It's wild how many fighters in the UFC are using cannabis

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A poll of 170 mixed martial arts fighters found that nearly half of the respondents use cannabis for recreational or recovery purposes and the overwhelming majority — nearly 80 per cent — have used CBD products. 

“I think that sounds pretty accurate,” Jeff Novitzky, senior vice president of athlete health and performance in the UFC, told the Athletic, which conducted the poll. Novitzky went on to say that he fields more cannabis queries from fighters than questions on any other topic.

Several fighters have been outspoken about their therapeutic use of the plant, perhaps most notably the Diaz brothers, who sell CBD products under the brand Game Up Nutrition. Nate Diaz spurred controversy in 2016 when he pulled from a CBD vape pen during a post-fight press conference. More recently, MMA legend Frank Shamrock told The GrowthOp that he used cannabis daily throughout his storied fighting career for recovery and relaxation. 

Closer to home, the UFC announced a research partnership with Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis Inc. in 2019 to study CBD and carry Aurora’s line of sports-branded CBD products. Earlier this year, Toronto-based MMA fighter Elias Theodorou was granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption for medical cannabis by the B.C. Athletic Commission, a first for the sport. 

Still, some state athletic commissions and regulatory boards that govern combat sports have continued to push back against cannabis.

In May, UFC bantamweight Journey Newson was stripped of a win by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and received a 30-day suspension for testing positive for THC. Middleweight fighter Kelvin Gastelum tested positive for THC for the second time in 2019, and after initially receiving a nine-month suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, his suspension was reduced to five months once he completed a drug treatment program.

In February, heavyweight fighter Derrick Lewis raised eyebrows when he was interviewed in the octagon after a win. The fight was very important, he told Joe Rogan, and “that’s why 24/7, all week I was smoking weed.”

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