Simplified approach leads to Hominick’s success

Sometimes, in a fighter’s attempt to cover every base, to prepare for all possibilities, he loses sight of what is important to him. And so it was for Mark Hominick in 2007 and 2008.

There was little question then that Hominick was among the handful of the best mixed martial arts fighters in the featherweight division. But there was also just as little doubt that something wasn’t 100 percent right in his approach and whatever that was, it was causing him to be less successful than he should have been.

Hominick opened 2007 with a loss to Hatsu Hioki and followed that with a defeat to Rani Yahya. After back-to-back wins in smaller shows, he began 2008 the way he did 2007 and lost to Josh Grispi.

Neither Hominick nor his coach, Shawn Tompkins, questioned his ability to win at the highest level, despite having lost three of his previous five. So, after the loss to Grispi, they set out to uncover the cause of the downward blip in his career fortunes.

What they determined was that for Hominick, less would be more. Tompkins would handle watching the video of the opponents. Hominick would quit worrying so much about what his opponent might do and decided to focus on what he would do.

“It was 1,000 percent a change in mental approach going into the game,” said Hominick, an Ontario resident who will fight Jose Aldo for the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title on April 30 at Toronto’s Rogers Centre in the co-main event of UFC 129.

“I was going there just so concerned about what my opponent was going to do to me as opposed to just focusing on what I am capable of and what I could do to my opponent. I just went back to the approach I had when I was 18, 19 years old. When you’re young like that, you’re just so confident you’re fearless and you believe so much in what you bring to the table that you don’t concern yourself with what they bring. I had to get back to that kind of attitude.”

The results speak for themselves, as Hominick has reeled off five consecutive wins, finishing four of them, and put himself in the position of fighting the man regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.

There are few fighters out there like Aldo, who is 18-1 and has reeled off 11 consecutive wins. He hasn’t lost since being choked out by Luciano Azevedo on Nov. 26, 2005, and has since beaten elite fighters like Urijah Faber, Mike Brown and Manny Gamburyan, among others, in a one-sided manner.

Watching Aldo highlights could have the tendency to make even the toughest guy weak-kneed at being locked in the cage with him for 25 minutes, but Tompkins has been successful at getting Hominick to buy into his approach.

And, while there is no question that Aldo poses a grave danger to any man he faces, Hominick’s hands make him the biggest threat to Aldo’s title since he won it by throttling Brown in 2009.

“His striking is extremely crisp and technical and he’s made tremendous improvements with his hands,” said Reed Harris, the UFC’s vice president of community affairs and the former WEC general manager. “Jose Aldo is a beast, and he’s the dominant force at 145. I don’t know if anyone could beat him. But Hominick’s style might give him that ability. He has very, very good hands and Jose will have to respect that.”

Hominick fought for the Canadian title in his pro debut, defeating Richard Nancoo on June 15, 2002, on a card that also featured the debut of current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre as well as future UFC middleweight Rich Franklin.

He made his UFC debut at UFC 58 on March 4, 2006, when he stepped up in weight to take on Yves Edwards, who was on a roll at the time, and won by submission. Hominick has clearly done well against high-level competition and Tompkins said it is due to keeping things simple.

“Our theme, my entire team, over the last year-and-a-half or so, has been to keep the focus on us,” Tompkins said. “Mark has really done well with that. Whatever it is, when you start thinking about what the other guy is going to do, it doesn’t allow us to put our plan into action. Over the last five fights, I think he’s been very good and you’ve seen a tremendous difference in him.

“Mark is always a guy who puts the work in. But he’s fighting the fights on his terms now and isn’t getting caught up in worry about what someone else is going to do.”

One of the sidebars for Hominick is that not only has he been one of the primary focuses of one of the biggest media onslaughts ever in the UFC, but his wife, Ashley, is pregnant and set to deliver the couple’s first child less than a week after the fight. Their daughter, Raeya, is due on May 5.

Because the event is the first UFC show in Toronto and Hominick lives in Thamesford, Ont., about 90 minutes west of the city, he’s been in demand among the Canadian media. Aldo speaks little English and so much of the burden to promote the fight has fallen on Hominick.

He insists that despite the workload, which he believes has been greater than St. Pierre’s or Randy Couture’s, it won’t impact him.

“Life has been crazy in that regard ever since the Fight for the Troops [in January, when he earned the title shot by knocking out George Roop],” Hominick said. “I’ve been training for 15 years and competing for 10 and all of a sudden, I’m an overnight success. There’s been so much buzz, so much anticipation, so a huge buildup. It’s great for our sport and I’m happy to be able to help the sport and promote it.

“We’ve really had to plan and schedule everything, but it’s worked out great. I’ve done whatever they’ve needed me to do and yet, I’ve still been able to get my work in and focus on what is the most important.”

Life is good for Hominick, an easy-going sort who is hard not to like. It’s a long way from fighting in front of a couple of hundred or so people in a bar to competing against 55,000 in a baseball stadium, but Hominick has made sure to enjoy the ride.

There won’t be, he said, another time like it in his life.

“As a man, what bigger event could you have to look forward to than the birth of your first child?” Hominick said. “That is so huge and so exciting and I just can’t wait. As a professional athlete, what bigger event could I be on than to be fighting for the title on the biggest card in history?

“It doesn’t get any better than this, if you ask me. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Apr 21, 2011