It took a reality check to get Shane Burgos hooked on MMA.
The 26-year-old featherweight had zero interest in traditional martial arts growing up — he took one karate class in his youth and swore he would never go back — and didn’t even know what MMA was until he started watching combat sports series like “The Contender” and “The Ultimate Fighter.”
In fact, an old UFC video game had him thinking that cage-fighting was more like professional wrestling than anything else.
“I knew about it, but I didn’t really know,” Burgos said on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour. “I had the old, old PS1 game, I played it, but I thought it was WWE, I didn’t really know what it was until I really saw it and sat down and watched it. Instantly hooked.”
His passion for the sport growing rapidly, a teenage Burgos wrangled up a couple of buddies to check out a nearby karate school in New Windsor, N.Y., and he took full advantage of the trial month they offered, going to training six days a week.
That venue happened to be part of the highly-regarded Team Tiger Schulmann franchise, and Burgos worked his way up from cleaning the mats and bathrooms as a way to reduce membership fees to the position he holds today as head instructor at the school.
He also happens to be a 10-0 professional featherweight fighter with three victories inside the Octagon. “Hurricane” vividly recalls how it felt when the UFC contacted him to take a short-notice fight in Albany last December.
“Surreal. I almost cried,” Burgos said. “I was teaching class and I saw my phone out of the corner of my eye going off and I see it’s my manager — we’d been putting some tweets out, we were trying to get the fight — and then I see the sensei, he works at the school too, he answers the phone while I’m teaching the class and he’s just staring at me, smiling and I’m like, ‘It’s about to happen.’”
Burgos went on to defeat Tiago Trator by unanimous decision, then he picked up another win in April with a TKO of Charles Rosa in a bout that earned both men a Fight of the Night bonus. These achievements didn’t come without sacrifice though, as his wife Veronica was preparing to give birth while he was preparing for Rosa.
Now a father, Burgos is doing his best to juggle the demands of his budding career, while making time for his five-month old daughter Avery.
“It’s crazy, it’s weird, it’s very surreal,” Burgos said. “She was born February 27 and that was the last month of my training for my fight in Buffalo. It was just a very surreal thing. It’s like, I’m dad now, but how do I be a dad? I’ve never been a dad before. I had to train for this fight. I trained twice a day. I get home from training, I hold her for a second, and I’m like, ‘I’m so tired, could you just hold her, babe?’ And then I have to go back to training again.
“That month, when she was born, I feel a little guilty about because I didn’t get to spend too much time with her. I feel like she didn’t really recognize me too much so that kind of hurts me a little bit. But right after my fight with Charles, I had about a month off and I spent every second with her, as much time as I could.”
Burgos’s recent unanimous decision win over Godofredo Pepey left him with a few bumps and bruises that may give him more time to spend with his family, but he isn’t looking to enjoy too much rest and relaxation. The UFC is returning to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4, and having already fought in Albany, Buffalo and Long Island, that’s one New York destination Burgos must cross off his bucket list.
“After the (Pepey) fight, I have even more (injuries). Not bad injuries, but little nagging injuries, like my hands hurt, they’re always sore after my fights. So I definitely need to give my hands a break,” Burgos said.
“But if they offer MSG, as a New Yorker — not even as a New Yorker, as a fighter — how do you say ‘no’ to MSG? So I’ll definitely say ‘yes’ if they offer it to me, but if they offer me December that would be a little bit better on my body.”