Exploring Cannabis Use in Sports: Cannabis and The UFC

CCJ Gabriel
Exploring Cannabis Use in Sports: Cannabis and The UFC

The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) has had a long and complicated history with marijuana usage among some of its athletes.

Actually, to be fair, most of these complications have come at the hands of USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency), and their stringent drug testing protocols.

USADA has started to relax on some things in recent times, lifting their ban on THC when it comes to combat sports and mixed martial arts in particular. I mean shoot, they went from not even allowing fighters to take caffeine or Advil before they compete, to fully allowing marijuana for recovery and training purposes.

What ultimately changed USADA’s mind is unclear, but I’m sure it has something to do with their relationship with the UFC and its President, Dana White. A myriad of fights have been called off, and the results of some bouts have even been overturned, all because THC was found in a fighters system either before or after the fight. Imagine working your ass off for months and using marijuana for pain and inflammation, going out there in your underwear in front of millions of people and fighting your heart out, earning a win over an opponent who’s gone through all of the same struggles you have, only to get the result of your whole fight turned over into a "No Contest"... over some bud.

This has happened a bunch of times, and to some of the sport's most notable fighters, no less. As someone who’s trained martial arts, and more specifically Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I can tell you from experience that a lot of us like to toke. In fact, there are entire BJJ tournaments held where everyone gets stoned and rolls, and I’m not kidding.

Circling back to the aforementioned notable fighters who have gotten multiple year bans or fight outcomes overturned completely by athletic commissions for simply lighting one up, I’ve composed a short and quick list so you can see just how egregious of a rule this was. This list gets more ridiculous the more you read through it.

Before we get into other fighters, I wanted to touch on Canadian UFC Legend Elias Theodorou.

Elias was a trailblazer and was the first UFC fighter to ever receive a therapeutic marijuana exemption prescribed for the bilateral neurotic pain in his hands, wrists and elbows. Elias is a legend for breaking down barriers, within not only the UFC but surrounding the conversation around athleticism  and cannabis as a whole. Without his dedication, perseverance and dedication, the acceptance of cannabis we're starting to see in major sport leagues such as the NBA and UFC wouldnt be where it is today. Unfortunately he passed away from a battle with colon cancer not long ago. Rest In Peace, King.

Elias Theodorou wants to K.O. cannabis restrictions for athletes -  Mugglehead Magazine


Alen Amedovski 


8 wins and only 2 losses in the UFC, was suspended entirely.Alen Amedovski | MMA Junkie

Chris Barnett 

A human highlight reel in the Heavyweight Division, suspended for six months because of weed.

Chris Barnett details cheek injury, weight issue at UFC 279 - MMA Fighting

Niko Price

Fought to a Draw with UFC Legend Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, with the result being turned into a “No Contest” after Price tested positive for marijuana.

Niko Price | MMA Junkie

Kevin Croom 

Longtime MMA veteran who took a fight on very short notice, and won by submission, only to be fined for four months.

Kevin Croom suspended by Nevada Commission after testing positive for  marijuana, Niko Price also facing sanction - MMA Fighting

Cynthia Calvillo

2017's “MMA Rookie of the Year”, Cynthia was on the fast track to getting a shot at the World Title before getting suspended for nine months for THC.

Cynthia Calvillo released from the UFC following UFC 287 loss - MMA Fighting

Jamhal Hill 

The literal current Light Heavyweight Champion of the World’s record has only a couple blemishes, one of which being a victory overturned by USADA for THC usage.

Jamahal Hill credits three generations of family, including late aunt, for  his rise to UFC champion - CBSSports.com

Matt Riddle 

Boasting an MMA record of 10-3, Riddle had two fights overturned due to marijuana found in his system. Two failed tests ultimately led to Matt Riddle’s release from the UFC, which turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to him, believe it or not.

Dana White famously went on a rant against Matt Riddle, calling him an idiot and saying that the fighter will never be successful in the real world being a stoner his whole life. Well, Matt Riddle sure proved his old boss wrong, because the former scrapper has transformed himself into one of the most popular WWE Superstars today. Literally, all of the globe, people chant Riddle’s catchphrase: “BRO!"

Matt Riddle On Getting Rejected By WWE Over UFC Firing Him For Smoking Pot

Nick Diaz 

One of the most well-known fighters in all of MMA. Along with his brother Nate Diaz, Nick is also one of the biggest proponents of marijuana use in all of sports. Nick has had a handful of fights turned and suspensions over his weed smoking, and god bless him for bearing this cross. His first suspension came in 2007 and lasted for six months.

Nick then faced a one-year suspension in 2012, and then in 2017, he was suspended for five years and forced to pay a fine of $165,000. Now, Nick appealed this last sentence and got it greatly reduced, but this also seemed to be the moment everyone woke up to how nonsensical USADA was being about all of this. Because of Nick Diaz’s sacrifices, all UFC fighters can now have THC in their systems before or after a fight. Unless you’re in Texas… I guess their commission is still trying to figure things out.

Nick Diaz Being Nick Diaz - YouTube



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