TORONTO - There will be plenty of emotion pumping through Chris (The Polish Hammer) Horodecki on Saturday when he enters the cage against Mike Corey at Bellator 57.
It's the first fight for the baby-faced lightweight from London, Ont., since longtime coach Shawn Tompkins died unexpectedly in August.
"After he passed, it's been kind of like a fuel inside me — a driving motivation," Horodecki said. "After Shawn died, there was no question about me training. Right away I wanted to get in (there).
"I've had the most focus and the most motivation I've ever had in my life. Every day I'm fuelled, knowing the coach is watching down on me. I wake up in the morning and don't think twice about going to training. I've got a fire underneath myself, I'm ready to bring it."
Tompkins was a coach, mentor and friend for 11 years for Horodecki and UFC fighters Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout and Mark (The Machine) Hominick. For Stout, he was also a brother-in-law.
A former fighter who went on to become a renowned MMA coach, Tompkins died Aug. 14 of a heart attack. He was just 37 but his family had a history of heart disease.
"He bore the weight of some 30-odd guys on his shoulders," said Horodecki. "Stress and everything."
The 24-year-old fighter says it has taught him not to take his health for granted.
"Everyone's got to make sure they take care of themselves. Make sure you get checked out," he counsels. "He was a guy seen as someone who was invincible. He was never one to run to the doctors. He was always looking after everybody else. And if there was ever something that ailed him, he fought through it."
Canada has accessible health care, Horodecki added. "Use it."
Horodecki, Stout and Hominick own the Adrenaline Training Center in London but used to go down to Las Vegas during fight camp to work with Tompkins at the Tapout Training Center.
Horodecki (18-3) trained at home this time at his own gym, which continues the association by proudly proclaiming itself as the home of Team Tompkins.
"We keep his legacy. He has done so much for myself, for Sam, for Mark and for all the members for Team Tompkins."
The London gym has been a sanctuary.
"We are like family," Horodecki said. "It's not just a recreational boys club that we've got going. It's a family."
Horodecki has been working with jiu-jitsu instructors Keebo Robinson (who came up from Vegas) and Rowan Cunningham, striking coach Adam Higson and former world champion kickboxer Leo Loucks, and wrestling coach Clint Kingsbury at Adrenaline.
The Bellator card at Casino Rama, about an hour north of Toronto, is the promotion's second in Canada. Bellator 47, held in July, was also at Rama.
Saturday's card is the first for Chicago-based Bellator since it agreed to a five-year deal with FremantleMedia Enterprises to sell its MMA programming around the world.
The main card sees former UFC fighter Ben Saunders (12-3-2) against Douglas Lima (20-4) in a welterweight tournament final while Alexander Shlemenko (42-7) takes on Vitor Vianna (12-1-1) in a middleweight tournament final.
Corey (11-2) is Horodecki's third opponent on the card..
"I'm ready to go. It doesn't matter who I'm fighting," Horodecki said. At the end of the day, I'm fighting for myself, my team, and for Shawn. And I'm going to get that win."