Steven Peterson is growing his brand both inside and outside of the cage.
His fighting career is in a great place. He made it to the UFC, put on exciting fights in his three Octagon appearances and impressed his bosses enough to earn a new four-fight deal.
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The Fortis MMA product has also seen his businesses grow alongside the gym that has now established itself as one of the best in the world.
Striking a balance between the two proved to be an easy task for Peterson. The way he sees it, fighting is a benefit rather than a necessary revenue stream.
“I love fighting and I do it because I love it, but I don’t want to have to fight for money,” Peterson explained in his conversation with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock. “I want to take care of my cost of living, all my expenses, outside of fighting. When I fight, it’s just like a bonus.”
Still, fighting takes up a great deal of Peterson’s time, particularly during training camp. Even with his other endeavors, he is “extremely focused” on his MMA career.
“Ocho” is on a quest for his second UFC win when he faces veteran Alex Caceres on July 20 UFC San Antonio.
Steven Peterson vs. Alex Caceres
Peterson came away with a unanimous decision loss in his last fight against an overweight Luis Pena. Despite the result, Peterson gained confidence from his performance.
“If I fight as well as I fought in that fight, I’ll take out Alex Caceres in the first round,” Peterson said.
Caceres has been in the UFC since the twelfth season of The Ultimate Fighter, which took place in 2010. He sported a 5-2 professional record when he made his UFC debut. After stepping into the cage with names like Urijah Faber, Yair Rodriguez, and Kron Gracie, Caceres’ record now stands at a mixed 14-12.
Peterson has followed Caceres’ career since the beginning, and he feels that he’s watched as “Bruce Leeroy” has “grown up in the Octagon.” The two come from similar street-fighting roots, but their fighting styles fall on opposite ends of the spectrum.
“I’m just not a fan of his style,” Peterson said. “He likes to go out there and play. He likes to clown, and I’m a savage. I like to go out there and try and take your head off.”
Having watched his opponent compete so many times, Peterson can’t wait to finally get the chance to take Caceres on in front of a San Antonio crowd that is sure to rally around “Ocho.”
“I’ve been wanting this fight for a long time, since before I was in the UFC,” Peterson said. “All along I always thought I could beat this guy and that’s where I belong, and now I get to go in there and beat him and show that I belong in the UFC.”
Training at Fortis MMA
Lead by head coach Sayif Saud, Fortis MMA is possibly the fastest rising gym in the sport. As the success of others in the gym accumulates, it only helps Peterson in his preparation for his fight.
“The morale inside the gym has never been stronger,” Peterson said. “Everybody’s so intense, and we’ve got so many young guys trying to get their moment and work their way up … Everybody’s just super motivated and trying to get what’s theirs.”
One of the latest victories for the gym came on Week 2 of Dana White’s Contender Series. Undefeated bantamweight prospect Miles Johns earned his first UFC contract after remaining perfect with a unanimous decision win over Richie Santiago.
Just four days later, Fortis MMA light heavyweight Alonzo Menifield preserved his undefeated record with a first-round knockout win over Paul Craig. Menifield scored his second UFC win since getting signed through Contender Series, and his exciting style leads his teammates to believe big things are coming in the near future.
“He’s the sweetest, most kindhearted dude, but when you lock him in the cage, he’ll just rip your head off,” Peterson said. “He’s not going to be under the radar for long. I’d say they’re going to give him a big name next. He’s absolutely savage.”
It’s the emerging names like Menifield, Johns, Ryan Spann and Geoff Neal that are putting Fortis MMA on the map, but Peterson spends a lot of time in training with the younger guys still waiting to truly breakout. “Ocho” has been putting rounds in with 3-1 featherweight prospect Elijah Johns and upcoming Contender Series participant Steven Nguyen.
“It’s not about the names, it’s about the quality of work,” Peterson said. “I’m getting high-quality work and a lot, a lot of rounds.”
Growth of Fortis MMA
Because of the positive results in competition, the gym itself is looking to grow. Soon, Fortis MMA will have its own headquarters where fighters will be able to stay. The plan is to have a wellness center, a meal prep business and a personal training spot all within reach of the fighters housed there.
Peterson will be moving into the headquarters, and he’s bringing his cryotherapy business along with him. He used cryotherapy in the past for recovery after fights or hard training sessions, but once he had some money in his pocket, Peterson made it into a business.
“I won my Fight of the Night bonus in my UFC debut, so I had a little bit of cash on me,” Peterson said. “I was like, I could either spend it over the course of a year, or I can invest it and open up this business, so I invested it, bought my own cryotherapy machine, and I started building a wellness center around it.”
Opening the business was just another step in his plan to live worry-free once his fighting days are over.
“As I make money through fighting, I’m going to use that, invest it and continue to grow my business — Fight Fit Lifestyle, Fight Fight CBD and Fight Fit Cryo,” Peterson said. “Just continue building my empire, so when I’m done fighting I’ll have a lot to show for it.”
And while he continues to better himself and his personal kingdom, Peterson is simultaneously helping Fortis MMA maintain its rapid growth.
“Rather than follow, we’re trying to do it our way and just take over the game.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.