UFC, MMA, & Cannabis
It’s a new day. You’ve just climbed out of bed, ready to begin a routine that has proven successful in helping you achieve your daily goals. Is cannabis part of that routine? For millions of people worldwide, cannabis is a key ingredient in their recipe for success. Teachers, lawyers, fisherman, stay-at-home parents and professional athletes all share a common bond. It isn’t their use of cannabis, however—it’s their active lifestyle.
Active lifestyles, like those who live them, are not universally the same. A stay-at-home parent who readies the kids for school, does all the housekeeping and prepares meals is arguably no less active than a UFC fighter who trains eight hours a day. Most would agree an attorney who works sixteen hour days is leading an active life. But does that perception change when considering the lifestyle of a fitness instructor or professional athlete? Of course not.
Cannabis Users Lead Active Lifestyles
Our tendency is to slap labels on people to give us a heightened sense of comfort. If we label people who work all day, eat healthy and exercise occasionally as being “active,” how do we label them if they also use cannabis? Society struggles to accept that cannabis users can be active and productive; these labels conflict historically, but proof that cannabis and active living can coexist is undeniable. It is how we define a cannabis user that needs a facelift.
It’s easy to accept that professional athletes like Bas Rutten, Frank Shamrock, Ian McCall and Sean O’Malley live active lifestyles. Each of these athletes is either a current or former contracted fighter with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), but that isn’t all they share. These athletes are regular cannabis consumers in a position to shape our understanding of how cannabis and active lifestyles coexist.
The UFC was denounced in its early days for a lack of safety regulations and the dangers it posed to willing participants. The sport was outlawed in states across the country; politicians decried it, opponents warned of the impact it would have on our children. Nearly 25 years after the first UFC event, however, MMA is among the fastest growing sports in America, mirroring the arduous rise of the cannabis industry.
Some of the same mixed martial artists who helped transform public perception of the UFC are now doing the same for the cannabis movement. Frank Shamrock, the first UFC Middleweight champion, is a cannabis advocate and host of a cannabis talk show. When it came to shedding the stigma of the UFC, “it was about educating the public—that’s when we started to see real movement,” Shamrock says. “There was a lot of misinformation being shared intentionally and unintentionally. Universally, it was just a misunderstood sport.”
Cannabis is a misunderstood plant, and although acceptance has been accelerated by stories highlighting its medicinal uses, the perception of cannabis users still relies on stereotypes. “So much of cannabis culture is just regurgitating the stoner message,” adds Shamrock, but his own experience is far from cliché. “I don’t think I could have completed my career without cannabis. I used it for pain management, but now I use it in my pre- and post-training regimens. It helps with inflammation and my overall body discomfort. I sleep better. I feel more rested, especially when I’m doing physical activity.”
Bas Rutten, a UFC Hall of Famer, shared his story of overcoming an addiction to painkillers with the help of CBD. Rutten credits a hemp CBD product from Receptra Naturals for changing his life. After kicking his addiction, Rutten continued using CBD as part of his daily routine. “It makes a world of difference in my training,” Rutten asserts. “It helps remove the lactic acid from my muscles, so I can push harder in training. I look and feel better now than when I was fighting.”
The experience motivated him to become a brand ambassador for Receptra and help the company build one of the largest MMA sponsorship programs in the cannabis industry. “The list of research showing the positive effects CBD has on our mind and body is amazing,” declares Rutten. “It’s great for pain, focus, endurance, and it calms you down; if you have to drive in traffic a lot, take some CBD!”
Ian McCall, a top-ranked veteran of the UFC, has a long history with cannabis. The 33-year-old fighter didn’t consider cannabis as a medicine until later in his career. It wasn’t until he tore his hip and had seven surgeries on his right arm that McCall started to use cannabis medicinally. “I’ve been using cannabis to manage the pain from my injuries for the last six or seven years. I’m a total Bruce Lee nerd, and I know he used to use marijuana as a pain killer and an anti-inflammatory. That’s the guy I grew up idolizing, so I figured it had to be ok.”
McCall doesn’t recommend using marijuana before training in sports like MMA, but he does concede that sometimes it can be beneficial. “I don’t think fighting or competing while high is the best,” he cautions. “But there are times when I train high, especially Jiu-Jitsu. It’s really fun when you’re stoned. It makes you creative, and helps me think of new ways to submit people—it puts me in the flow.”
Newly contracted UFC fighter Sean “Sugar” O’Malley finds himself in a unique position when it comes to representing both his sport and cannabis. Aside from his charismatic “Go Big or Go Home” approach in the Octagon, O’Malley is building an audience around his love for cannabis. O’Malley, who started smoking marijuana at 19, recalls: “I didn’t know much about the medicinal side of cannabis, but I tried it because some of the other fighters at my gym said they smoke during the nights. We put our bodies through a lot, and it seemed to be helping them get to sleep, to be rested for the next day of training. So, I tried it, and it worked for me.”
Above all, O’Malley is health-conscious. He’s a vegetarian-turned-vegan who limits his alcohol intake. O’Malley understands that there is a time and a place for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, but he still wants to reap the benefits of the plant even when he cannot get high. Using the same hemp CBD product that his predecessor Rutten first discovered, O’Malley notes that “the quality of my day seems to be better when I take Receptra CBD. I feel more mellowed out; I’m definitely less anxious about what I have to accomplish that day. I like the way it makes me think and feel, especially during training.”
Fighting The Stigma
Cannabis culture has made strides in gaining mainstream acceptance, but the industry must embrace this new ‘active lifestyle’ user to broaden public perception of who uses cannabis. Living legends like Bas Rutten and Frank Shamrock use cannabis as a natural supplement for a better training experience, and world-class athletes Ian McCall and Sean O’Malley use it to manage pain and anxiety. These athletes teach us that using cannabis is not a lifestyle; rather, it’s an ingredient within a lifestyle—but you’ve got to create your own recipe. As you wrap up your daily routine, think about how cannabis might play a role in tomorrow’s success.
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