- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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Consider Mark Hominick pleasantly surprised. Not shocked.
The Canadian featherweight was training in Las Vegas on Tuesday when he caught wind of UFC president Dana White's confirmation that he will claim the No. 1 contender status with a win over George Roop at UFC Fight Night 23 in Killeen, Texas, later this month.
The announcement was welcome news to Hominick and his camp but not completely unexpected. After all, he had already been offered a shot at champion Jose Aldo on the UFC 125 card Jan. 1 but had to turn it down due to injury.
"It's not a shock; we had kind of guessed it," Hominick told ESPN.com. "We got offered that fight on Jan. 1 for the New Year's show, and I couldn't take it because my thumb was injured. I knew I was right there."
Coincidentally, Aldo also was forced off that card due to a back injury. His scheduled opponent, the highly regarded Josh Grispi, suffered an upset loss at the hands of Dustin Poirier. That left the door open for Hominick to earn the next title shot.
While the news makes sense, it was an uncharacteristic move by White, who rarely confirms title fights when one of the participants still has a fight in front of him. Nevertheless, a title shot is exactly what's at stake for Hominick on Jan. 22, according to White's statements during a conference call Tuesday.
"If Mark Hominick wins this fight, he gets a shot at the title with Aldo, and that will be in Toronto [at UFC 129 on April 30]," White said.
Whether that adds pressure on his shoulders for the upcoming fight with Roop, Hominick said it should only improve his performance. Whereas Grispi was exposed in his fight against Poirier, Hominick believes he can solidify himself as a true threat to Aldo.
"This is when I perform the best," Hominick said. "If you can't win the fight that gets you to a title shot, you're not going to win the title anyway. That's the way I look at it."
Perhaps adding to Hominick's confidence is that he certainly has a good idea of what to expect from Roop on Jan. 22.
Roop (11-6-1) has been a friend and on-and-off training partner to Hominick (19-8) for the past three years at the Tapout Training Center under Shawn Tompkins in Las Vegas.
Apparently, his relationship with Hominick won't keep Roop from doing his best to play spoiler. Moments after White's announcement hit the Internet, Roop tweeted him a message from his personal account.
"@danawhite: I plan on making it so that Hominick doesn't fight Aldo @ufc in Canada. Cheers ehhh?!?!," he wrote.
Tompkins, who has trained Hominick throughout his entire eight-year professional career, said the two know each other well but downplayed the notion it will be two friends in the Octagon come fight time. There was no hesitation by either fighter to accept the bout, and Tompkins is expecting both to come out swinging.
"They've trained together but that's basically what the relationship is based on," Tompkins said. "As far as close friends, that doesn't play into this. They don't go to the movies together or anything.
"It does suck for me because I have a close relationship with both guys. But Mark and I started in this game together. I don't like to step out of the fight that's in front of me, but hearing news of us possibility fighting Aldo for a title in Toronto is probably the best news I've heard in my career."
The UFC 129 card will be the promotion's debut in Ontario after a long wait to see mixed martial arts sanctioned in the province. The event will take place at the 50,000-plus seat Rogers Centre, and is expected to set North American records for attendance and live-gate revenue.
Although Hominick says his focus is completely on Roop for now, he did admit that he likes his chances to win the title, should he fight on the historic card.
"Aldo has faced every kind of opponent except a top-level striker," Hominick said. "I would be someone that would be in his face and technical on his feet. He's walked through guys in the standup but he wouldn't do that with me. He's one of the best pound-for-pound out there, so there's not much you can say. But one thing I know is that he hasn't faced anyone like me."
Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.
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