This is number fifty-three in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature UFC heavyweight, Shane Del Rosario. This interview was completed earlier this week, before it was announced that an injury will prevent Del Rosario from facing Dave Herman, at UFC 162, on July 6th. While Herman will face Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 162 instead, Del Rosario will be waiting a bit longer to reclaim the dominance he had in Strikeforce earlier in his career. Prior to the recent injury, Del Rosario had been training hard, and living well, with roommate, “Uncle Creepy,” Ian McCall.
Jack was able to follow up with Shane today for one more additional question:
Jack Brown: I know that you were really looking forward to this fight. What can you share about your injury, how it occurred, and what your recovery will involve?
Shane Del Rosario: Yeah, as time goes on, I am really getting bummed that I won't be able to compete in UFC 162. I was watching some old Canelo fights last night at MGM Grand, thinking I need to have punch combos like that. I was supposed to fight there in a month. Injuries suck, and I've had my share the past couple years. I tore a ligament in my thumb, so I would have been unable to spar or grapple over the next month. So it was in my best interest to pull out unfortunately. I hurt my hand sparring with Werdum the week before. It was his last sparring session, and we definitely kept a strong pace for six rounds straight. He is a big heavyweight, and my thumb hit pretty good on his head a few times. I will be getting surgery next week to reattach the ligament. I am in really good shape right now and 20lbs lighter than my last fight. I’ll be out for a week, but with the pin in my thumb, I can continue with some modified training. Definitely there will be a lot of running and strength training at Sports Science Lab, and as much pads and footwork as possible at my team’s gym, Team Oyama MMA. I will also get a chance to work more on the technical side while injured. Something that I really need to do is to clean up my striking. Recovery should be four to six weeks, and I look to be scheduled to fight sometime in September.
Please enjoy the original conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
Shane Del Rosario: My first experience with combat sports was while I was in high school. I grew up in South Orange County, and ever since I was a kid, I was always competing in sports. Anytime I wasn't at school or team practice, I was at the beach. Salt Creek was a second home to my friends and me. Not only did we all surf and constantly spend time down at the beach, but most of us all trained MMA as a hobby. By no means did I grow up in a bad area, or did I need MMA as a way to protect myself, but it was another avenue that my friends and I could learn and compete in. And MMA has proven to be an ultimate, and sometimes consequential, test of one’s individual strengths and limitations. We all grew up on some of the nicest beaches in California. Like many other well-known surf spots, it was a very territorial place. Sometimes, outside people would come to visit and trash or disrespect the beaches and ocean we all grew up around. The beaches were, and still are, huge parts of who we are as people. And you could say that we were the unofficial "quality control" of the South County beaches. So training MMA made us better at our jobs. Ha-ha. It is pretty crazy to think of how many fighters have come out of Orange County, and how many of them have such close ties to the beach. Most of my friends all began training with Marco Ruas, “The King of the Streets.” Currently, Ian McCall and I are representing our hometown through fighting in the UFC and training out of Team Oyama and Lotus Club Jiu-Jitsu.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, a TKO win in King of the Cage back in 2006, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
SDR: My first MMA fight was definitely a surreal experience. Although I had competed in a few Muay Thai fights prior to that, it was a different feeling stepping into the cage and then having them lock and leave my opponent and I standing ready for the bell to ring. King of the Cage (Saboba Casino) was one of the first proving grounds for MMA fighters, and most who have fought in the UFC have all started at Saboba. I remember my first fight was against an older Hungarian fighter, Nemeth Gabor, who had a lot more fights then I did at the time. My fights before were all quick knockouts. I remember hitting him in the beginning of the first round as hard as I could, and it did not drop him. Quickly after that, I remember getting caught with an overhand right and it was my first realization that opponents can and do hit back. I ended up winning by KO towards the end of the round.
JB: At the beginning of your MMA career you competed in kickboxing as well. How did kickboxing compare with MMA and what was involved in you making the transition solely to MMA?
