These combat athletes touted cannabis for peak performance

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12 boxers, wrestlers, and MMA fighters who trust CBD and THC-infused products for their training, recovery, and business endeavors.


Fight fans enjoy every punch, kick and takedown from their seat. But have you ever wondered how these fighters train and recover from such brutal physical punishment?

Painkillers have dominated high-contact sports like mixed martial arts (MMA), wrestling, and soccer for years. But a handful of modern gladiators are now turning to weed as an alternative to prescription pharmaceuticals.

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For example, many fighters use CBD, a cannabinoid found in weed that does not cause noticeable psychoactive effects. This is because CBD is legal in many places, unlike THC-infused cannabis.

The boxer is holding a smoke glove standing.
Who wants the smoke? These cannabis-loving fighters do. (photokitas / AdobeStock)

So which professional fighters are pioneers, entrepreneurs and proud users? Here are 12 of the most notable cannabis advocates in the combat sports world.

Buster Douglas

Famous boxer Buster Douglas.
In this Feb. 11, 1990, file photo, heavyweight boxer James “Buster” Douglas waves to the cheering crowd after a 10th-round knockout victory over Mike Tyson at the Tokyo Dome. In one of the most dramatic upsets in sports history, Douglas defeated Tyson, the reigning world heavyweight champion. (Sadayuki Mikami/AP)

Buster Douglas made history in 1990 when he defeated heavyweight champion Mike Tyson against all odds.

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After spending 18 years as a professional fighter, Douglas continues to struggle with lingering aches and pains. Now, the 61-year-old champion has admitted to using CBD and endorses products from the Ohio-based CBD Health Coalition. Through this partnership, Douglas offers an exclusive line of premium CBD products.

Nate and Nick Diaz

Nate Diaz vaping during the post-fight press conference at UFC 202 in 2016. (UFC/YouTube)

This week, MMA legend Nate Diaz said he plans to retire from a storied career as a professional fighter. In 2016, Diaz hit up a CBD vape at a post-fight press conference, explaining, “CBD – It helps with the healing process and with inflammation.” He did it again in 2019.

Nate’s brother Nick nearly lost his career in 2015 due to a failed THC test. Before that, he spent years relying on the old “drink ten pounds of water and sweat it out” method to beat the tests.

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Now, the Diaz brothers’ cannabis brand, Game Up, provides oils and tinctures as well as pre-rolls. With the recent increase in the UFC’s THC limit, Nate felt comfortable with his THC-infused “Kill_4209” strain. in 2021 at a pre-fight weigh-in. He did it again in front of a US Doping Agency tester earlier this year.

Elias Theodorou

Elias Theodorou points to the press during a pre-fight weigh-in. (MMA player)

This week, Theodorou died of cancer at age 34. The Canadian-born trailblazer won the UFC ultimate fighter reality series in 2014, and made history as the first fighter to obtain a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for medical cannabis from the United States Anti-Doping Agency. In 2021, he won his first TUE fight and eventually compiled a 19-3 ring record before his untimely passing.

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Evan Holyfield

The son of boxing great Evander Holyfield gives Leafly the details of his new partnership with Georgia Hemp Co. and more. (Courtesy of Athelo Group)

The son of heavyweight boxing legend Evander Holyfield is building a solid reputation, inside the ring and beyond. Not only has he beaten opponents, but he has also joined the long list of fighters who proudly use CBD products as part of their pre- and post-fight routines.

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Evan also has a sponsorship deal with The Georgia Hemp Company and currently has nine wins and one loss as a pro.

Antoine Joshua

Anthony Joshua punches an opponent in the face during a 2020 match. (Andrew Couldridge/Associated Press)
Anthony Joshua punches an opponent in the face during a 2020 match. (Andrew Couldridge/Associated Press)

The British boxer is a two-time world champion and a true proponent of the power of CBD. Joshua is a shareholder of the British company Love Hemp. Love Hemp is a UFC sponsor, and Joshua is the brand voice and face of his own CBD line.

ric flair

Ric Flair, right, reacts as Shawn Michaels puts him on hold during the career threat match at WrestleMania XXIV at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.  Flair, of which
Ric Flair, right, reacts as Shawn Michaels puts him on hold during the career threat match at WrestleMania XXIV at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. in 2008. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

The Ric Flair Drip line of cannabis was launched in August with the help of Verano and Mike Tyson’s Tyson 2.0 company. The range includes flowers, oils and more and will be available through Verano. In April, Flair tweeted: “So excited to enter the world of cannabis! Wooooooo!”

