In Shah Bobonis’ younger years, there was precious little that the Miami product wanted more than to make his living in the world of baseball.
"As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a professional baseball player," the 34-year-old recounted.
"My father was a left-handed pitcher who played semipro and winter league baseball in Puerto Rico. I grew up having some type of baseball practice every day when my father came home from work and on the weekends."
Bobonis, a 52nd draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in 1997, never ended up making his living on the mound. But Bobonis, who likened himself as a pitcher to Tom Gordon and Turk Wendell, noted that his time in baseball did help lead him to a sport that he enjoys "exponentially more"—mixed martial arts.
"After my baseball career was over, I began boxing in the amateurs just to keep competing at something and stay in shape," he said. "While at the boxing gym, I met Jorge Masvidal, who invited me to the Freestyle Fighting Academy."
"And the rest is history."
As a mixed martial artist, Bobonis, a brown belt under Miami’s David and Marcos Avellan, has won 15 of 23 professional bouts—including seven in a row dating back to January of 2011—and is a 135-pound titlist in Mexico’s Combate Extremo.
Bobonis, who now trains alongside Muhsin Corbbrey at Corbbrey’s Champions Training Centre in Savannah, defeated the previously unbeaten Cornelius Godfrey at XFC 20 in Knoxville in September.
While Bobonis, a professional mixed martial artist for the past five years, feels that the similarities between baseball and MMA are few and far between, his time on the diamond—as evidenced by his success—appears to have paid dividends in the cage.
"My time in baseball made me a person who longs for competition, no stranger to hard work and prepared me for the stress of competition," he said.
"Shah is a true mixed martial artist," Corbbrey said. "Many of the MMA guys out there are one-trick ponies. Not Shah. He focuses very hard on every aspect of MMA and is strong in every range. Shah trains daily with champion boxers, Muay Thai fighters and grapplers, as well as Division I wrestlers. When you fight Shah you really have to pick your poison, because he is dangerous anywhere the fight goes."
Bobonis feels he could succeed in any sport he focused his efforts on and, as such, he feels that his future is bright in MMA.
"So far, I think I’ve just started to scratch the surface of my MMA career," he said.
"When I walk away from the sport, I want to be known as one of the best bantamweights fighting in my era."
Ed Kapp is a Regina, Saskatchewan-based freelance journalist. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained firsthand.