TORONTO – When he is not training or fighting in the UFC, Canadian lightweight Mark Bocek feels a need for speed.
“Cars, motorcycles, they’re a rush to me,” Bocek told The Canadian Press. “I really enjoy them.”
In his garage, Bocek has a Honda CBR1000 and Suzuki GSX-R600 superbike and a Mitsubishi Eclipse car – “my daily driver.”
The 30-year-old from Woodbridge, Ont., considered one of the UFC’s top 155-pound grapplers, fills his down time by watching Formula One and MotoGP. Chances are his TV is tuned to Speed network.
“I watch all the races. When I’m not in town, I PVR them,” he said. “I love sports cars, I love superbikes, I love motorcycles. … Speed. It’s all evolved around speed. If I wasn’t in MMA, it would have something to do with speed for sure.”
Bocek (9-4) is currently training for a fight with Nik (The Carny) Lentz at UFC 140 in Toronto on Dec. 10.
Bocek is not much of a NASCAR fan – the oval circuits do little for him. Instead he loves street circuits like Monte Carlo, with its chicanes.
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“I’m not the drag or straightaway guy,” he explained. “I’m not really into car or bike drag-racing either. It’s cool, it’s powerful but it’s not complete enough for me. So F1 and Moto GP.”
Still Bocek acknowledges he was a bigger fan of Formula One in years gone by.
“Vettel’s the man right now. Overall accomplishments, how can you not say (Michael) Schumacher. I think it’s seven world titles. But favourite all-time, Ayrton Senna, no question.”
Bocek does his riding mostly on the road. He concedes riding on a track can be safer – “There are a lot of bad drivers out there” – but getting a bike to a track takes time and effort.
“It’s a bit of work compared to just opening your garage and pulling out,” he said.
“But yeah I know how dangerous they are.” he said of motorcycles.
“I’ve seen friends crash. There’s no guarantees either way, but I’m not asking for trouble. I don’t have to be doing 250 kilometres per hour to enjoy it. I can enjoy it just by being on it on a nice day.”
His bikes offer plenty of speed wherever he takes them.
“A CBR 1000 it’s no joke. That’s pretty much as powerful as they get. You could be on a highway and just laugh at Corvettes.”
Bocek doesn’t takes passengers on his bikes – there are no extra seats or pegs.
“I try to make it as much of a race bike as possible. I usually go on my own and I’ll just go for an hour or so. Secluded areas, I’ll go for a one-hour blip – just on my own, just to enjoy it and have fun, to get my fix.”
No hogs or Harley-Davidsons for Bocek.
“It’s just not my thing. Everyone’s got their thing, you know. It’s just very hard to ride a bike like that after you’re used to the braking, handling and performance of a superbike. It’s very hard for me to get on a cruiser and try to ride that and it’s hard to make a U-turn. My hands are up high and I feel like I’m on a little moving chair. I don’t feel like I’m one with the bike.
“Everyone has their preferences. It’s just not for me.”
Bocek’s bikes aren’t cheap – both costing more than $10,000 – and modifications up the price tag even more.
“A couple of times, when I got fight of the night (bonuses), it definitely helped,” he said.
Bocek isn’t the only mixed martial arts fighter with a love of motorcycles. Anthony (Rumble) Johnson, Josh Koscheck and Jamie Varner are among those who share Bocek’s passion.
Former heavyweight champion Frank Mir, meanwhile, was badly injured in a 2004 motorcycle crash in Las Vegas. He was sidelined for some 17 months before returning to the cage, taking longer to regain his form.
And in recent weeks, IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon and MotoGP star rider Marco Simoncelli died in race crashes.
“Bad two weeks there,” Bocek said with a sigh.
But Bocek says he has the green light to ride and takes the responsibility of speed seriously.
“It doesn’t say anything in the (UFC) contract. But I don’t do anything stupid on them either. I love my life too and I love my job.
“It’s all (done) with respect. I mean you could get killed in a car too, it’s just you’ve got more protection in a car. But I keep a straight head on my shoulders.”
Living in Canada also helps, in that the climate forces his motorcycle off the road for months at a time.
“I pack up the bikes, put them in storage and I’m like ‘OK, it was a good year, no accidents,’” he said with a laugh.