Why UFC Jumped on the CBD Bandwagon

In 2018, two significant announcements changed the world’s outlook on CBD.

First, the passing of the Farm Bill, allowing farmers to legally grow and distribute hemp, caused a substantial increase in CBD products in almost every wellness industry, including pet wellness.

That same year, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of banned substances, and a major buzz spread through the athletic world. Until then, there had been a long-standing debate on how CBD might affect the performance of athletes. It seemed we were now going to learn once and for all what CBD had the power to do.

The first athlete group to jump in was the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), when they signed a deal with Aurora Cannabis. The fighters would serve as research subjects to help prove that CBD could treat pain management and muscle recovery.

Although the partnership was terminated in September 2020, the UFC still feels that CBD poses no safety or health consequences to competing athletes.

UFC bouts are grueling, with fighters often suffering severe injuries. To recover from the pain and muscle strain, they need effective, non-addictive pain management alternatives. And the UFC believes in the promise of CBD as such an alternative.

But why did the UFC decide on CBD?

CBD is hailed for its many health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory effects. Unlike THC, CBD is not intoxicating and does not give athletes a “high”; CBD does not alter an athlete’s emotions or perceptions.

For UFC fighters, both the training sessions and the fights are harsh on the body. The results range from intense fatigue to, ironically, insomnia, and everything in between that might keep an athlete from achieving peak performance.

The Benefits of CBD to Athletes

Pain Management

For UFC fighters, pain is inevitable. Opioid-based pain killers have always been the go-to treatment. But now we know that, with prolonged use, these drugs cause addiction and dependence, and lead to many more problems than they correct.

CBD is not addictive. Its effects are minimal, at worst causing issues like oversleeping and dry mouth, but they also wear off fast.

How It Works

  • Research shows that CBD activates receptors in the spine to numb the pain before it can reach the brain.
  • The reduction of inflammation in the injury area causes sensory receptors to send fewer signals to the brain; it’s the same way pain medication works.

Muscle Recovery

The body needs time to recover after the muscle strain that comes from vigorous training and fights. But with their hectic schedules, UFC fighters usually don’t have time in between to let the muscles recover. For an athlete to be actively training for long hours, they will use pain medication. CBD replaces that medication.

How It Works

  • CBD speeds up the recovery process by slowing down hyperactivity in the muscle ligaments that cause twitching after a workout or training.


For athletes, sleep is vital for regaining strength. Not only are fighters’ bodies in a near-constant state of hyperactivity, but the pressure to perform can wreak mental havoc.

CBD is a great sleep inducer. It’s been known to reduce anxiety and replace it with calm and relaxation. According to the Swiss Academic Journal, CBD causes improved sleep quality.

CBD can enhance or inhibit how body receptors transmit signals. When it comes to sleep, it works with the GABA receptor by changing its shape, causing it to amplify the receptor’s natural calming effect. When you’re calm and relaxed, you more often than not sleep better..

Brain Damage

Brain damage is not uncommon in professional fighters. The continuous and constant injuries to the head can eventually cause severe and chronic neurological damage. Most athletes are aware of the effects the fights have on their health, and they expect their post-career lives to be affected. In fact, 61% specifically worry about brain damage.

How It Works

  • CBD is an option for treating and managing traumatic brain injuries through its noteworthy anti-inflammatory properties.


Recently, CBD has been receiving much fanfare in the athletic world. Across the world of mixed martial arts, more and more fighters are advocating for the use of CBD in their training and recovery regimens.

Nate Diaz is one such fighter. According to LowKickMMA.com, “Following his defeat to Conor McGregor at UFC 202, Diaz hit the headlines by appearing at a press conference hitting a CBD-infused vape pen.”

CBD is helping fighters manage their pain and recover more quickly after workouts and bouts. Its calming effects help reduce stress and anxiety related to injuries and the subconscious need to perform.

With organizations like WADA removing CBD from their lists of banned substances, and high-profile athletes endorsing its use, it appears that CBD’s future is bright in the athletic world.

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