Cardenas was born Stephen Antonio Cardenas on May 29, 1974 in Hampton, Virginia, at the Langley Air Force Base. Spending his early childhood as a military brat, Cardenas was raised in San Antonio, Texas. He is of Mexican descent. He started training in martial arts when he was about 12 years old and reached black belt in Taekwondo at age 16. Steve Cardenas has been in martial arts for 28 years. He earned 5th degree black belt in Taekwondo and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.