“I discovered the benefits of cannabis later in life and was overwhelmed by how it helped uplift the spirit and heal the body. Alongside TYSON 2.0, I pledge to share these incredible benefits with as many consumers as possible.

Ric Flair via press release

Shannon Briggs

Shannon Briggs brags during a pre-fight press conference. (Martin Meissner/Associated Press)

From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, Shannon Briggs was a household name among boxing fans and one of the toughest punchers in the sport. The Brooklyn-born fighter is a two-time world heavyweight champion and is still in fighting shape decades after his prime. While training to return to professional combat in 2014, Briggs was open about using CBD to help fuel his comeback. He also released his own strain with Cali Plug in 2020.

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Kamaru Usman

Kamaru Usman celebrates his victory atop the octagonal fence after a UFC 261 mixed <a class=martial arts bout against Jorge Masvidal early Sunday, April 25, 2021 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Gary McCullough, The Associated Press)” class=”wp-image-225800 has-ll lazyload” srcset=”https://leafly-cms-production.imgix.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/13091321/AP21115171818271-1024×682.jpeg?auto=format,compress&w=550 550w, https://leafly-cms-production.imgix.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/13091321/AP21115171818271-1024×682.jpeg?auto=format,compress&w=740 740w, https://leafly-cms-production.imgix.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/13091321/AP21115171818271-1024×682.jpeg?auto=format,compress&w=1100 1100w, https://leafly-cms-production.imgix.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/13091321/AP21115171818271-1024×682.jpeg?auto=format,compress&w=1480 1480w” sizes=”(min-width: 768px) 550px, (min-width: 1024px) 740px, 100vw”/>
Kamaru Usman celebrates his victory atop the octagonal fence after a UFC 261 mixed martial arts bout against Jorge Masvidal early Sunday, April 25, 2021 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Gary McCullough, The Associated Press)

The Nigerian-born mixed martial artist is the current UFC welterweight champion and arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in his sport. He is also a strong supporter of CBD and a brand ambassador for Anthony Joshua’s Love Hemp brand.

Chris Algeri

Manny Pacquiao punches Chris Algieri.  For the ninth time in a row, Pacquiao failed to score a knockout.  (Kin Cheung/Associated Press)
Chris Algieri takes a punch from Manny Pacquiao in 2014. (Kin Cheung/Associated Press)

In 2019, when former WBO champion Chris Algieri was asked by FOX Business host Stuart Varney if he would use CBD, Algieri replied, “I would, and I did.” While not a proponent of THC, Algieri believes that CBD helps athletes perform better by healing inflammation.

mike tyson

Mike Tyson seen at the Los Angeles Premiere of Summit Entertainment’s ‘Draft Day’ on Monday April 7, 2014 in Westwood, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Summit Entertainment/AP Images)

Iron Mike has several cannabis businesses, including the Tyson Holistic line, the Tyson 2.0 brand, a 420-friendly ranch resort, and a weed-themed podcast.

Some of his products are banned in Colorado and parts of Canada because they bear the image of his celebrity. But CHILL, a company that makes CBD alkaline water, is one of the more low-key investments in its layered cannabis empire.

Tyson believes CBD can help with opiate addiction, and told the Daily Star: “I’ve been battling for over 20 years, and my body has a lot of wear and tear…I’ve had two surgeries and I used marijuana to calm my nerves, and it would take the pain away… But before, they put me on these opiates, and these opiates screwed me up.

Tyson also says cannabis and magic mushrooms brought him closer to God after a traumatic childhood and deeply troubled life in the spotlight.

Arnold Barboza

(Mikey Williams / Front Row)

Super lightweight and undefeated Arnold Barboza Jr. has knocked out many opponents. But when it comes to eliminating the pain, he turns to Brains Pure CBD, a British brand. Barboza says, “CBD is the future of recovery.

mike lee

(To make a joke)

Former boxer Mike Lee grew tired of all the medication he was prescribed for an autoimmune disease. After researching alternative medicine, he discovered CBD.

Lee now shares his love of CBD with others through Soul CBD, a company he co-founded with his wife, Angie. Soul CBD offers everything from oils to bath bombs, providing therapeutic benefits to customers from all walks of life.

Mehka King

Mehka King has spent her professional career as a journalist and content creator. Since 2017, he has interviewed cannabis activists, politicians, business leaders, athletes and artists about their views on cannabis for the CashColorCannabis.com network.

See articles by Mehka King

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