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UFC Athlete Liz Carmouche on Cage Fighting & Cannabis

Liz Carmouche is a pioneer for female athletes. Now she’s ready to make her mark on another competitive industry; cannabis.

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Liz Carmouche
PHOTOS | Courtesy Liz Carmouche

Liz Carmouche is a pioneer for female athletes. She’s competed in Madison Square Garden and fought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) first-ever women’s bout. Now, she’s ready to make her mark on another industry; cannabis. We sat down with Carmouche to learn more about the role cannabis is now playing in her fighting career.

Meet  Liz Carmouche

Carmouche — aka the Girl-illa —was born in Louisiana, and grew up in Okinawa, Japan. She became one of the first females to introduce mixed martial arts (MMA) to the UFC when she competed against Ronda Rousey for the UFC’s inaugural women’s title fight in 2013. That night Carmouche also became “[…] the first openly gay fighter to compete inside the famous cage,” reported MMAMania.com.

The fight, Rousey explained to MMAJunkie reporters, was one of the toughest of her career; “That was the most vulnerable a position I’ve been in so far […],” she said of Carmouche’s neck crank. Though Rousey took the title, Carmouche went on to become one of the sport’s fastest rising stars.

She currently ranks sixth in the UFC’s female flyweight division where she holds a 12-6-0 record (wins-losses-draws). She holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Her first introduction to MMA came in 2010. By March 2011, Carmouche fought for Strikeforce’s Women’s Welterweight Championship title against Marloes Coenen. Coenen defeated Carmouche in the fourth round via submission (triangle choke).

“It was a loss, but I learned a lot from that experience,” she said. She’d only trained for a few months prior to the match against Marloes, who had a decade of experience over Carmouche. Still, she kept Marloes on her feet. “I held my own,” she continued, “It showed me that this is a sport I needed to pursue.”

Martial arts became a way for Carmouche to stay active after she left the military. Gym routines became monotonous, she explained, “I was bored of running and lifting weights.” She tired MMA and was immediately hooked.

Flying the Flag for the LGBT Community

Being an out, female fighter has positively impacted her — though she’s faced adversity along the way.

Carmouche served in the United States Marine Corps for more than five years. She worked as an aviation electrician and did three tours of duty in the Middle East. She served under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, which lasted from 1994-2011. The experience, she told GLAAD.org in 2013, was stressful; “I had to be very guarded all the times. […] I couldn’t even be open about myself even with my best friend in the Marines.”

She vowed never to hide who she was again. When she became a professional fighter she held to that promise. The UFC and her fans embraced it. The organization’s president, Dana White, publicly expressed his support and encouraged others to do the same.

“In the beginning,” Carmouche said, “I heard through the grapevine that I missed out on sponsorship opportunities [because some companies] didn’t want to sponsor an openly out athlete.” Ultimately, she added, “it didn’t play a role in my life. I am who I am; I’m not willing to compromise that […].”

Carmouche now serves as a representative for the UFC and LGBT community. She’s helped to establish the LGBT Center in Las Vegas, and joined forces with UFC hall of famer, Forrest Griffin, as a spokesperson for the “Protect Yourself at All Times” campaign.

CBD and the UFC

Liz Carmouche

She’s also raising awareness about the benefits of cannabis as a representative for Hempmeds, a CBD hemp oil company. The company and its products play an important role in her journey as a fighter.

“I love [their] topical and salves and their active roll-ons are like Icy Hot — I live off of those,” Carmouche said. She automatically applies it when she gets out of training to relieve pain and inflammation.

Carmouche was hesitant when cannabis was first recommended to her. “I didn’t know what it was,” she explained, “I did my own research, and I found out just how beneficial it can be for athletes or for anyone with injuries they’re trying to combat.”

Joe Rogan — MMA commentator, and host of the podcasts, “The Joe Rogan Experience” — said that cannabis use is common in the UFC. Fighters, including Nick and Nate Diaz, Joe Jones, and Jake Shields (among others) openly advocate for its use.

The UFC recognizes the benefits of certain cannabinoids. In fact, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the UFC officially removed CBD from their list of banned substances (THC and other cannabinoids remain prohibited).

Carmouche believes that combat athletes have much to gain from CBD.

As fighters, “we take so much impact and destruction to our bodies; we need to find something to take care,” Carmouche explained.

Research shows CBD is an effective neuroprotector; relieves pain; and has antispasmodic qualities. One study published in the “Journal of Bone and Mineral Research” suggests the cannabinoid helps heal bones, too.

Yet some athletes are too quick to take excessive amounts of ibuprofen or medications (like cortisone shots) to ease injuries, which have consequences. “They are bad for your liver and teeth,” she said, “CBD doesn’t have any side effects. Athletes realize that more and more.”

Carmouche also believes CBD hold benefits for veterans, too. “That’s who I learned [the value of cannabis] from,” she added, “CBD can absolutely help veterans because its helped me, and I’ve seen it help others.”

