Stepping into the Octagon means different things for different fighters. Some are simply happy to be there, the end result of years of tireless work, while others strive for something greater. Beyond the shine of a solid victory there are those moments where everything aligns and potential glory awaits. Canadian featherweight and number one contender Mark "The Machine" Hominick is standing at the cusp of such an opportunity as he prepares to step into the Octagon at UFC 129 to face 145 lb. phenom Jose Aldo. The young Brazilian powerhouse has shot to MMA stardom following devastating finishes and brutal beatings to anyone who has been placed across from him in the cage, and while that list includes former champion Mike Brown and Urijah Faber, "The Machine" feels that his time has finally arrived. Circumstances could not be more prefect for Hominick as he not only gets his first major title opportunity on the sport's biggest stage but with the fight being held in front of a capacity crowd in his home province of Ontario, the stage is set for Hominick to shock the world. I recently caught up with Hominick and in this Bloody Elbow exclusive interview he spoke about his upcoming bout with Aldo and what it means to have the biggest fight of his career in his own back yard.
"It's really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Hominick began. "If you break it down this is my tenth year fighting as a pro and to get to fight on a huge card for the UFC in my home province is a dream come true. I'm fighting for the belt and my wife is due a week after the fight so there is a lot of good news coming up."
With the rise of champions like Georges St. Pierre and the UFC making multiple successful visits to Canada, the sport has experienced a national explosion. With Hominick being a veteran of the sport he has seen the enthusiasm grow to immeasurable levels.
"It's been crazy," Hominick exclaimed. "Especially for this fight, the atmosphere has been insane, especially in the province. It's been unreal and there is so much anticipation. There has been such a buzz around the province about the fight and the event sold out in 10 minutes. 55,000 tickets kind of shows there is a demand and the fans want to see it. The fans understand the sport and they are rabid for MMA. You can't go to any bar that is showing the fights on a fight night and expect to get a seat. That's the kind of support Canadian fans have."
Hominick established his reputation as an exciting fighter inside the little blue cage of the WEC but when the organization folded into the UFC, the spotlight increased on the standout fighters in the lighter weights. While this will not be his Octagon debut this fight will carry a promotional push to the likes he has never seen nor imagined.
"I'm really just trying to enjoy the ride because after January 22nd, when I was offered the title shot, my life has really changed overnight. There isn't a day when my phone doesn't ring or there isn't an interview or an email waiting for me and life's changed. There is such a build up for this fight and for myself being from London, Ontario, I live only an hour away from the venue where the fight is being held so this is really my backyard. I'm trying to be very accessible and be a part of the excitement that comes with this show."
Hominick continued, "It's finally rewarding to be under the UFC because they are the pinnacle of the sport and everybody understands that name. They have done such a good job of marketing and branding themselves as the premier organization in all of MMA. To be under that umbrella of the UFC is such a huge opportunity and the funny thing is that when people found out I would be fighting for the UFC now they are coming up to me saying that I finally made it. That is just the type of recognition you get just from being under their promotion but realistically the opponents haven't changed from the WEC and we still have the same champion but being under the UFC is great all around. For sponsorships and other opportunities there is no better place to be than the UFC."
When Mark Hominick enters the Octagon at UFC 129 he will be facing one of MMA's fastest rising and most dangerous stars in the form of Jose Aldo. The young Brazilian has demolished every opponent he has faced with his most recent showing coming in the form of a thrashing of Manny Gamburyan.
"I think him being billed as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters is rightfully so," Hominick stated. "He's not just dangerous in one area. He's dangerous on the feet, on the clinch and on the ground so he can end the fight anywhere it goes. I think that is what separates him from a lot of the top fighters, especially on the pound-for-pound list, is that he can finish the fight anywhere. The biggest thing is going in there against him and not being intimidated. His last few opponents have gone in against him and were beaten even before the first punch was thrown. They let him dictate the pace of the fight and they were scared to implement their game plan or push their strengths because he does have a mystique and everyone is terrified of him. You have to go in there to fight your fight and not be intimidated."
Aldo's striking has produced highlight reel finishes, but with that being said Hominick is a fierce striker in his own right. While both men possess the ability to end a fight with their hands, knees or feet, Hominick knows that Aldo will be dangerous no matter where the action takes place.
"You have to be concerned about every aspect of his game because he is so dangerous so I'm bringing in top guys that can push me everywhere," Hominick explained. "I think the one thing that is different between me and his other opponents is that I believe my stand up is stronger than his. I think my hand speed and my footwork are key strengths that are going to frustrate him and cause him some problems. I think I'm still the one question mark in the division because we haven't really seen him face a top elite striker like myself so we are going to see how he reacts."
Aldo was originally slated to face Josh Grispi at UFC 125, but after suffering a neck injury, he was forced to withdraw. In his place stepped Dustin Poirier and the unanimous decision loss cost Grispi his chance at featherweight gold. The opportunity opened the doors for Hominick and regardless of Aldo's layoff, Hominick is expecting to see the best version of Jose Aldo the world has ever seen.
"I can only really speak for myself because what I've seen from Jose is that he comes to find and it doesn't matter if he has a broken back; he's coming to fight," Hominick stated. " I'm hoping to see the best Jose we've seen because we are definitely going to see the best 'Machine' we've seen as well. My last five fights I've had a winning streak going, I'm 28 years old so I'm kind of hitting that peak age of my prime and this is that time for me. This is the title shot. If you break it down I'm in my home town fighting for the belt and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and I'm training so hard to make this happen."
It has been a perfect storm of events that have opened the doors for Mark Hominick to shock the world. A 10 year veteran of the sport Hominick has patiently waited for his moment to prove he is one of the best fighters in the world and a win over Jose Aldo, to become the 145 lb. champion in front of a raucous crowd would be the definition of glory.
"You can't explain it until you are there," Hominick replied. "This is the biggest crowd I've ever fought in front of but this is also the biggest crowd that Randy Couture has ever fought in front of as well. It's going to be a first for everybody so I'm just trying to enjoy the moment, give her hell and do the best I can on April 30th."