On August 20, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Nate Diaz lost a gruelling match with Conor McGregor at UFC 202, but he won the night's headlines when he openly vaped during the post-fight press conference. Like many endurance athletes, Diaz uses cannabis to treat the aches and pains that are a part of sport. But unlike others, he does it openly.
During the post-fight interviews, a reporter asked Diaz what he was puffing away on. “This is [a vape pen], it’s CBD," he explained. "It helps with the healing process and inflammation and stuff like that. So you want to get these for before, after the fight, training. It'll make your life a better place.”
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a chemical found in hemp and marijuana. But unlike THC - the plant's other popular chemical - CBD is non-euphoric, which means it doesn't get you high. But it does reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. That's why athletes like former NBA All-Star Cliff Robinson advocate for CBD as a safer and more effective alternative to prescription pills for treating sports injuries.
And researchers agree. “Certain chemicals within marijuana have anti-inflammatory effects,” Gregory Gerdeman - a professor of biology at Florida's Eckerd College - told Runner's World in 2015. “The most obvious potential benefit to an athlete is controlling inflammation and some of the aches and pains that relate to injury. If you lower inflammation, you will raise the pain threshold.”
So it makes sense that athletes in a physically demanding sport like MMA would use cannabis. That's likely why, according to UFC commentator Joe Rogan, the majority of fighters smoke marijuana.
"A tremendous amount of UFC fighters smoke pot," Rogan said on his podcast Bloody Elbow in 2015. "I mean, a massive amount where it's a huge issue with them involving drug tests, you know, where they have to stop smoking weed for the last four weeks or so in order to pass drug tests. More UFC fighters smoke pot than don't smoke pot."
And Rogan has adopted their approach to training.
"I like to smoke pot and work out," he wrote on his blog after having a few puffs and exercising one night.
"To the ill informed or the uninitiated in the magical ways of the sacred plant, this can seem like a very contradictory practice. In fact though, that notion could not be further from the truth. Getting high and working out is one of the least talked about and least appreciated pleasures of fitness. Lifting weights is fun when you’re under the spell, cardio is cool too, but for me, nothing compares to getting really high and hitting the heavy bag."
h/t Runners World.