Hansel Aquino is an amateur mixed martial artist, and regardless of any accolades he may receive inside the cage throughout his career, the biggest victory of his life may have already been achieved.
The 5-foot-9-inch (175 centimeters) Aquino has beaten the towering disease known as epithelioid sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in his left leg.
Aquino started facing the fight of his life as an 18-year-old high school wrestler in 2010. At the time, the Hollywood, California, athlete was considering wrestling in college when all of a sudden he had to reconsider his life, as doctors said his left leg would have to be amputated or he would likely die in three months.
Surgery immediately ensued, and six tumors and six muscles from his left leg were removed. Shortly after surgery, Aquino started six months of radiation therapy to kill off the remaining cancer cells.
When Aquino was diagnosed with cancer, he was very anti-cannabis at the time, but in a conversation with Weedmaps News, he admitted that the power of the plant played a pivotal part in helping him to heal.
“I grew up in a Catholic family, so I didn't know anything about cannabis. I was anti-cannabis before my cancer,” Aquino said. “I didn't have any more options, so I wanted to see what cannabis could do. When doctors told me I had three more months to live, I didn't have any other choice. I was told that cannabis could help me in my treatment. I was scared, but the doctor told me to do it, so I was like, 'why not?' Ever since then, I've realized how cannabis is a great medicine, and I haven't let go of it.
“I don't want to say that cannabis cured my cancer, but I do want to say that it worked in cooperation with my cancer treatment. I also kept a clean diet by eliminating meat, sugar, and dairy. I ate once a day, drank alkaline water, and exercised. I believe that combination cured me of my cancer.”
While Aquino was receiving radiation therapy, he continued his quest to carve a career in combat sports.
On July 6, 2012, Aquino made his MMA debut at a Tuff-N-Uff event in Las Vegas while still going through radiation therapy, and he scored a knockout in just seven seconds.
“If I was going to die, I wanted to know that I did what I wanted to do and experience a fight,” Aquino said.
Aquino has engaged in countless “smoker” shows ever since, and he's ready to kick-start his pro career again. He's currently training at the Defiant Gym in Burbank, California to get back to his fighting weight so that he can begin his professional career at either 125 or 135 pounds (56.7 to 61.2 kilograms) by summer 2022.
Aquino also wants to debunk the myth that athletes can't use cannabis while still being able to perform at peak levels. That's why he uses cannabis during training. After a workout, Aquino said he'll indulge in an indica strain to relieve his muscles and pair it with cannabidiol (CBD), or he'll reach for a sativa.
“I smoke and train at the same time, and I believe I take the negative stigma away with my story,” Aquino said.
The 30-year-old is also parlaying his passions of pugilism with high jinks. Much of the comedic content and clips he produces centers around cannabis, and it is well documented to his 141,000-plus followers on Instagram and more than 225,000 followers on TikTok.
“My comedy on social media has been paying off and I see myself acting more in TV shows and movies moving forward with my career,” Aquino said. “I also want to make it to the UFC and be a champion. My life is centered around cannabis now. I want to share my story with everyone by writing a book. With cannabis, you can go a long way and still live a positive lifestyle.”
The inspirational Aquino has a remarkable story that is marketable, and should his skills translate much like his perseverance, his ever-evolving story still remains to be written.
Five cannabis products Hansel Aquino can't live without
“I love CBD. When I was going through my cancer, I used a lot of CBD to help me with pain, anxiety, and stress. I still use it on a day-to-day basis after a workout.
Another strain I love is GSC. I use this strain after a workout to minimize the pain and soreness I have after a workout.
In general, I love strains that are 1:1 CBD and THC to get the best of both worlds to smoke throughout the day.
I love to use vaporizers. I'm an athlete, and it's a healthier way of (consuming).”