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7 Pro MMA Fighters Who Openly Support Cannabis

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MMA

It’s no secret that people both enjoy and benefit from using cannabis. Elite athletes are no different. Former pro athletes like Al Harrington and Ricky Williams who were once penalized for their cannabis use, are now starting their own cannabis companies and touting the numerous medical benefits of using cannabis for recovery and wellness.

In a recent article from Bleacher Report, a panel of eight retired former NBA and NFL players talked openly about the frequency of use among athletes.

However, the plant remains banned by sports like the NFL, NBA, MLB and the UFC.

The UFC does allow for its fighters to use CBD, however, making it one of the first major sports to allow their athletes to do so. Mixed martial arts (MMA) seems to be paving the way to mainstreaming cannabis use among elite athletes.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at seven MMA athletes who openly use cannabis and dominate at what they do.

Matt Riddle

Matt Riddle got off to a promising start in the UFC, winning his first two fighters before testing positive for cannabis twice and being released from the sport.

The athlete has been open about his cannabis use as a medical marijuana patient for physical aches and pains, along with personality issues.

He’s now a professional wrestler and his doing great at it, winning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s “Rookie of the Year” and “Most Improved Wrestler of the Year” for 2016.

Sean O’Malley

A lanky, lightweight fighter with a high work rate and a ton of personality, Sean “Suga” O’Malley has not been shy about his cannabis use.

Famously smoking with stoner legend Snoop Dogg after a big UFC victory, O’Malley doubles down on his stoner appeal by doing interviews in a robe adorned in pot leaves.

He even released his own strain last year, Suga Show OG, which is a cross between Lemonhead and OG 92. He’s the real deal when it comes to both fighting and weed.

Jon Jones

Undeniably one of the best pound for pound UFC fighters of all time, Jon Jones has been very open and public with his substance struggles.

While cocaine and PED’s have all done their part in derailing the career of one of the most promising fight games talents ever, Jones has been clear while he quit other substances he’ll still smoke cannabis and have a drink from time to time.

Jake Shields

Probably the most low-key entry on this list, former UFC Welterweight championship contender Jake Shields is a major cannabis advocate.

The Californian fighter spoke at the 2016 Cannathlere convention, “It is a big part of the training for a lot of people. I definitely don’t smoke every day, but sometimes it is a good way to go in there and smoke a little bit and be a little more creative — like sometimes when you are in a big training camp before a competition, it really makes training fun again.”

The Diaz Brothers

The undisputed cannabis kings of the fight game, the Diaz brothers are as open as they could possibly be about their cannabis use.

Nick Diaz talked publically about how he would pass drug tests despite smoking frequently and was even banned for five years when he was caught.

His brother Nate stepped the game up even more, actually smoking a CBD oil vape during a post-fight press conference.

The two have become big names in the cannabis industry, reportedly sustaining their income away from the fight game by launching Game Up, a CBD-infused, plant-based nutrition company.

Ronda Rousey

One of the most dominant female MMA fighters of all time and current WWE superstar, Ronda Rousey has been clear about her position on cannabis over the years.

After Nick Diaz was suspended for his cannabis use, Rousey expressed her support for him and cannabis use as a whole during multiple interviews over the years.

“It’s so not right for [Nick Diaz] to be suspended five years for marijuana. I’m against testing for weed at all. It’s not a performance-enhancing drug. And it has nothing to do with competition. It’s only tested for political reasons.” She said during one interview.

While Rousey has talked extensively about using cannabis when she was younger in her book My Fight/Your Fight, many have speculated that she’s still using since she’s spent so much time with the Diaz brothers. She’s even posted some photos where the eyes were… glassy, to say the least.

Whatever the case, we’re chalking this one up as Rousey being supportive of cannabis use.

Bas Rutten

Bas Rutten has an incredible story of the highest highs and the lowest lows you can achieve in the fight game. Due to the injuries he accrued over his long fighting career, Rutten developed a crippling addiction to painkillers.

After trying to kick his addiction by using drugs like Suboxone or even trying to go cold turkey, Rutten turned to CBD oil for pain relief and was able to kick his addiction.

“I was skeptical, but I had to try something else,” Rutten said of CBD oil. “I gave Receptra a shot and it changed my life. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Rutten even said the CBD use makes his training and pain management easier, his daughter use it to get rid of zits and he recommends it for anything trying to reduce muscle soreness and better control their pain.

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These Girls Are Taking Skateboarding to the 2020 Olympics

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Skateboarding
PHOTO | Skateism

For those tuning in to the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo next year, they’ll see five new sports on display. One of them is skateboarding.

In an official statement, the committee said the changes were meant “to put even more focus on innovation, flexibility and youth in the development Olympic programme.”

Taking Tokyo’s hip, urban atmosphere in mind, the committee also confirmed the new venues for skateboarding would be “installed in urban settings, marking a historic step in bringing the Games to young people and reflecting the trend of urbanisation of sport.”

