For over a decade, the brothers Nick and Nate Diaz have been the MMA’s most famous weed-friendly family inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship. They’ve had suspensions and vaping press conferences, and over the course of their careers, they’ve helped push the UFC into a more cannabinoid-friendly position.
Now that Nate Diaz is set to fight in the UFC Octagon on Saturday, Aug. 17, for the first time in three years, it’s clear just how much these brothers have shaped the cannabis conversation in the UFC. In fact, in an open workout in Anaheim on Wednesday, Nate even sparked up a joint and passed it to the crowd.
Just a few months before Nate’s official UFC debut in 2007, his brother Nick started making headlines for testing positive for marijuana. In 2007, Nick scored one of the most iconic submission victories in history, but his victory would be declared a no-contest due to marijuana that a drug test found in his system. After winning the MMA competition Strikeforce in 2010, Nick eventually returned to the UFC. In 2012, after a disputed loss to Carlos Condit, Nick again tested positive for marijuana. He returned to earn a title shot against the great Canadian fighter Georges St-Pierre. Following the loss to St-Pierre, Nick took two years off. When he returned, Nick — for the third time — tested positive for marijuana.
During all this drug-testing drama, Nick’s brother Nate was earning his accolades with numerous Knockout, Submission and Fight of the Night performances. They all led to the infamous moment in December 2015, where Nate said that up-and-coming MMA fighter Conor McGregor was “taking everything” he worked for. Three months later, McGregor and Nate found themselves in the ring together, when Diaz submitted McGregor in the second round at UFC 196. The pair took home Fight of the Night honors, with Diaz scoring an additional bonus for the rear-naked choke that got the job done.
This dramatic victory would set in motion a course of events that would lead to one of the biggest moments yet in pro sports for cannabinoids.
After his loss, McGregor called for a rematch. They met five months later in August 2016 with McGregor winning the decision. It was the highest-grossing pay-per-view fight in UFC history.
After the fight, Nate took a standard drug test, and then went to the post-fight press conference. During the press conference, he started taking pulls off a vape pen. One savvy media member was quick to ask Diaz what was in the pen, and he replied it was CBD.
So there we had it, one of the biggest names in America’s favorite regulated violent pastime was preaching the benefits of cannabidiol for recovery. According to Google Trends, following the press conference was the most popular time for CBD searches in 2016. (The hype did peak again during the holiday season, when everyone was trying to figure out how to buy it for their grandmothers.)
The press conference would also lead to a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation and a fantastic interview with brother Nick claiming “I am the number one athletic stoner besides Michael Phelps” and that Nate was not smoking CBD at the press conference, but actually high-THC cannabis.
Two months after the fight, USADA announced they were only giving Nate a warning:
“USADA concluded that Diaz mistakenly believed that the in-competition period ended after he provided a post-bout sample to USADA. In addition, the in-competition urine and blood samples provided by Diaz before his admitted use were analyzed and reported as negative for all prohibited substances, including Cannabinoids. Based on these circumstances, USADA determined that a public warning was an appropriate response to Diaz’s use of a specified substance during the in-competition period.”
The discussion about the use of CBD in sports would prove to be one of the biggest winners from Nate’s fights against Conor McGregor. Regardless of any early controversy, he told MMAFighting that he ended up making money from puffing the vape. He also said he smoked some giant blunts since the last time he was inside the cage.
In the three years since then, the world of CBD has got even more mainstream. In May of this year, the UFC announced that it was launching a research program with the Canadian company Aurora Cannabis to study the effects of CBD on recovery. While the program is still exclusively studying hemp products, it’s a major step for pro sports in viewing cannabinoids as an effective means of recovery.
On Saturday, when Nate faces former UFC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis in the UFC 241 co-main event in Anaheim, it will also be a battle of the cannabinoids. Pettis has been repping the Denver-based CBDistillery since last fall.
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