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These combat athletes have touted cannabis for peak performance

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


Fight fans enjoy every punch, kick, and takedown from their seats. But do you ever wonder how these fighters train for—and recover from—such brutal physical punishment?

Pain pills have dominated high-contact sports like mixed martial arts (MMA), wrestling, and football for years. But a handful of modern gladiators are now going all-in on weed as an alternative to prescription pharmaceuticals.

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For instance, many combat fighters use CBD, a cannabinoid in weed that does not cause noticeable psychoactive effects. That’s because CBD is legal in many places that THC-infused cannabis is not.

Boxer holds glove standing smoke.
Who wants the smoke? These cannabis-loving fighters do. (fotokitas / AdobeStock)

So which pro fighters are trailblazers, entrepreneurs, and proud users? Here are 12 of the most notable cannabis advocates from the world of combat sports.

Buster Douglas

Boxer Buster Douglas celebrates.
In this Feb. 11, 1990 photo, heavyweight boxer James “Buster” Douglas waves to the cheering crowd following a 10th round knockout victory over Mike Tyson at the Tokyo Dome. In one of the more spectacular 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 long odds.

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After spending 18 years as a professional fighter, Douglas continues to grapple with lingering pains and aches. Now, the 61-year-old champion has admitted to using CBD, and endorses products for the Ohio-based CBD Health Coalition. Through the partnership, Douglas has a signature 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 legendary career as a pro fighter. In 2016, Diaz hit a CBD vape at a post-fight press conference, explaining, “CBD—It helps with the healing process and the inflammation.” He did it again in 2019.

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

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

Elias Theodorou

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

This week, Theodorou passed away from cancer at 34. The Canadian-born trailblazer won UFC’s Ultimate Fighter reality TV series in 2014, and made history as the first fighter to get 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 record in the ring before his untimely passing.

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Evan Holyfield

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

The son of heavyweight boxing legend Evander Holyfield is building a strong reputation of his own, inside the ring and beyond. Not only has he been beating opponents, he’s 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.

Anthony 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 true believer in the power of CBD. Joshua is a shareholder in the UK-based Love Hemp company. Love Hemp is a sponsor of the UFC, and Joshua serves as a voice for the brand and the face of his own signature CBD line.

Ric Flair

Ric Flair right, reacts as Shawn Michaels puts him in a hold during the Career Threatening Match at WrestleMania XXIV at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Flair, whose “Wooooooo!” call during promos and matches became one of the most imitated catchphrases in sports, thought he would die. Alive, and with a new lease on life, Flair tells The Associated Press he''s done drinking and vows to clean up his act with whatever time he has left. (Jacob Langston — Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Ric Flair right, reacts as Shawn Michaels puts him in a hold during the Career Threatening Match at WrestleMania XXIV at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida in 2008. (Jacob Langston / Orlando Sentinel via AP)

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

“I discovered the benefits of cannabis later in life and was overwhelmed by how much it has helped elevate the mind and heal the body. Alongside TYSON 2.0, I am committed to sharing these amazing benefits with as many consumers as possible.”

Ric Flair via Press Release

Shannon Briggs

Shannon Briggs boasts at 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 sport’s hardest punchers. The Brooklyn-born fighter is a two-time world heavyweight champion and is still in fighting shape decades after his peak. While training to comeback to pro fighting in 2014, Briggs was open about using CBD to help fuel his return. He also released his own strain with Cali Plug in 2020.

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Kamaru Usman

Kamaru Usman celebrates his win atop the octagon 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)
Kamaru Usman celebrates his win atop the octagon 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’s also a loud supporter of CBD, and a brand ambassador for Anthony Joshua’s Love Hemp brand.

Chris Algieri

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

Back in 2019, When Former WBO champion Chris Algieri was asked by FOX Business host Stuart Varney whether he would use CBD, Algieri responded: “I would, and I have.” Although he’s not a supporter of THC, Algieri feels that CBD helps make athletes perform better by healing inflammation.

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson seen at 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 multiple cannabis ventures, 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 prohibited in Colorado and parts of Canada for bearing his celebrity likeness. But CHILL, a company that makes CBD alkaline water, is one of the more low-key investments in his layered cannabis empire.

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

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

Arnold Barboza

(Mikey Williams / Top Rank)

Undefeated super lightweight Arnold Barboza Jr. has knocked out plenty of opponents. But when it comes to knocking out pain, he turns to Brains Pure CBD, a UK brand. Barboza claims: “CBD is the future of recovery.”

Mike Lee

(Top Rank)

Former boxer Mike Lee grew tired of all the medication that he was prescribed for an autoimmune disease. After doing research on alternative medicines, he found 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, offering therapeutic benefits for customers from all walks of life.

Mehka King's Bio Image
Mehka King

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

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