Expulsion helps launch Cantwell’s career as fighter

Many students use high school to explore interests that might eventually lead to a career.

Steve Cantwell found his calling when he was kicked out of school.

Cantwell, who will fight Luiz Cane on the Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view card in Montreal on Saturday, was thrown out of Pahrump High School for fighting. His dad then called a Las Vegas-based kickboxing instructor and inquired about his services.

“(Cantwell’s) dad called me up and said that he had a kid that wanted to be a fighter,” said Nick Blomgren, who runs One Kick Nick’s. “I said, ‘Let him come down here and stay at the gym, and I’ll work with him.’ “

Cantwell moved into the gym at age 16 and would return home to Pahrump on the weekends, though he insists he wasn’t a problem child.

“I just somehow kept finding trouble. I was never a punk kid, I just never turned away from a fight,” he said. “If I saw a fight around the corner, I definitely didn’t walk the other way. I had a huge athletic advantage on most of the kids I went to school with, and my dad just decided to do something about it.”

Still, Blomgren didn’t immediately see the promise that would lead to Cantwell capturing the World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight crown in August at just 21 years old.

“No, not at first. That’s why we call him the robot,” Blomgren said. “After about two years, I started seeing that he had real potential.

After Cantwell rose to the top of the WEC, the organization disbanded its heavier weight classes and moved many of its fighters to the UFC. Cantwell won his first UFC fight and said he hopes to replicate the success he had in the former league.

“I loved the WEC. It helped my career in ways I (couldn’t) even imagine, and I would have liked to have worn that belt for a while,” he said. “But the goal has always been the UFC, and I plan on becoming the UFC champion.

His path continues this week on a card headlined by middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who will defend his belt against Thales Leites.

• DIAZ DOMINATES SHAMROCK — Nick Diaz scored a dominant stoppage victory over 36-year-old Frank Shamrock in the main event of the Strikeforce card in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday night.

Diaz, 25, moved up in weight to take the fight but clearly proved himself to be the better fighter.

Also, Gilbert Melendez and Scott Smith earned knockout victories.

• UFC 100 SOLD OUT — Tickets to the historic July 11 event at Mandalay Bay were sold out before they even went on sale to the general public.

UFC Fight Club members and newsletter subscribers have the opportunity to purchase tickets to live events first, and all tickets were purchased during that time, making it the fastest sellout in the organization’s history.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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