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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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Sports

Mike Tyson Is Newest Fan-Controlled Football League Owner

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Fan-Controlled Football League
PHOTO | FCFL

When it comes to rebrands, there are few more complete and monumental than that of Mike Tyson.

It’s hard to believe that the former heavyweight champ of a brutally violent sport like boxing, sporting facial tattoos before it was a common hip-hop trend and most known for biting off his opponent’s ears and knocking people out in 12 seconds is now a touring entertainer, pigeon trainer and best part of hit comedy film “The Hangover.

It’s fair to say that Tyson’s change from one of the most feared, baddest men on the planet to entrepreneur and entertainer has been an on-going story of feel-good redemption.

More recently, Tyson made the leap into the cannabis space with his ultra-extravagant, 40-acres cannabis resort Tyson Ranch set to be ready in 2020 and has a hit on his hands with his HotBoxin podcast where he talks with superstars like Vic Mensa, Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg while smoking up. Plus his soon to be released line of cannabis strains and CBD wellness products.

Now the former heavyweight champ has announced his partnership with the Fan-Controlled Football League (FCFL) as an owner.

The FCFL is the first-ever real-world sports league where the fans are fully in charge, calling in plays via an app and relayed directly into the quarterback’s helmet. Fans will be able to pick every aspect of the team from their name, to their logos, coaches and even players.

On top of that, the league is partnered with Twitch to stream exclusively, letting fans watch live and get in on the action from any Twitch-compatible device.

Tyson joins the likes of both current and former pro athletes like Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Chad Ochocinco as a team’s owner along with entertainers like singer and songwriter Prince Royce, radio personality Bobby Bones and YouTube gaming comedy group Kinda Funny.

When asked why he wanted to get involved with the FCFL, Tyson was clear about his intentions to make his team a force for years to come.

“I’m pleased to come on board as the owner of the newest Fan-Controlled Football League team. I’m excited to work with the fans to create the Baddest League on the Planet. My team is looking forward to demolishing our ‘competition.’” Tyson said.

Tyson elaborated further on his goals for the team in a brief video message to his fans, saying he’s looking for players who are elite both on the intellectual and physical perspective.

After all, when it comes to winning championships and dominating a sport, there are few finer role models than Iron Mike himself.

The FCFL is thrilled to have Tyson on board in the owner’s box.

“We are reinventing the sport of football for the digital age and a cultural phenomenon like Iron Mike could not be a better fit for this league,” said co-founder and Chief Gaming Officer Patrick Dees. “We are impossibly excited for him to bring his unparalleled energy, legendary smack talk, and unrivaled will to win to the FCFL. The man is a total badass and there is zero doubt in my mind that Team Tyson is going to be a force to be reckoned with in our first season. And I for one, CAN NOT WAIT to watch him stream his games on Twitch.”

With a literal heavyweight like Tyson on board, the Fan-Controlled Football League is bound to be as exciting as one of Iron Mike’s legendary bouts.

Let’s hope the games last longer than those fights, however.

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Aurora & UFC Are Researching the Benefits of CBD for MMA Fighters

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UFC
PHOTO | dusanpetkovic1

Sometimes you can clearly see how much progress has been made with breaking the stigma around cannabis. Only a few years ago, Nate Diaz threw the mixed martial arts community into a frenzy by openly hitting a vape filled with CBD oil on stage during his post-match interview with Conor McGregor. 

“It’s CBD,” Diaz told the press when asked about the device. “It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.”

While Diaz was absolutely right about the anti-inflammatory and pain management benefits of CBD, that didn’t stop the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), USADA and UFC anti-doping from collectively losing their shit over it. 

Diaz was facing a suspension and a possible ban from the sport similar to his older brother Nick. 

Today, things look much, much different when it comes to CBD. 

After the WADA removed CBD from their banned substances list about a year ago, the UFC has now penned a multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership with Aurora Cannabis Inc. to research the health benefits of CBD for MMA fighters. 

The studies will test out the effects of hemp-derived CBD for wound-healing, pain management, inflammation control and overall recovery on top-class MMA athletes over the next eight years.  

The research will be conducted in the UFC’s own Performance Institute in Las Vegas, testing the effects on athletes who volunteer to participate in the study by Institute staff. Aurora’s research will be led by Dr. Jason Dyck, a professor at the University of Alberta, a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Medicine and an independent director on the board at Aurora Cannabis. 

