For UFC heavyweight Shane del Rosario, returning to the cage is more than the progression of his career—it’s the result of soul searching and his refusal to have a lifetime of hard work taken away from him.
In April 14, 2011, it was uncertain whether or not Shane del Rosario’s fighting livelihood had been brought to an abrupt end after a drunk driver plowed into his car as he was stopped at an intersection. Hours before the incident, del Rosario had been at the gym preparing for the biggest fight of his young career against Daniel Cormier, but now he was left with a herniated disc, mounting frustration and doubt about his future as an athlete.
It’s difficult to imagine a 28-year-old rising heavyweight star making a career comeback, but when you’ve had the year del Rosario has experienced, making a return to the fray is an applause-worthy accomplishment.
“I was coming off a solid win over Lavar Johnson, and I was set to face Cormier,” says del Rosario. “Suddenly, everything was gone. An entire year of my life was taken away from me. It was a rough time. I’ve had injuries in the past with broken bones, so I thought I would bounce back. As it turned out, the herniated disc was much more than I’d originally thought. I tried getting back in the gym, but I had to face the reality that I was going through a serious injury. I needed time off to do the necessary rehab to recover.”
Fighters, by nature, are forged from different molds, and it was del Rosario’s mental toughness that kept his head above water. The momentum that del Rosario had built over his first 11 fights was impressive, to say the least. As a former Muay Thai World Champion, del Rosario’s transition into Mixed Martial Arts was seamless, finishing all 11 of his opponents in spectacular fashion, with only one fighter making it out of the first round. The American heavyweight knew it was going to be a long road back — one that would require diligence and patience and that would test his fortitude down to the core just as his stock was on the rise.
Professional fighters rely on their bodies to perform at a high level, and del Rosario quickly discovered that the things that were once automatic had to be rebuilt. He had an internal sense of urgency to return to form and prove that he belonged in the cage with the best heavyweights in the world. The battles that he faced in the rehabilitation process created frustrations from within, as his range of motion and natural power were suddenly limited.
The California native would eventually come to terms with the pace of the process. Rushing the rehab would only stymie the outcome. After months of therapy, his mobility returned, and the snap in his kicks followed. With all systems firing, his confidence came back front and center, signaling to him it was time to get back to what he does best.
Back In Action
“If the UFC signs you, that means they want you there and you need to show them that they’ve made the right decision,” he says.
“All the hard work since the first day I stepped foot inside of a gym has been geared toward fighting in the UFC. The accident may have taken a year of my life, but things worked out the way they should have. The accident sucked, but I’m over being pissed about it. I’ve accepted it as something that happens in life, and it’s made me stronger in every aspect."