It's been about seven months since Mark Hominick
last stepped in the cage, and since then his life has changed in a couple dramatic ways. Two weeks after his decision loss to Jose Aldo
at UFC 129
, his wife gave birth to the couple's first child -- a girl. Exactly three months later, Hominick's longtime coach and trainer, Shawn Tompkins, died of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 37.
That's a lot for anyone to deal with, especially if they still have another fight in front of their hometown fans to prepare for.
But while Tompkins' death shocked the MMA community
and left a void in the Team Tompkins squad, as Hominick told Ariel Helwani on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour
, the loss has also forced them all together in some ways.
"We're always going to be the Team Tompkins family," said the 29 year-old Hominick, who faces Chan Sung Jung
at UFC 140
in Toronto. "I think this fight, it says a lot about where we are and where we're going."
As a symbolic effort to demonstrate that, Hominick said he'll have his longtime training partners Chris Horodecki
and Sam Stout
in his corner on December 10, but he'll also have Tompkins' brother by his side "to make a statement that we're not going anywhere and we're going to continue to carry on as a team and continue on winning."
Like Horodecki and Stout, Hominick began training with Tompkins when he was still a teenager. Though the team spread out in recent years, they still relied on one another to prepare for fights, and Hominick admitted that he's still not sure how it will feel to go into a fight week without his mentor.
"Those are going to be the toughest moments. I really don't think his passing has really hit me, to tell you the truth, because we'd come to live our own separate lives these last four or five years. Where he was based out of Vegas, I was based out of London, Ontario, and then we'd meet up for training camp and at the end of training camp we'd spend fight week together, and that's where we had our special bond. I think that's where I'm really going to miss him."
The silver lining, according to Hominick, may be that Tompkins' sudden death was a blow that "actually brought the team a little tighter, because everyone's had to step up in their own little way to fill some of Shawn's leadership role."
"Shawn was just the leader, the guy who kind of spearheaded us moving forward. ...We're all so motivated to carry on his legacy. The way we do that is we go out there and perform, we win, and we continue to carry his name forward."
Hominick has no easy task in front of him against Jung. The South Korean's last outing saw him log the first submission victory via twister in UFC history when he tapped Leonard Garcia
with the unconventional finish at UFC Fight Night 24 in March.
A fight like that would be tough enough without the loss of such an influential coach, not to mention the birth of a baby daughter who has taught Hominick that, as a father, "your time isn't yours anymore."
That's why it helps to have fellow Team Tompkins fighters by his side who know exactly what he's going through, he said.
"We're here for each other. We're family. A lot of teams say that, but we truly are. We've been together for almost 15 years and we're not going anywhere."