Nate Diaz set the MMA community on fire three years ago, when he blatantly vaped CBD at the UFC 202 post-fight press conference after his historic clash with Conor McGregor. Having recently signed an eight-year, multi-million-dollar partnership with Canadian cannabis giant Aurora, UFC—the world’s top mixed martial arts organization—has certainly come a long way since then in its understanding of CBD and the cannabinoid’s huge potential to help MMA athletes in their recovery.
The partnership is founded on the two organizations’ common desire to push the envelope regarding clinical research on the sweeping ways in which MMA athletes can benefit from hemp-derived CBD.
“To have a deal like this, the money to be spent on research for this, it’s groundbreaking. And not just for us, not just for our sport—for all sports, for people who work out every day and for people who deal with chronic pain,” UFC President Dana White said.
White had a number of reasons to dive into this venture, making UFC the first major sports organization to give CBD this huge vote of confidence. One major factor was that, anecdotally, half of UFC’s roster is already using CBD and trumpeting its benefits.
However, another of the reasons White signed off on the deal was actually personal.
“I just had shoulder surgery, rotator cuff surgery. I was going through physical therapy. The physical therapists are using CBD oil when they do it on you,” White says. “It’s the future.”
“When I did it [the physical therapy], I didn’t take any pain pills. I’d rather do that [CBD] than pain pills,” White continues.
In fact, White’s outlook on CBD replacing many types of prescription drugs seems to have aligned with that of the larger cannabis community.
“When you really look at this thing, it’s common sense,” he stresses. “Would you rather have these guys taking pain pills, sleeping pills… [CBD is] much safer, much healthier for the athletes.”
White believes CBD’s persevering stigma is the reason other organizations haven’t introduced the cannabinoid to its athletes yet.
“The big ones, the NFL, the NBA, all these guys are afraid. They’re afraid to be the first ones to step in. We’re never afraid. When it’s right and we believe in it and think it’s the future, we’re in.”
White also banks on the expertise of Jeff Novitzky, a former agent for the FDA and current Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance for the UFC, who also believes CBD to be an all-around better alternative to pain killers.
“Our athletes are using it in lieu of opioids, things like Xanax, Ambien or sleeping aids, and certainly, not even from a scientific point of view, but the common sense is that a synthetic drug versus a chemical coming from a plant, [CBD] is probably going to be a lot healthier and safer for you,” Novitzky explains. “Anecdotally, and again, that’s why we’re doing the science and research, but anecdotally at least, the feedback has been really positive.”
Research will take place at UFC’s Performance Institute in Las Vegas, and will involve an initial research phase, the findings from which will then be tested by volunteer fighters.
“Our partnership with UFC is about committing to the science that will educate and advocate,” says Aurora CEO Terry Booth. “We are going to work together to change the way people think, to change the industry, and to launch the first hemp-derived CBD products that are backed by scientific research.”
Image Credits: MMA Heat