LAS VEGAS -- Not all that long ago, life was looking pretty rosy for Shane Del Rosario.
The unbeaten heavyweight submitted Lavar Johnson in the Strikeforce Grand Prix alternates bracket and was getting ready to fight Daniel Cormier next.
But fate intervened in the Southern California native's life in the form of an auto accident. While Del Rosario spent a year on the sidelines recovering, Johnson went to the UFC and racked up back-to-back fight bonuses, and Cormier entered the Grand Prix main bracket and went on to win the tourney.
It was almost enough to make him quit the sport.
"I started getting scared," said Del Rosario (11-0), who fights fellow unbeaten Stipe Miocic on Saturday at UFC 146. "I was thinking, what am I going to do, should I go back to school?"
Del Rosario's world changed on April 14, 2011, when his car was hit from behind by a drunk driver in Orange Country, Calif., as he was stopped at a red light. Del Rosario suffered herniated discs in his back which were slow to heal.
"I suffered several herniated discs," Del Rosario said. "I was out for six months before there was any improvement at all, and it's going to be 14 months in all [between fights].
"I did have some dark times. I mean, I wasn't happy, I wanted to be active right away. For about six months, I couldn't do anything ... it really sucked knowing I could do nothing but just lay around and do physical therapy."
At his low point, Del Rosario, a graduate of the University of California-Irvine, contemplated going back to school to get his business degree.
"I don't want to go back to school," he said. "After I graduated I said to myself, ‘I could go to grad school or I could start fighting,' I started fighting, that was six years ago and I'm [[ighting] full-time. My parents were in the back of my mind, they were saying ‘you should go back to school.' I just gave [the injuries] time, got better and better and here I am today ready to fight Saturday."
Del Rosario will be looking to make up for lost time as he enters the UFC. A little over a year ago, Johnson and Cormier were considered Del Rosario's peers as fellow Strikeforce tourney alternates. But both have shot ahead of him in the pecking order: Johnson winning knockout of the night bonuses in his first two UFC fights and Cormier winning the Grand Prix and vaulting up the divisional rankings.
But you won't hear any jealousy from the laid-back Del Rosario over his colleagues' success.
"I'm happy for [Cormier]," Del Rosario said. "Me and him were going to be the alternates, obviously we were the underdogs. Everyone thought [Alistair] Overeem or Fedor [Emelianenko] would be the sure winner on that one, so to have one of the underdogs come in and win the whole tournament, I'm happy for him."
About Johnson, who fights Stefan Struve on Saturday, Del Rosario said "I told him he's not getting three KO bonuses in a row. He's got to share of that money. No, seriously, I'm happy for him. He's got a family, he's got two knockout bonuses in a row, I'll get my time. I was injured and had a layoff, but it's my time Saturday."
While Del Rosario obviously would have rather been fighting over the past year than sitting on the sidelines, he says he's grateful for the lessons from learned his experience.
"I had some dark times and it really sucks not doing what you want to do, but I put it all in perspective," he said. "There's a lot of people out there who are doing a lot worse than I am, you know? I could have died in that accident. ... My thing isn't all that bad. Other people are going through a lot of hard stuff."