Contrary to popular belief, Pahrump has a longer history with mixed-martial-arts fighting than what is currently believed by many.
Steve Cantwell, known as the “Robot,” was the last light-heavyweight champion of the World Extreme Cagefighting organization, which later became the UFC. Cantwell is from Pahrump and therefore the first champion from this town.
He has been fighting most of his life and is enjoying his new career as one of the partners in Green Life Productions. In this arena too, he is a champion because he is known for refining medical marijuana and is a successful master grower but how he got there is a story in itself.
Cantwell moved to Pahrump when he was 10 years old. He went from being a dropout at 16 to business owner, where he now oversees a 15,000-square foot growing facility in Pahrump.
According to Nick Moore, a friend of Cantwell’s, he has brought nothing but accolades to Pahrump since leaving at 16.
“He is a very successful businessman and well respected in the cannabis industry,” Moore said. “He has brought his passion in the ring to his business.”
Cantwell is a success story like that of Tuff-N-Uff amateur light-heavyweight Champion Brandon Schneider.
Cantwell went to school with Schneider and was two years behind him. Ironically, by his own admission, Cantwell was thrown out of school for fighting at 16 and never graduated.
So at 16 he went off to become a fighter at the prodding of his father.
“My father got me into a gym,” the fighter said. “I trained with a guy named ‘One-Kick Nick’ at One Kick’s Gym. This gym is well known for training 15 champions. ‘One Kick’ is Nick Blomgren, who founded the gym. For that gym I fought in a lot of grappling tournaments and kickboxing tournaments, winning them all.”
He said he wasn’t sure but he thought he only fought three amateur fights before going pro.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to do and why get punched in the face for free,” Cantwell said.
After a few amateur fights he started fighting for Rage In the Cage as a professional. He won two fights by armbar-submission and then went to fight in Europe, a fighter named Leonardo Pecanha. Cantwell said he did such a great job that promoters from World Extreme Cagefighting saw him at the airport and wanted to sign him. He said they got him a fight with a Marine hero named Brian Stann. Stann won this fight by TKO and Cantwell was disappointed in his performance to say the least.
“I was so furious and trained hard for my next fight, which was Justin McElfresh,” Cantwell said. “I knocked him out in one minute.”
He fought one more opponent and knocked him out and then got a shot at the WEC title, which was a rematch with Stann.
“They told me that I couldn’t go toe-to-toe with this guy standing up and I did,” Cantwell said. “I was determined to knock him out and I stood in there and beat his ass. I defeated him and I was champion. At the time, Cantwell was just a kid. He said he was 21 when he won the title in 2007. Then the organization became UFC.”
He then said he was supposed to fight Stann again, but it didn’t happen and his career in the UFC got ugly over a mistake he made at a fight–a mistake he regrets.
“He got replaced at the last minute and I ended up fighting some unknown guy named Razak Al-Hassan,” Cantwell said. “I was excited and it was my first UFC fight and I got the guy in an armbar and I broke his arm. I had seen my hero do this and I always wanted to do it, but how do you explain something like that to people. I then said something stupid after the fight that I later regretted. I had said ‘I always wanted to break someone’s arm.’ It just came out the wrong way and I later apologized for it.”
Cantwell took a lot of flack for that mistake and he was verbally abused in the MMA world.
Sports writer Marcus Walker called Cantwell a clown for the incident.
“Do you guys at the UFC not see how pathetic tonight’s card was? Obviously not. Why? Because you allowed an absolute clown like Steve Cantwell to fight on your card.”
Cantwell is now retired from fighting and running a business that has over $1.2 million invested in it and provides 80 percent of the medical marijuana to Las Vegas.
“I retired because I was a kid fighting grown men,” he said. “Grown men have maturity and strength. I would like to fight with that strength. I started young and ended up retiring young with some serious injuries. These injuries were serious ones that screwed up my record because I fought injured (his professional fight record is 7-6 according to sherdog). So I took a break. I still train and I want to knock the dust off my gloves. I do want to throw punches again.”
Does this mean the Robot is coming back?
“I am at 240 pounds now, and I can come down quickly but I am not sure if I will fight at 205 or 185,” he said. “I don’t think I can come back to become a champion.”
Nick Moore is not so sure his friend will return to fight professionally.
“All I know is his business takes a lot of time,” Moore said. “I just don’t see him going back to fighting. Why should he? He has a very successful business right here in town,” Moore said.
-Contact sports editor Vern Hee at email@example.com