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Cannabis In MMA: The Diaz Influence

On August 20th 2016, Nate Diaz attended the UFC 202 post fight press conference and did something I’ve never seen anybody in professional sports be bold enough to do; bring a federally banned substance on stage and use it in front of millions of people. Upon sight of the vape pen Nate was puffing on, Ariel Helwani asked “What exactly are you, just for the record, smoking?” Normally an antagonistic question like this would annoy a Diaz brother, but this time Nate appeared genuinely happy to be asked the question. Nate quickly and calmly replied “This is True, the True company, it’s CBD. It helps with healing process and uh, inflammation & stuff like that so you wanna get these for before and after the fights, training and make your life a better place. CBD oil, if you don’t know what that is.”


Chael Sonnen claims Nate Diaz is an unintentional genius, as well as Nick. I believe this is exactly the case when it comes to rule changes for both THC and CBD in MMA. If not for the Diaz brothers it’s very possible we would not have seen the changes in MMA we’ve seen in regards to cannabis related products. The Golden Snitch (Jeff Nowitzski) even coined a change as the “Nate Diaz” rule.


**Photo courtesy of reviewjournal.com

In 2013 the NSAC raised the allowed THC rate from 50 ng/mL to 150 ng/mL, previous drug testing results from Nick Diaz likely being part of the consideration in the change. Only about 2 years later Nick Diaz was harshly suspended for 5 years by the NSAC for testing above 150 ng.mL, an absurd suspension that caused a massive uproar across the entire MMA community. Even more absurd is Nick passed two other tests administered pre-fight and post-fight. ESPN reported:

The circumstances of the failed test were unique in that Diaz passed two drug tests on fight night but failed a third.

The failed test was collected and analyzed under different methods than the other two. The two clean tests, administered prefight and postfight, were analyzed by the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) — which is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency — in Salt Lake City.

The failed test, which was administered between the two clean ones, was analyzed by Quest Diagnostics.

Diaz’s attorneys argued that the Quest results were “scientifically unreliable,” unlike the SMRTL results, which were obtained using WADA’s higher standard of protocols.

A medical expert for Diaz, Dr. H. Khella, stated several irregularities in the failed test.

Initially the NSAC wanted to give Nick a lifetime ban, apparently they thought they were being lenient in giving a 5 year suspension (practically a lifetime ban for somebody in their 30’s when the ban is given). Let’s not forget the NSAC also fined Nick a whopping $165,000. The backlash from fighters and fans was so immense it forced the NSAC to lower the suspension from 5 years to 18 months, but more importantly it resulted in drug testing agencies and commissions taking a closer look as to what is fair in regards to testing for THC metabolites. 

Image result for NSAC clown court

Courtesy of MMAJunkie.com

In MMA and BJJ it’s become common for people to use both THC and CBD products, for a variety of reasons. In regards to THC, it’s quite common for people to use before training to get themselves in a better “flow state”. Some also claim microdosing other hallucinogens is very beneficial in this regard, but that’s a subject deserving of its own article. Many use cannabis for its THC effects after training to help with anxiety/stress. Many of those same people say the use of CBD oils is one of the most effective ways to deal with inflammation, as well as help with anxiety/stress and sleep. While this is all anecdotal evidence, almost all people who use cannabis products on a regular and proper basis say it helps with recovery of both the mind and body very well.


It was only about 5 years ago THC and CBD were still demonized in professional sports. Unfortunately, that’s still the case in most professional sports but there’s great hope that the changes being made in MMA will help facilitate changes in other pro sports (esp. NBA NFL & MLB. NHL doesn’t discipline for cannabis). The UFC has made it a point to rigorously test CBD usage and so far the result has been more athletes using CBD products on a regular basis. Though still a federally banned substance, today 47 of 50 states have legalized CBD use (all cannabis products are still illegal in Idaho, South Dakota and Nebraska). THC changes are happening a lot slower, in many states it’s still 100% illegal. Some states only allow it for medicinal use while some states have made it fully legal and decriminalized it as well. Fortunately, changes are generally headed in the direction of legalization, a very positive sign for cannabis supporters. 

Any athlete in professional MMA, whether they like the Diaz brothers or not, should tip their hat to those guys and thank them. Not only are MMA athletes commonly benefiting physically and mentally from these products, many are benefiting financially being sponsored by new up and coming CBD companies. The Diaz brothers have created their own CBD company “Game Up”, the product Nate promoted by smoking a CBD joint in his pre-fight workout before UFC 241. I don’t believe the Diaz brothers have made their points regarding cannabis to help the entire sports world, it’s more likely they did it because they don’t like people telling them what to do when it comes to using an all natural plant as a supplement. However, the end result of their efforts to stand firm on their morals is forcing change in how people are tested for cannabis related products in MMA. Intentional or unintentional, their influence is huge. 

Image result for nick & nate dope life

As a personal advocate of cannabis, I will say this AGAIN hoping it sticks in as many people’s heads as possible. THE DAYS OF REEFER MADNESS ARE OVER. For people who really know history, when cannabis was demonized in the early 1900’s menthol cigarettes were pushed on distance runners for increasing their lung capacity. If you’re still stuck in the dark ages with your opinions about cannabis, I encourage you to please do more research. If you’re not certain about cannabis but are willing to open your mind and learn you will likely find yourself becoming a supporter, even if you choose to never use it. When Nick Diaz was interviewed recently by Ariel Helwani he said “Even when I’m wrong, I’m right”. Though some were confused by this statement I immediately understood where he was coming from. It’s experiences like Nick has had with his cannabis use and drug testing agencies that bring out comments like this. So, if nobody else is going to say it, I will. THANK YOU NICK & NATE DIAZ. ■

Jason Marlowe, UnknownMMA

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