Cynthia Calvillo was invited to the High Times Cannabis Cup earlier this year. She attended the event as an honored guest.
Calvillo made cannabis-related news, of course, in March when she was suspended nine months by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) for a positive in-competition marijuana test in relation to her UFC 219 fight last December. The failed drug test caused her to lose her sponsorship with UFC partner BodyArmor and she was also fined $6,150 by the NAC.
After that, companies in the cannabis business came out of the woodwork reaching out to Calvillo. She was offered CBD sponsorships and invited to the Cannabis Cup. Calvillo said she turned down all those deals and left the Cannabis Cup with a “bad taste.”
Calvillo just didn’t want to tie herself — and her career — to the weed industry. She doesn’t want the label.
“I just really wanted to get myself away from it,” she told MMA Fighting. “I don’t want to be defined by it. I just kind of steered away from it. I don’t want people to remember me as that. My main concern is I want them to remember me as one of the best fighters in the world. I want to just get rid of that.”
Calvillo, 31, returns to the cage Saturday against Poliana Botelho at UFC Argentina after a frustrating, nearly year-long absence. She still believes the suspension was unjust and she remains in favor of cannabis being removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in-competition prohibited list. But, at least for the time being, she’s going to keep her advocacy private.
“For me, I wanted to be an advocate for it and that’s what I wanted to go towards,” said Calvillo, who missed weight Friday morning by two pounds. “But right now, for me, my most important goal is to be world champion. If I were to sit there and fight and make a bigger deal, I don’t want to not have a job and not have fights. I’ve gotta just kind of suck it up and move forward.”
Calvillo is putting her focus on her mixed martial arts career and that’s understandable. Before her unanimous decision loss to Carla Esparza last December, Calvillo was red hot — ranked No. 6 among UFC strawweight contenders and undefeated. A victory over Esparza would have put her potentially in line for a title shot at some point in 2018.
Instead, she has spent almost this entire year out of action, without the chance to bounce back from the defeat. Calvillo still holds some ill will toward the Nevada commission, which suspended her nine months when USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, gave her six with the ability to bump it down to three after taking a drug course.
“I did feel like it was a little unfair as far as the situation,” Calvillo said. “I did feel like the Nevada State Athletic Commission was trying to make an example out of me. There was other people that also failed a marijuana test after me and only got six months and it was in Vegas. I was like, what the heck? It sucks in that sense, especially coming off a loss, because when you lose, you want to get back in there and get it back. It didn’t give me a chance to do that because of the suspension.
“It’s very frustrating, because I stopped everything. Before I got in the UFC, I was so busy with having a regular job and also training full time and also staying active. I fought like six times in a year to not fighting at all. So, I stayed training, I stayed focused. But it was definitely hard. The motivation wasn’t there as much, because I didn’t have something coming up.”
Calvillo remains unsure why cannabis was even found in her system in the fight-night test at UFC 219. She said she used the drug a week earlier, like she typically does prior to fights, and that has never been an issue before. Calvillo said she has been very open with the UFC and USADA about her usage, which is not prohibited out of competition and is legal recreationally in her home state of California.
“It’s not like I’m this stoner person who doesn’t train, who doesn’t do anything,” Calvillo said. “People are just looking at it the wrong way. I’m literally one of the hardest trainers, I’m a true professional athlete and I use cannabis for health reasons. It’s an alternative to using pain killers or sleep aids. Inflammation. There are so many benefits to it. It’s crazy to me that they see it as a bad thing.”
On top of everything else, she hasn’t been able to make any money through fighting for these 11 months. That will change Saturday when Calvillo (6-1) plans on reminding everyone that she was considered a top strawweight not too long ago. Even after the Esparza loss, she was ranked No. 9. Now, she’s no longer in the top-15 rankings.
“I just know rankings don’t mean shit,” Calvillo said. “As soon as I get back to the winning side, I’m gonna be climbing up there. As long as people want to see me fight and I win the fights, it doesn’t matter whatever number you have. If you win, they can’t deny you a title shot. I’ve just gotta get back to winning.”
Botelho (7-1) won’t be an easy foe. The Brazilian has won five in a row and is coming off a 33-second TKO of Syuri Kondo in May. Botelho, 29, is the kind of opponent who doesn’t hold a big name, but presents a host of challenges.
“It’s a very important fight,” Calvillo said. “It’s gonna be a very tough fight. But it is a chance for me to prove this is where I belong, in the top 10. So hopefully I can get back there.”
The last year or so is in the past now. Calvillo wants to move on. And if that means steering clear of an association to marijuana, she’s fine with that. That is not the first thing she wants people to think when they hear her name.
“I don’t want to be the pot girl,” Calvillo said with a laugh. “I want to be the GOAT. I don’t want to be the pot head.”