SDR: Although I began training Vale Tudo with Marco Ruas in high school, during college, at UCI, I solely concentrated on academics. During my senior year, I resumed training with Colin Oyama. It was a time when K-1 was huge. It was Colin’s, and my own, goal to train and focus on one day competing with the world class kickboxers in K-1 at the time. However, as time went on, and the sport of MMA kept growing, the opportunity for a career and to make a living doing that became more prevalent. After nine Muay Thai fights and a few MMA bouts, I began competing in Elite XC and transitioned solely into fighting in MMA. From then on I focused and trained full time in MMA. Training and competing in combat sports, no matter which discipline, is very similar. Early in my career, when it was time to train ground and wrestling, I was the first to sneak out the back door. I could do stand-up all day, but it definitely was a challenge to stay focused on grappling. As I started to see the opportunities in MMA, I began to realize the importance of being well-rounded and training in all aspects of the sport. Although my love for the sport began with Muay Thai, and still is a huge reason I love, and am grateful for, what I do for a living, MMA and the UFC has proven to be the most financially rewarding and it has the most elite and competitive athletes in martial arts.
JB: Prior to entering the UFC, you were undefeated in MMA. What made you so successful early on in your career, and what were the highlights of fighting for Strikeforce and other organizations?
SDR: What made me so successful early in my career was my great coaching staff and team. My head coach, Colin Oyama, is well-known for bringing top fighters to championship fights in the UFC, Pride, and K-1. There were guys like Rampage, Tito Ortiz, Rob McCullough, Ricco Rodriguez, and many others. These were all fighters I grew up watching when I only thought it would just be a hobby for me. In addition to great coaching, I had a strong team of around twenty guys who were all very tough. It was a great atmosphere, that not only taught me technique, but it also showed me how MMA was as a sport and a business. I am truly grateful for the people that have been around me since the beginning of my career. My family and team are the reason for my success, and I think about that every time I enter an arena.
One of my most memorable times, early in my career, was when I had a chance to compete in the Affliction M-1 Challenge. It was a country versus country, team tournament, and we were able to compete in Japan, Korea, and Russia. There was a great energy, arriving in another country and seeing the other teams we were to face during the tournament. With that, there was a huge sense of pride as we represented our home countries. Feelings, I think, many of us had as a kid, watching movies like Bloodsport or Kickboxer. I guess we should all thank Mr. Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal?
JB: You debuted in the UFC a year ago, and your two fights in the promotion have both been losses. What have you learned from those fights against Miocic and Barry, and what has it been like for you to be part of the UFC?
SDR: I remember being interviewed immediately after exiting the cage at my UFC debut against Stipe Miocic. The fight was stopped because my head was being bounced off his elbows and the canvas, resulting in huge cuts across my eyes and forehead. In the interview, the first thing I said was that I was thankful for getting my ass handed to me. Prior to that, I blew through my opponents on talent alone. This was my first definite realization that this was the top of the food chain, so to speak, and that competition, like I assumed, was the best and I must prepare and train like it is. I resumed training after healing, and focused on returning to being a dominant fighter like I had been before. I was then set to face another tough opponent in Pat Barry. After almost submitting him in the first, I came out in the second round and got caught with a huge punch and was stopped again. As an athlete, I really hate to lose, especially being decisively stopped in my first two UFC fights. With the great feeling that, "I made it," came the tough realization that in my first two UFC showings, I was on the wrong side of the highlight reels. Like I said before, and feel now as I prepare for my next showing, I am thankful for being KO'd to directly show me, "I made it," but have a lot of work to do to stay and have success at this level. Since I began fighting, I have always been told I have great potential to do great things in this sport. However, you cannot cash potential at the bank. Through my early domination in the beginning of my career, through my car accident and recovery, and through my first two tough losses, it has all given me a very clear perspective. It has shown me, even at certain points in my losses, that I have the tools to do big things in the sport. It has also shown me what I have done, what I need to change, and with that, all I need to do and have been doing this camp to walk away with the win against Dave Herman at UFC 162. This is my long road back to the win column.