“We want to take sport to the youth,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them. Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfills all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it. Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”

While both men and women will be able to compete, the spotlight is firmly on young Japanese women like Aori Nishimura to make a statement on their home country.

 

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Today women’s street final🔥💪 @xgamessydney

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Nishimura is a 17-year-old street skating starlet, racking up 1st place finishes at the Asian Skateboarding Championships Finals in 2016, the X-Games in Minnesota in 2017 and the Street League World Championships in Brazil this year. It’s impossible not to consider her one of the best skaters on the planet and a frontrunner to take home the gold in Tokyo.

Despite her competition wins and undeniable talent, she told Vogue in a recent interview, “I see skateboarding as more of a fun activity than a sport. So if it’s going to be an Olympic sport, I really want to show the world how fun skateboarding is, and how cool the culture of skateboarding is.”

Aside from Nishimura, more and more women have been able to spring to stardom recently in the typically male-centric world of skate culture.

Another example is Lacey Baker, another young rising star ahead of the 2020 games. A wholly atypical personality for skating, the openly queer former foster kid with a buzz cut was one of the stars of Nike’s hit Just Do It campaign commercial alongside star personalities like LeBron James, Serena Williams and Colin Kaepernick.

 

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It’s only a crazy dream until you do it. 🌹 #justdoit

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This comes only eight years after she was a shock choice as a guest at a Thrasher event and lost endorsements because she refused to “femme up her look.”

“The timing was bizarre — I was in Thrasher and winning contests, I did not deserve to get phased out,” she told Vogue.

Women like Nishimura and Baker are paving the way for a new generation of talented female boarders to make their names in the space, following in their innovative footsteps.

Because of them, female skaters like Sky Brown, a 10-year-old skater was named as part of England’s team for the 2020 games. If the team qualifies, Brown will be aged 12 when the Games begin. That would make her Britain’s youngest ever Olympian.

The future is bright for women in skateboarding, and it’s looking like the 2020 games in Tokyo might be the event horizon for a new generation of talent.

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Can NFL Competitors Like the AAF and the XFL Be Successful?

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NFL Competitors
PHOTO | Adobe Stock

In recent years, we’ve seen a bunch of NFL competitors pop up promising streamlined, quick-paced play and an alternative to an increasingly polarizing and political NFL.

Some notable alternatives include the Alliance of American Football and the XFL, one of which just kicked off its inaugural season and the other set to go in 2020.

While the leagues themselves have made big promises as being similar to minor league feeders or straight up competitors to the NFL, those are big promises to make.

The NFL is a billion dollar industry, a juggernaut in the sport only comparable to college football in scale and saturation into the American fabric.

The only way that these leagues can carve out their own niche is to stick to their promised identity, innovate and produce or secure NFL-quality players.

AAF

While the Alliance of American Football (AAF) isn’t a league in direct competition with the NFL, they do have some connective threads.

Alliance teams tout themselves as a feeder system to the NFL, a place for players trying to keep in shape, playing for a team and ready to be signed to an NFL roster in case of an injury.

Some current NFL upper-level management, like the LA Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, feel that the Alliance could be used similarly to minor league baseball teams.

“It’s a great idea,” Telesco told ESPN. “It has the potential to be a nice complement to the NFL. It’s a great spot for a developmental league for players, but even aside from that — coaches and front office, officiating, athletic trainers and video equipment people, public relations — all of that. So I think it’s a great place where people can develop in every department of football operations. Every department that touches a football team can get some real-life experience.”

As a place for young players to develop further after college in an organized, professional team setting or for players who might be between opportunities in the league.

Some former NFL players scattered across the league include Trent Richardson, Christian Hackenberg, Josh Johnson, Nick Novak, Matt Asiata and Bishop Sankey.

It’s yet to be seen if the league has the potential for expansion from where it is now, but it’s one of the more promising prospects as an NFL companion we’ve seen in years.

The XFL

While the Alliance might be positioning itself as an NFL companion, the XFL is trying to dethrone it.

The second coming of the venture, WWE head man Vince McMahon has pitched the XFL as a league that embraces the violent hits that the NFL has worked to phase out of the game and takes a hard-line stance on political protests like kneeling during the anthem that polarized the league these past few seasons.

The XFL promises a league free of protests, where everyone stands for the national anthem, no one with any type of criminal record is allowed to play and players are free to hit one another with reckless abandon.

The key to the XFL’s success is going to be getting those NFL fans who are dissatisfied with the league for the lack of hard-hitting action or political differences to watch them instead of the NFL, a big ask for many.

In a country where football is a religion for many, carving out a segment of that dedicated population might be a mighty challenge.

Whether it’s the AAF or XFL, the alternatives to the NFL are growing. It’s a market yet to be tapped by other leagues.

Eventually, someone is going to do it but I have my doubts it will be either of these two leagues.

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