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George Roop: Back at Home, and Moving Forward

FORT HOOD, Texas – George Roop knows the meaning of "home sweet home."

After living and training for a year in Las Vegas, the UFC featherweight moved back to his native Tucson, Ariz., last year not long before his fight against Chan Sung Jung – a fight that got the MMA world's attention, big time, thanks to his Knockout of the Year-candidate kick to the Korean Zombie's head.

In October 2009, Roop had to endure the death of one of his three children – his 7-year-old son Julian, who had battled seizures practically since birth. He fought a month later, earning his way into the WEC after the UFC cut him loose earlier in the year.

Training in Tucson again for the last half-year after living and training in Las Vegas, Roop believes he has his personal life and his fighting career aligned right where they need to be. And his fiancee gave birth last fall to a son, Payden, who Roop says helped him finally move past the tragedy.

"I'm just opening a new chapter in my life," Roop said. "It was a tragic moment, and it's just something that happens in life and people sometimes aren't dealt great hands. I dealt with that and put it past me. Payden – he's awesome to have. I have him all day. I'm kind of like the nanny. I love having him, and he's a big motivational tool for me. A big inspiration."
In my eyes, they're (the troops) the true warriors. They're really fighting.
-- George Roop

Roop next looks to use that inspiration against Mark Hominick, a former teammate and training partner under Shawn Tompkins when Roop trained in Vegas – now his opponent on Saturday's UFC Fight for the Troops 2 show at Fort Hood, Texas. UFC president Dana White said last week that Hominick gets the next crack at featherweight champion Jose Aldo with a win over Roop.

"I definitely think it's looking like it's going to be a standup fight, but this is mixed martial arts," Roop said. "When you get in the cage, you have to adapt to how the fight goes and where it takes you. ... But he also has a great ground game. If you watch his fight against Bryan Caraway, you can see he has a very active guard. He goes for sweeps to submission transitions very well."

Roop has bounced between bantamweight (a loss to Eddie Wineland at WEC 46 a year ago), featherweight (his current class) and lightweight – what he fought at on Season 8 of "The Ultimate Fighter."

At 6-foot-1, the cut to bantamweight was a brutal one. So brutal, in fact, Roop says lesson learned – and he'll stick at featherweight.

"I'm permanently at 145," Roop said. "I will never cut to 135 pounds ever again in my entire life. It's something very, very, very, very hard for me to do. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life, and 145 pounds is a pretty easy cut for me. I feel like at 145 pounds, I'm quicker than these guys – though I'm not going to be quicker than Hominick. I feel like I'm stronger, bigger – like I'm going to be able to do very well and dominate the division."

After getting the MMA world's attention with his knockout of Jung, Roop would definitely raise a few eyebrows with an upset of Hominick. He's got that on his mind, knowing that the fight could wind up just about anywhere.

But Roop, who was born at Fort Bragg, also said just being a part of a special event for the military is enough to get him up for the fight.

"I'm very patriotic and I couldn't tell you how much it really means to me, what the troops do and the sacrifices they and their families make on a daily basis," Roop said. "In my eyes, they're the true warriors. They're really fighting. So this means a lot to me, to be able to fight in front of the troops – and it's very exciting knowing the type of crowd we're going to be fighting in front of, and they're really going to appreciate it."

The UFC's Fight for the Troops card features a main event lightweight bout between Evan Dunham and Melvin Guillard and a co-main event heavyweight fight between unbeaten Matt Mitrione and Tim Hague. Roop-Hominick takes place on the main card, which airs live on Spike TV on Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern.

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