JB: Your next fight is scheduled to be against Dave Herman, at UFC 162, on July 6th. What do you think of that matchup and what do you think of Herman as an opponent?
SDR: I think it is a great match up. We are both coming off consecutive losses and KO's. With the competitive nature of the UFC, it does not bode well for our employment with back-to-back losses. Besides our losses, our matchup is very tough. We are both athletic and quick heavyweights. With how much is at stake for both of us in this fight, I know Dave Herman and I are training harder than we ever have to ensure we walk away with the win. However, as we all know, there can only be one of us with our hand raised, which sets up everyone watching for a very exciting and intense fight. I wish us both a healthy rest of our camps, and that at UFC 162 we have a war, giving everything we have to decide our future in UFC.
JB: What other fighters out there would you like to someday fight and why?
SDR: There are so many great fighters in my division right now. As I am coming off these losses, I am solely focusing on my next fight against Dave Herman. I feel the best I have ever felt in my career, and am excited to show the world the fighter I really am and who they expected me to be. I still have a lot of dues to pay in this sport before I can call anyone out. I am giving everything I have to this camp and this fight. My sole focus is walking away with a win, and then I’ll return back to training camp, and begin my return to dominating in MMA.
JB: Who are you training with currently and how is it going?
SDR: My coaching staff is all the same. Head Coach is Colin Oyama. Jiu-Jitsu coach is Giva Santana. Boxing/Muay Thai coach is Romie Adanza. Conditioning is with Corey Beasley and Rick Stassi. And a new addition has been training under Gavin MacMillian and Sazi Guthrie out of Sports Science Lab - which has made me stronger and in better shape than I have ever been before. Also, we have been able to get great sparring for this camp and will continue. I think a big problem for me in my last fight was not getting enough heavyweight sparing. And Pat Barry is the wrong opponent to face with little sparring. This camp, I have been able to work with many elite heavyweights in the sports of MMA and boxing. I have regained my confidence under pressure and I’m excited to see my talents finally come into my next UFC appearance.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life? And what can you share about your current roommate, the enigmatic, Uncle Creepy, Ian McCall?
SDR: Outside of training and fighting, I find most of my joy hanging out with my family and friends. If I am not committed to the gym, training or teaching, I am most likely at the beach. If I have a day off, I try to do something outdoors, getting some balance from otherwise being stuck training at a gym.
I have been very lucky to have many people around me who have influenced and supported me throughout my life. Growing up, I was fortunate to have a great family who has always pushed me towards excellence and helped me through hard times. My dad was born and raised in a small town in Hawai'i, and my mom, in a small town in Montana. I think my parents’ hard working natures, and strong sense of family values, have definitely made me the person who I am today. Or their small town values have at least buffered the stereotypical Orange County life I have been accustomed to growing up in. In addition to my family, I have always been surrounded by great coaches and teammates. My team is my family, and I could not imagine walking into a fight without them cornering me.
As for Señor Creepy, the living situation is going well. Our attorneys have advised us not to disclose too much information about the happenings and details of the infamous "Man Cave." In relation to our careers, living together has helped with training. His fighting at 125, and me, as a heavyweight, I feel a little guilty eating two to three meals at a time. I am down to 230lbs, and feel better than I have since early in my career. Ian and I have been friends for over ten years, and have been teammates for five. It’s good for us to push each other during camp and keep each other in line outside of the gym. Our house, with Ian, Rich, Baby London, and I, is like a weird version of "Three Men and a Baby." All good vibes and we’re ready to start winning our next fights.
JB: Last question, Shane, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
SDR: Being a professional fighter is a great honor. Growing up as an athlete, you always think about making it to the big leagues. Fighting has given me that chance, and I am blessed to be able to do what I do for a living. Yeah, at times, training can suck. Yeah, sometimes you can really be over it. But there is no feeling in the world like winning a fight and celebrating with all the people that helped me get there. I’ve been given an opportunity to train full-time, travel the world, and fight on TV. I can say for now that I am not locked down in an office, and that alone makes me happy.
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