Tonight, on the undercard of an almost forgotten Bellator card, Canada’s own Chris Horodecki faces perhaps the greatest challenge of his career.
For the first time, “The Polish Hammer” will go to war without “The Coach” Shawn Thompkins by his side. It will be a crucial test of the still-young Horodecki’s preparation, focus and mental toughness.
It will be hard–harder than most of us couch-riding MMA fans will ever know–to face the pressure of a big fight without the only coach and mentor you’ve ever known behind you.
Shawn Thompkins was a titan of the MMA world. He built his own stable of fighters based in London, Ontario, the legendary “Team Thompkins” including UFC vets Sam Stout, Mark Hominick and Horodecki. Then he travelled abroad, training the likes of Randy Couture, Mark Coleman and Vitor Belfort. Along the way, he became one of the principal striking coaches in the whole game.
On August 14, 2011 Thompkins passed away in his sleep, the result of a sudden heart attack. He was just 37 years old.
I remember seeing “The Coach” only days before he passed, cornering fighters in a local MMA event. You had to give it to him. Even though he was head coach at the TapouT training center in Las Vegas, he still managed to make time to be there for guys with no name recognition, fighting in some far-flung corner of the world (Canada, as it’s otherwise known).
He seemed larger than life, energized, a legend in the making.
A few days later, he was gone.
The MMA world was left the lesser for his loss, but none more so than his core “Team Thompkins” guys, who seemingly need him now more than ever. Mark Hominick is budding into a bona-fide superstar at featherweight, while Sam Stout is enjoying his greatest run of success at lightweight in years.
And Horodecki? He’s fighting to get back to the “big leagues” of the UFC after being bounced from the WEC in 2010. That he was bounced after going 2-2 is dubious. That he was bounced after losing to the now top-5 Donald Cerrone is even more so.
My point is that Horodecki is right there. At just 24 years old, the baby-faced fighter has tons of potential and all time in the world to hone it. He could enjoy a great run of success in Bellator, or he could use a strong showing there to get back to the UFC.
But before all that, he needs to get past Mike Corey, a former U.S marine with an 11-2 record. More than that, he needs to prove he has a viable future “post-Thompkins.”
If we believe Horodecki’s pre-fight interviews, than he’s likely ready to take care of business. But we’ll never know until the cage door closes. As the old saying goes: Inside the cage, the truth always comes out.
As I write this, live at Bellator 57, Chris Horodecki is only moments away from stepping into the cage. I hope he does well. I hope, if he doesn’t win, he still puts on the kind of performance he and his old coach can be proud of.
But more than all that, I hope that wherever the afterlife is, they get MTV 2 up there. I guarantee there’s at least one person up there very interested in catching this fight.