week after my fight, we've kept camp here and everyone from Vegas has come on up. It's been a huge addition to the camp and big help to me.
Luke: Now listen Mark, I'm not trying to say anything that hasn't happened so correct the record if I'm wrong, but is it me, I've been watching you fight for years, this is the first time that I've heard you talk with a zip and a pop in your step. Am I wrong because you seem absolutely dialed in right now. Am I overstating things?
Mark: Not at all. This is the best I've felt both mentally and physically in my career. My confidence is high, I'm ready for this opportunity. If this shot had happened two years ago I wouldn't have been ready. Whether the training or the focus, whatever it was, the mentality, everything's on point. It's been two and a half years that the winning streak's been going on and I'm keeping the train going and this is the opportunity of a lifetime really. Everything's in line: this is the first time that MMA is coming to Ontario with the UFC, title shot in front of a sold out crowd, my wife's due a week after. Things are in line and I'm ready to take this opportunity.
Luke: You alluded to it before, but if you could go into it a little bit more, but why is this the right time? Partly it's a few things. You made a big splash in the UFC when you dropped Yves Edwards with a body shot and then submitted him. But that was at 155 and now you're at 145, then it was the WEC now it's the UFC and now it's the UFC in Canada for the first time. Is it just the promotional growth or is it a personal growth too?
Mark: I think personal. The main thing that changed with my mental approach to the game is that a lot of times I was going into a fight so concerned with what my opponent would do. You know, a good example is my fight with Rani Yahya. He's a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt and an Abu Dhabi Champion, it was my first fight in the WEC and I went in there like "I do not want to go to the ground with this guy" as opposed to having the mentality of "I'm gonna stop his takedown and I'm gonna finish him with what I'm capable of doing." That's the mentality I'm going in there with now, just confident with what I'm doing and not overcompensating for what everyone else can do or what my opponent's strengths are. You definitely have to be wary of what they bring to the table and their strengths but don't let it override what you bring to the cage and I think that's what's changed. I'm 28 now, I'm going into my tenth year of fighting professionally, so I'm just hitting that prime now where my mental and physical game is at its peak.
Luke: Let me play Devil's Advocate for a bit, I cannot wait for this fight, but let me play Devil's Advocate for a moment. You've been on a five fight win streak beating some serious names with an amazing bout against Yves Jabouin. But, you're last four loses in the modern ere have been against top ranked opponents; twice to Hatsu Hioki, Rani Yahya, and Josh Grispi. One of those losses was by decision, the other three were by submission and by submission by guys with decent wrestling and scrambling. I won't say that Aldo is the best wrestler but he's an excellent scrambler, he's athletic, he's fast, he kind of fits the profile. Make the case that I am missing something...
Mark: He's not strong in one area, he's strong in every area. I think that's what makes him one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world because not only can he fight in every area, he can finish in every area. He's finish guys on the feet, he's finished guys in the clinch, and he's finished guys on the ground so he's got that capability so you've got to go in with that kind of approach. But playing Devil's Advocate, he's never faced anybody with my kind of striking credentials. So you know, I think I am the one kind of question mark in the division as the one guy he hasn't faced. I bring to the table what no one else has against him, which is why this fight is intriguing to the fans and it's why I am so amped for this fight to prove that there's always a kryptonite to every Superman and I think I'm that guy.
Luke: Mark, do you watch tape on opponents?
Mark: I normally don't get too overwhelmed in that because if you think about it, you're watching how someone else reacts to a certain fighter. One example is when I was fighting Leonard Garcia, I was watching some tapes on him and then I watch the fight with the Korean Zombie. It was one of the craziest fights of all time, but I watched the first round and then I turned it off, cause there was no way I'd fight him like that. So, you can pick up tendencies and see different attacks they do, but they're fighting a different style opponent than you, so you're gonna bring something different.
Luke: Okay, so that being said, if you watch what Urijah Faber did to Jose Aldo and how he lost, what would you say if you were in Faber's corner and you had to explain to him "here's why you lost man" what would you say?
Mark: I think it'd be the intimidation factor. I think a lot of guys had it going in where they had the fight fight lost before they fought him. If you look at Urijah, he's a 100 miles per hour going forward most fights. And he's back peddling almost the entire fight with Jose, so I think that's a big thing, remembering that this guy is, he's one of the best pound for pound, but he's another man in there, he's another fighter. And any fighter can be beaten on any given day. So I think that's the main thing, you have to be obviously worried about what he brings to the table but don't let it override what you're gonna do and what you bring to the table. Fight your fight but be wary of what he can do as well.
Luke: So news reports have come out that Jose Aldo is training with Andy Souwer, famous shoot boxer and famous kick boxer. What is your sense about that, how much can that really benefit him here?
Mark: We have a very similar style of kickboxing. Andy Souwer is the best around at kickboxing no question and I think that's a great a great sparring partner for him to have to train for me. It's the same with me, I'm grabbing Jiu Jitsu black belts or kickboxers that are similar to Aldo for sparring partners. It obviously shows that he's thinking that I'm bringing something different so he's going out of his box and the guys that he's been training with to prepare for me, so sends a lot of respect my way. It's both ways, we're both looking for the best to prepare because I've always believed that the fight's won in the gym.
