Former UFC light heavyweight Steve Cantwell retired from MMA at just 25 years old but has successfully transitioned into the cannabis industry with his company, “Green Life Productions.”
Unlike some fighters considering post-career plans, Cantwell knew right away that this was the path to take after his fight against Riki Fukuda at UFC 144.
“(I started), literally, when I got off the plane from Japan,” Cantwell told theScore. “I was already introduced to the medical marijuana program during my fight career. My wife basically sent me to a doctor’s office with my paperwork, (I) got my license and started my own personal garden at that time. I had been helping some other people out … and didn’t look back.”
Newer fight fans may not recall that in 2008, Cantwell became the last World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight champion or that he had a trio of exciting fights against Brian Stann. The Nevada native is also one of the only fighters in UFC history to suffer three or more losses and still keep his job with the promotion.
Multiple injuries ultimately forced the 205-pound fighter into retirement, but Cantwell had another fight in front of him: getting his business off the ground.
“Just getting the license itself was huge,” Cantwell said. “All the background checks and our license itself was binders and binders. Then on top of that, once we got going, we were one of the first to really go forward with all the pesticide testing and microbial testing. The seed-to-sale regulated tracking systems, all these different things. It was the most highly regulated cannabis market to date. I had to really do my homework and learn how to how to work with microbes appropriately.”
Fighting was nowhere near Cantwell’s radar during this period, as the California-born fighter was solely focused on building his company. The 33-year-old admitted he didn’t even know who Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor was until recently.
But his fight career would pay dividends later on, as an old sponsor led to him to buy an empty building and helped build his company.
“I basically put together a business model with my wife; she did the business plan. I was a master grower with about seven years of homegrow experience. I approached one of my original sponsors, looking at their old empty building that went vacant, Ace Hardware,” he explained. “They actually sponsored me when I was a teenager to move to Vegas and start training. I told them my idea of what I want to do with this building and he was just sold. He called me a day later and put together a small team of general contractors. I designed the building and they built it. And we’ve been running it with the first cultivation facility to open up the state of Nevada.”
When Nevada legalized the use of recreational cannabis in January 2017, the UFC veteran saw his business thrive like never before.
“It opened up the floodgates, and we can’t grow enough product now. We sell it every single week,” Cantwell said. “So I mean, we’re truly blessed. I mean, we’re, you know, the multimillion-dollar company now. So we’re doing great man.”
Cantwell has no plans of selling his company anytime soon. Instead, “The Robot” hopes to propel his company onto a bigger stage in the near future.
“We get offers all the time to get bought out, but I make a lot of money working it,” he said. “We were the first people to take living organic soil indoor so we’re kind of champions in our own right for indoor organic cultivation. We have the ability to take this company nationally, possibly even globally and really make an impact.”
He added: “We just want to spread the good news that, ‘Hey, you can do regenerative farming, whether you’re indoors, whether you’re on Mars, whether you’re in the jungle. No matter where you are, you can practice sustainable regenerative practices.’ That’s kind of the ultimate goal – to spread that message.”
Cantwell last competed on Feb. 26, 2012, and retired with a 7-6 overall record.