Scoliosis doesn’t Stop Burgos from Becoming an MMA Champ
By Mira Wassef – Times Herald-Record
A while back, he could hear the squeak when he did crunches, like a rocking chair swinging back and forth.
The squeaks have been silenced for about a year now, but not before Shane Burgos risked his health to pursue his dream.
Burgos, a 19-year-old amateur mixed martial arts fighter from Highland Mills, had battled scoliosis, a medical condition where the spine is curved from side to side, since middle school. The disease took a grave turn when he was 16. Doctors discovered during a routine checkup that Burgos’ spine had gotten worse and was curved at 49 degrees. He immediately had surgery and two main steel rods and 18 screws were inserted into his spine.
“It was a horrible day. I cried,” Burgos said. “They told me I might not be able to fight anymore. When I woke up from the surgery, it hurt so bad.
It felt like I was paralyzed.”
Back in action
It almost ended his blossoming MMA career. Almost. He was depressed and restless until he couldn’t take it anymore. Just a few months after the surgery, he was skateboarding and jumping off trampolines. He even started grappling again. Then his back spasmed. But he was relieved to learn his back had only shifted slightly, quelling the fear of another surgery.
“I shouldn’t have come back that quick,” he said. “But I’m too stubborn.”
The 6-foot Burgos resumed his training but couldn’t compete in official matches until he was 18. He has won both of his amateur fights, including an Asylum Fight League match at Trump Marina in Atlantic City in February.
“I’m not worried about him getting hurt. I’m more scared that he’s going to lose,” said Burgos’ mother, Renee. “I was worried about his mental health. Not everyone has a passion like that. And I don’t want to stop him from pursuing his passion.”
Burgos was instantly hooked on MMA after watching a Matt Hughes fight more than four years ago. He was never much of a team sports guy, so he started focusing on MMA and enjoys all aspects of it, like kick boxing and wrestling. But his specialty is grappling. Burgos won the Northern American Grappling Association tournament three times — as a beginner, an intermediate and at the advanced levels. The NAGA is held in June and is the biggest grappling tournament in the country.
Younger brothers’ success
“I love the feeling of ecstasy after a win,” Burgos said. “It’s the best feeling in the world when you succeed at something you’re passionate about.”
Burgos introduced MMA to his younger brothers, Jake, 11, and Ryan, 9, whom he trains at Tiger Schulmann’s in Monroe. Ryan and Jake have become avid MMA fighters and have won some prestigious tournaments. Both took first place at Challenge of Champions competition in New Jersey in June. Ryan won the boys’ 7-8-year-old brown belt championship and is looking forward to getting his black belt. Jake took the title in the 9-11-year-old green-red belt division.
“I like the kickboxing the most,” Jake said. “I like the punching and kicking.”
“I’m not worried about them getting hurt. It’s safer than boxing, ” Renee said. “It’s been great for their self-confidence and they won’t get bullied. And they love to do it.”