But apparently, cannabis use is more widespread among MMA fighters than generally perceived. A recent survey by The Athletic on 170 fighters across several promotions shows that 45.9 percent of them use marijuana for both recreational and recovery purposes. 76.5 percent rely on CBD for recovery, while 4.7 percent were regular cannabis users but have since kicked the habit.
The UFC’s senior vice president of health and athlete performance Jeff Novitzky wasn’t at all surprised by the statistic.
“I think that sounds pretty accurate,” he said. “I’ve never polled our roster — it’s all anecdotal — but I have had many, many, many discussions. It’s probably the No. 1 topic of questions that I’m asked from fighters.”
Novitzky does not believe in the notion that cannabis is a performance-enhancing drug. The main concern, he says, is fighters entering the cage with some form of impairment.
“There’s an argument of, ‘Is marijuana performance-enhancing?’ I don’t believe it is,” he said. “No, I think it’s prohibited because of health and safety issues. But if you smoked a joint on Thursday night or even Friday night before the fight, you’re not impaired. Or if you were enhanced from doing that, you’re not going to be enhanced the next day.
“Yet that THC will show up potentially over the 150 nanogram threshold.
“So by spitting in a tube, it would only go back three or four hours conceivably in that window,” he continued. “And that’s what we want. We don’t want anyone fighting under the influence or impaired. And I think that is a good interim stopgap measure to figure that out.”