NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. >> UFC fighter Shane Del Rosario died today, nearly two weeks after the heavyweight had a heart attack. He was 30.
The UFC and Del Rosario’s family announced his death. Del Rosario had been hospitalized in his native Orange County since Nov. 26.
“It has been truly amazing to realize just how many lives Shane touched in such a positive way,” Del Rosario’s family said in a statement released to The Associated Press.
“As always, Shane fought hard, but it was his time to go in peace. We will miss his huge smile, his huge bear hugs, his gift of giving to others, and his Aloha spirit. He was larger than life.”
Del Rosario’s manager, Jason House, said the fighter’s doctors believe he had a congenital heart disorder. Del Rosario’s family is interested in starting a charitable foundation to aid research on long QT syndrome, the heart condition that may have contributed to the fighter’s sudden cardiac arrest last month.
Del Rosario had been a professional mixed martial artist since 2006, also competing in kickboxing and muay thai competitions. He was the first American winner of the WBC world heavyweight muay thai championship in 2007.
He won his first 11 pro MMA bouts while competing in Strikeforce, M-1 Global and other promotions before moving last year to the UFC, where he lost his first two fights. He was stopped by Stipe Miocic and again by Pat Barry, his final opponent in December 2012.
Del Rosario was scheduled to fight at UFC 168 on Dec. 28, but pulled out last month with a rib injury.
“RIP to one of the best people I’ve ever had the honor to have in my life and call my best friend,” UFC flyweight Ian McCall posted on his Twitter account Monday. McCall was Del Rosario’s roommate and teammate.
Del Rosario trained with Team Oyama in Irvine, Calif., and spent most of his summers with his grandparents in Lanai City, Hawaii. He missed several months of MMA training with a herniated disc after he was struck in a car accident in 2011, but eventually resumed his career.
The family said it will honor the fighter’s desire to be an organ donor.
“He was passionate about helping others and was always there to offer a helping hand, a smile, and encouragement to anyone, not only family and friends, but also to strangers,” Del Rosario’s family said in its statement.
“He always put others before himself and would give the shirt off his back. He brought genuine joy and happiness to everyone he touched.”