Hominick in need of statement victory

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
12:24
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Mark HominickAl Bello/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAfter three straight defeats, Mark Hominick, left, is fighting Saturday to keep his UFC career afloat.
MONTREAL -- There is no need to mince words: Mark Hominick will fight for his mixed martial arts career Saturday night at UFC 154.

Entering his featherweight bout against Pablo Garza on a three-fight losing skid, it's possible that Hominick's days with the promotion will end should he come up short.

It would seem that being in this must-win situation, nothing else could possibly matter to Hominick, but that is not the case.

Hominick has been in pressure-cooker situations before and survived every time. There isn't the slightest doubt in his mind that he will survive Saturday night's encounter.

But at the top of Hominick's agenda is winning impressively. The former No. 1 featherweight contender is on a mission to prove he deserves inclusion among the division's elite, despite his recent slide.

"My back is against the wall. There's no question there," Hominick told ESPN.com. "But I'm motivated. I'm hungry."

This recent three-fight skid has forced Hominick to concentrate on the weaknesses in his game. There aren't many, and he isn't eager to discuss them in detail -- at least not publicly -- but he admits they exist.

Being 30 years old makes mature men take a closer look at life, especially when he is a husband (wife Ashley) and father (daughter Raeya). The couple is expecting a second child in early 2013.

To achieve his goal of again fighting for -- and winning -- the UFC featherweight championship, Hominick made adjustments during training camp.

"I'm a lot stronger," Hominick said. "Over the course of the past year, I've worked a lot on my strength. And I train a lot smarter now. That comes with being 30 and fighting as a pro for 11 years. I understand where I need to improve as [a fighter]. I used to be stubborn a lot of times, but with age comes maturity, and I have a lot of that."

Another factor contributing to Hominick's ability to make adjustments in camp is finally coming to grips with the loss of longtime friend and coach Shawn Tompkins, who died of a heart attack Aug. 14, 2011. He was 37 years old.

The loss devastated Hominick. Leading into his two most recent fights, both losses, thoughts of Tompkins flickered through Hominick's mind.

He entered each of those bouts with a heavy heart. But Hominick refuses to site Tompkins' absence as the reason he lost to Chan Sung Jung in December and Eddie Yagin in April.

Tompkins was in Hominick's corner the night he fought valiantly against featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo at UFC 129 in April 2011. Hominick lost by unanimous decision, which proved to be the beginning of his skid.

"Shawn was more than a coach in my life. He was the best man in my wedding," Hominick said. "He played a huge role in my life, in the decisions I made. We were beyond close friends; we were family. Losing a family member is never easy. There is the comfort level. Shawn was my coach for 15 years. I’d never fought a bout without him."

It took more than a year for Hominick to rebound. Though Tompkins will always live in his heart, he is finally ready to reclaim his place among the best 145-pound fighters on UFC's roster.

Jeff Curran has taken over head-coaching duties for Hominick. The two are a perfect fit. Besides, they aren't strangers.

"He worked me in the Eddie Yagin fight, and he's working me here [in Montreal]," Hominick said. "We started back in 2006 when I first signed with UFC. I'm very comfortable with him."

With the core of his Team Tompkins members still at his side, Hominick is ready to resume competing at the highest level of mixed martial arts -- and winning. Saturday's fight marks the start of a new beginning. Losing isn't an option, but winning in less-than-impressive fashion won't cut it either.

Just being on the UFC roster isn't in Hominick's plans. He isn't in the mixed martial arts business to be a mediocre player.

"My mindset now is to compete against the best guys in the world, and if I'm not doing that, then this isn't for me," Hominick said. "I'm not doing this to just be able to fight in the UFC. I want to be fighting for the belt.

"My intention is to go out there [Saturday] and put on a statement-making fight."

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