The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has announced a multi-year partnership with Canadian cannabis company Aurora to test CBD products on the performance of UFC athlete participants, in pursuit of advancing science to better support the health and wellness of competitors in one of the most physically testing sports on the planet.
The multi-million-dollar deal the companies are calling a “global partnership” will specifically focus on hemp-derived CBD. They hope it will significantly advance clinical science around how hemp-derived CBD impacts athlete recovery, given that the faster and better MMA fighters can recover between training sessions, the bigger a threat to their opponents they will be on fight night.
With the info that comes out of the partnership, Aurora expects to further develop products specifically to fit fighters’ needs and further educate them on best practices revealed in the forthcoming data pool.
Studying CBD’s Effects on Athletic Performance
The research will take place in an unlikely center of scientific progress: Las Vegas. There, the UFC’s sports performance team will actually conduct all the research with athletes that are willing to participate. The main areas research will focus on initially are pain management, inflammation, recovery and mental well-being.
Dr. Jason Dyck, a professor at the University of Alberta and a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Medicine, will take the lead on Aurora’s end for the project. Dyck also serves on the board of Aurora, where he provides oversight into the company’s scientific projects.
UFC President Dana White has had a mixed relationship with cannabis over the years, but times are changing.
“Since the day we opened the Performance Institute, our primary goal was to offer UFC athletes the best possible training, nutrition, and recovery services,” White said in a statement announcing the deal. “This partnership with Aurora is an extension of that goal, and we’re looking forward to collaborating with Aurora to find new ways to improve the health and safety of athletes who compete in UFC.”
Terry Booth, CEO of Aurora, also weighed in on the deal in the statement.
“This global partnership places focus squarely on the health and well-being of UFC’s talented and highly trained athletes,” Booth said. “The Aurora-UFC research partnership creates a global platform to launch targeted educational and awareness campaigns, while creating numerous opportunities to accelerate our global CBD business.”
UFC & CBD: A New Partnership After a Complicated History
Over the last three years, UFC fighters have been dabbling in CBD for recovery openly, since the famous post-fight press conference in August 2016 where Nate Diaz claimed he was smoking a vape pen filled with CBD. Others would claim it wasn’t CBD, and since he had already taken his post-fight drug test, we’ll never know — unless you believe his brother Nick, who claimed it was not CBD. But regardless of what was in that vape, the CBD-in-MMA cat was out of the bag.
Diaz would later receive a public telling off from the U.S. Anti-Doping Association. “It don’t matter,” Diaz told the Bob Costa of MMA, Ariel Helwani, eight months after the original incident. “I banked out in the cannabis industry from it… It was a good move and it was organic.”
These days, a spread of MMA’s biggest names and champions find themselves sponsored by CBD companies. At a Bellator event last fall, Ricardo Arona power bomber, Pride legend and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson credited Nate Diaz with turning him on to CBD. He also credited one of this year’s UFC Hall of Fame class members, Suga Rashad Evans, with hooking him up with a sponsor.
MMAFighting asked Rampage how important CBD is now to fighters.
“I’m glad [Nate Diaz] stood up for us and made it legal for MMA fighters,” Rampage replied. “Dude, it’s incredible. It’s been helping me out a lot.” According to Rampage, the effect has been so significant he’s doing pushups again.