Mixed martial arts fighters and fans are mourning one of its unsung heroes today as heavyweight Muay Thai fighter Shane Del Rosario, 30, passed away Monday. Roommate, UFC flyweight Ian McCall found him lying unconscious on the floor of their home on Tuesday, Nov. 26. He was admitted to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, CA, the victim of an apparent heart attack.
Doctors reportedly resuscitated him in the ER but there was no detectable brain activity once Del Rosario was admitted to the coronary unit. Doctors lowered his body temperature in an attempt to force hypothermia to preserve brain cells before trying to “jump-start” cerebral function. Del Rosario remained in a comatose state, however, and was taken off life support 10 days ago.
MMA radio personality Jay Pagliaro reports friends and family believed he was making progress until he took “a turn for the worse” two days ago. Two weeks after he was admitted to the hospital, Del Rosario died without ever regaining consciousness.
Doctors believe the heart attack was brought on by a genetic condition called Long QT syndrome (LQTS), according to Del Rosario’s manager, Jason House. MayoClinic.com defines LQTS as a “heart rhythm disorder” that causes fast, “chaotic heartbeats.” This increase in heart rate can lead patients to have fainting spells or seizures. A patient’s heart rate may become irregular for an extended timeframe, taxing the body and the heart’s ability to supply it with oxygen-rich blood. Without immediate action to restore a steady heartbeat, LQTS can result in death.
It is possible to be born with the genetic predisposition that puts sufferers at risk. Certain medication and medical conditions can also lead to LQTS. Although the condition is treatable, Pagliaro reports that over the course of his MMA career, and despite Del Rosario’s physical exertions both in and out of the ring, there was any indication that he had a heart problem.
Sadly, LQTS often goes undiagnosed because many who have the condition have no sign of it at all. Some learn of the condition after an electrocardiogram (ECG) for another issue, due to family history or through genetic testing. Upon learning of the condition, treatment can take the form of medication, implant devices surgery and lifestyle changes. The goal is to prevent the syndrome from disrupting the patient’s heart rate to the point where it becomes dangerous and life-threatening.
Del Rosario was born Sept. 23, 1983 in Orange County, CA of Norwegian and Hawaiian descent. He began fight training when he was 17 under Marco Ruas, founder of Ruas Vale Tudo. Ruas specialized in a hybrid form of submission fighting and kickboxing.
On Nov. 9, 2006, Del Rosario began his MMA journey as a heavyweight muay thai specialist with an emphasis on striking. He faced Tyler Grear and won by TKO after a power punch that dropped Grear. He was a jiu jitsu blue belt and held an impressive record of 13-2 as of 2012. Del Rosario won his first 11 MMA contests with a mixture of TKO/KO and submissions.
He was the first American to win the World Boxing Council (WBC) Muay Thai Heavyweight title in 2007. He defeated contender Ricardo van den Bos, dominating him for the majority of the fight. After knocking van den Bos down twice, Del Rosario finished him with a knee near the end of the second round to win the title. He won the title again in 2008, knocking out Mexican kick boxer Ricardo Romero at 1:20 to hold the title for a second time.
Del Rosario moved into MMA in 2006 in King of the Cage, then fought for EliteXC, M-1 Global and Strikeforce. He only signed with UFC in 2012 and lost his first two fights against Stipe Miocic (UFC 146, May 2012, KO/TKO, 2nd) and Pat Barry (TUF 16 Finale, Dec. 2012, 2nd). He was scheduled to fight Guto Inocente in UFC 168, but had to pull out due to injury. According to Pagliaro, he was in talks for another fight. No opponent or date had been set at the time of his heart attack.
Teammates with Team Oyama and other UFC fighters tweeted news of Del Rosario’s death.
Roommate Ian McCall tweeted,
“RIP to one of the best people…in my life…my best friend.”
The UFC released this official statement:
“The Ultimate Fighting Championship mourns the tragic loss of heavyweight competitor Shane del Rosario, who has passed away at the age of 30. Del Rosario suffered a heart attack on Tuesday, Nov. 26, as a result of what doctors believe to be a congenital heart disorder, according to his manager Jason House. The entire organization sends its deepest condolences to Shane’s family and friends.”
His coach, Colin Oyama released a statement as well:
“The Del Rosario family and I, and all of our family, team-mates and friends thank everyone for their prayers and support. God has a different path for Shane to take and instead has chosen to take Him away from us to be with his forefathers in Heaven. Yet through all of this our Faith in GOD remains unwavering.”
The Southpaw fighter was sadly not the only active UFC fighter to pass away. In 2008, former champion Evan Tanner was found in the desert of Imperial County where he was camping near the California-Arizona border. Tanner was known as an adventurer and coroner’s reports indicated he died of exposure in the 115-degree heat of the desert.
Every time a fighter steps into the ring, he faces the possibility of injury. Del Rosario will be remembered as a warrior, a good and caring friend and a significant contributor to the sport as a whole. He held a bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of California Irvine. He was undefeated as an amateur muay thai fighter, and broke new ground in the sport.
His family will be honoring his request to donate his organs. The family is also exploring options for creating a charitable fund to forward research on LQTS, the condition doctors believe lead to the heart attack that saw Del Rosario dead at the age of 30.
By Brandi Tasby
Contributor: Jay Pagliaro