Luke: How would you compare or contrast your athleticism with Aldo's?
Mark: You know, he's definitely a different breed. He's doing backflips off the cage. He's a natural athlete, he was a pro soccer player as well. I think I have great hand speed and footwork and conditioning that a lot of people don't have. And he's just all over very explosive doing this jump knees and that's something that, you know maybe you can teach something but the way he gets it, his body can just naturally do that. He's just a natural athlete. I think we both bring some skills that most people wouldn't have but definitely he's a gifted athlete.
Luke: Let's talk generally. You're wildly regarded as one of the better strikers certainly in the UFC and more particularly in the featherweight division. What is it you see, you hear so many criticisms about MMA striking, particularly from the boxing guys and I'm not here to validate those but in some cases I do feel like they are onto something. From your vantage point, let's talk about footwork, what are the footwork errors in MMA?
Mark: A lot of it's just "straight in straight out", you know, a lot of times for a wrestler, it's very easy if you move straight back because they can keep driving. Driving to the wall or to the cage. So that's the main thing as opposed to lateral movement. But again, it's such a different style. Boxers compare and say "they're not at our level" or whatever, but it's such a different style. The body angle is more turned to the side. How often in an MMA match do you see a guy throw a five or six punch combination? If you're taking five or six punches in MMA, you're gonna dive for a leg or you're gonna close the distance and clinch up, so it's definitely a different style. And that's one thing that our coach Shawn Tompkins has really taken too and really understands the difference. It's one thing to grab a great boxing trainer and show you how to box but the striking in MMA is so different. A lot of times you'er only gonna get one or at most three punches off in a combination before you're gonna have to circle out or set up a takedown, so it's a different style for sure.
Luke: You're 28 and you said you're in your prime, no argument there. Give us a sense though, how have injuries impacted your career over the past ten years?
Mark: I had a year and a half stretch where it was probably most difficult for my body and mind because I had a few fights pulled out from me with shows being cancelled, a few injuries, and I've had pneumonia twice. So every athlete has to deal with them, it's been "knock on wood" I've been healthy ever since that stretch before I went on that winning streak I've been on, it was really difficult. It was training, training, and then I feel like I overtrain and then get injured so the main thing is just being smart. Obviously, the younger you are, you can go 100 miles an hour 365 days a year, so it's really about learning when to pull the throttle and lean back a bit.
Luke: Alright, I'd like to transition here about what this could do for you in Canada. You've fought in Canada many times, particularly with the TKO promotion, but never really like this. This is a very different type thing, particularly with Georges St. Pierre, a fellow Canadian at the top of the bill. When you fight on Saturday, obviously you want to win because of the belt and because it'll be great for your career, but do you ever think to yourself "I'm here because I want to be a good Canadian, I want to represent Canada in a really positive and impactful way"? Is that something that resonates with you?
Mark: One thing that throughout my career that I've tried to do is be a positive ambassador for the sport. Whether it be for kids or just for someone who's watching MMA and isn't a fan of the sport and thinks it's barbaric, I'm always trying to be a positive reinforcement for the sport. But now, this opportunity has been crazy. Since my fight in January, my life's been flipped upside down...
Luke: Give me an example, how is it different?
Mark: Just some funny examples like with my mom, I've been doing this for now 15 years training and ten years now as a pro where everyday this has been the focal point of my life. And my mom's one of those people, she's not a fan of the sport at all. After every fight she asks me when I'm going to retire, obviously a mother is gonna be like that but now she comes over and is like "oh my coworker wants an autograph". It's like my life's changed overnight. All the sudden now there's so much attention on this show and just to be fighting on the card with Georges St. Pierre in the co-Main Event. Fighting for the UFC belt on the biggest show in UFC history, it's just crazy the amount of attention that it's getting.
Luke: Do you know what the odds makes have you at?
Mark: No, but I'd imagine that I'd be a four to one underdog.
Luke: That's pretty close...
Mark: I've been there before though.
Luke: Do you care?
Mark: Not really, in my first fight when I fought Yves Edwards in the UFC, I was a five to one underdog and I won that fight in the second round. I'd rather be the underdog than be the favorite, it's always easier that way. There's added pressure and weight already just being the hometown fighter on this card, being the underdog I gotta go out there and prove people wrong.
Luke: True or False: One criticism, certainly Jon Jones looked unbelievable in his run leading up to Shogun and in beating Shogun. But I still think that one knock against him is that he's never really fought hurt. Jose Aldo is kind of in a similar position, no one's really stuck it to him, do you believe that that's a legitimate criticism of him?
Mark: I truly believe that he's kind of that different breed. You know a guy who like a dog, you put in the corner and he'll either fight his way out or cower in the corner, and Jose is one of those guys who's gonna fight his way out. And you can just tell with his fighting style that the way he finishes fights, he's a fighter through and through and I'm expecting the best Jose Aldo on April 30th and he's gonna see the best Mark Hominick as well.
Luke: Alright Mark, make the case here, you're gonna be the champion on April 30th, why?
Mark: I think I'm the guy who can solve Jose Aldo. Put pressure on him and make him take a step back. It's always easy to be the bully in the fight but we're gonna see when he needs to take a step back.