11/11/18 By Jennifer Miles
According to Joe Rogan, “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.” More athletes than ever before are coming out of the “cannabis closet”. Physically demanding sports take their toll on the body and injury is a common problem. It makes a sense that Mixed Martial Arts athletes have been using the plant as medicine for years and more of them are speaking their truth in order to change the cannabis conversation.
I had the opportunity to sit down with LFA Champion James Nakashima, currently 9-0 and recently signed with OneFC. He is preparing for his first fight with Asia’s largest martial arts organization in the Philippines on November 23rd. He is not currently using marijuana because he will have to submit to a drug test before his fight. I asked James why he uses cannabis, “I like to do it for the pain. It helps out a lot with that. I use it for training, for the mental aspect of the game, for recovery. It’s a big part of my life. I feel like marijuana gets a weird rap but, I smoke a lot and I quit a lot too because of the drug testing throughout my life. I have probably been drug tested over twenty times in the last eight years. I wake up and I spend a couple of minutes and I smoke, it helps loosen my body up and it helps get me going and nobody outworks me in the gym, ever. I really believe in it 110%”.
James is just one of many fighters who would like to see organizations like the UFC and OneFC have more tolerance and leniency towards athletes who are using cannabis. As of January 1st, 2018, CBD was no longer featured on the WADA prohibited list. This means USADA is no longer looking for evidence of CBD use or punishing athletes found to be using CBD, either in or out of competition. Although there may be a ways to go to remove cannabis off that list, at least this is a step in the right direction.
As a yoga and meditation coach who pairs mindfulness with hemp and cannabis, I have found myself working with more MMA athletes who are seeking guidance with cannabis health and wellness. It is apparent that they are using cannabis to cope with physical pain and anxiety and they’re turning to CBD for recovery. Aside from the obvious reasons why athletes use cannabis, I found myself asking the question, “There must be a deeper symbiotic connection between cannabis and MMA culture, but what is it?” I know that in my own experience with cannabis in my yoga practice, that the practice becomes more intentional and focused, more of a self-care ritual, a way to access a deeper connection with self. Ritual is an important aspect of sports culture.
When I asked James if his cannabis use was intentional or ritualistic, he thoughtfully replied, “I like to do it for thinking, I like to smoke and go for a walk or a hike, close my eyes and meditate, focus on breathing and affirmations. I like to think about my fighting technique.” James’s
cannabis ritual carries out with his belief that smoking has a specific power or ability to influence his performance in the ring positively. Marijuana is ingrained in his life as a fighter and he attributes it to his success.