In a statement, officials for both UFC and Aurora expressed their excitement over the partnership. 

“This partnership with Aurora is an extension of that goal, and we’re looking forward to collaborating with Aurora to find new ways to improve the health and safety of athletes who compete in UFC,” said UFC President Dana White.

Terry Booth, CEO of Aurora added, “This global partnership places focus squarely on the health and well-being of UFC’s talented and highly trained athletes. The Aurora-UFC research partnership creates a global platform to launch targeted educational and awareness campaigns, while creating numerous opportunities to accelerate our global CBD business.”

White told the press at a joint press conference between the two he believes about half of all elite athletes use some sort of CBD-based product for recovery that this partnership will make sure those products are safe and authentic, paving the way for future products will help prevent the use “untested CBD treatments,” and will be used during practice, before and after a match. 

“The focus is going to be on research, safety, health, and the well being of our athletes,” White said.

It’s well-known how many big-name UFC athletes have been open and clear about their support of not only CBD-based products for recovery but cannabis as a whole. This new partnership could open the doors to more athletes exploring natural, opiate-free alternatives than ever before without the fear of sanctions, suspensions and punishment in one of the most brutal sports around. 

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Sports

Equal Pay Fight Proves the USWNT Isn’t Finished Making History

Fresh from winning their record-breaking fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup title, the USWNT is fighting for equal pay, sending a message to women everywhere.

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PHOTO | luzitanija

The United States women’s national soccer team (USWNT) made history last week by winning their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup title. This was the team’s record-breaking second straight and most of any women’s national team. Their performance was one for the ages, tearing through their competition in dominating fashion and earning a Best Team Award at the ESPYS.

Now, even as a championship parade rolls through New York City and stars from the USWNT like Meagan Repino and Alex Morgan go on the talk show circuit, all anyone can talk about is the dollars and cents of it all.

USWNT Demand Equal Pay for Equal Play

USWNT

PHOTO | Courtesy @CarliLloyd

The wage gap between the men’s and women’s national team players in the US has long been a point of debate.

Back in March, on International Women’s Day, no less, 28 members of the USWNT, including Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“I think a lot of people look to us and our team and the collective voice that we have and what we’ve stood for, for inspiration and for power, and as an ally in this broader fight for equality and human rights, really,” said winger Megan Rapinoe at the time.

Before this year’s competition kicked off, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer made a point of reminding people about that pay gap.

“The women make just as much of a sacrifice, put in just as much mental and physical energy, absorb just as much risk of injury as the men who play for our national team,” said Schumer. “Yet, when you break it down, a women’s national soccer team player earns a base salary of $3,600 per game while a men’s player earns $5,000.”

Compounding the issue, USWNT players also earn much smaller World Cup bonuses than the males, a measly $15,000 compared to $55,000. The prime example is with the U.S. Soccer Federation itself, awarding the men’s team a $5.4 million bonus for losing in the Round of 16 while the women received only $1.7 million for winning the whole tournament in 2015.

So, in summary, the team that’s actually winning tournaments is making far less than the team losing them.

“Discrimination staring us all in the face,” Schumer said. “These women, who inspire our country with their poise, tenacity, skill and excellence every time they take the field deserve to be fairly compensated.”

If you take the “equal pay” chants from the World Cup crowd following the USWNT’s win and during a recent U.S. Soccer press conference, it’s clear where public opinion falls. U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro had to pause during his address to the crowd during the champion ceremony in New York City on Wednesday due to the chanting.

Now the Politicians Want to Play

Now, even more politicians have thrown their hats into the ring to push the issue.

More than 50 members of Congress wrote to U.S. Soccer looking to address the pay disparity, while Sen. Joe Manchin introduced a bill this week that would withhold federal funding from the upcoming 2026 Men’s World Cup set to be co-hosted in the U.S. unless some action was taken to fix it.

“The clear unequitable pay between the U.S. men and women’s soccer teams is unacceptable and I’m glad the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team latest victory is causing public outcry,” Manchin said in a statement. “I’m encouraging everyone to call their Senator and Representatives to help us get this bill passed and finally pay the equitable pay they deserve.”

If the bill passes and the federal government decides not to play ball with FIFA, it could be a major stumbling block for the upcoming tournament. The State Department, for example, needs to provide visa waivers and such for visiting FIFA officials and host cities need the money to build up infrastructure and book security for matches.

Like it or not, this conversation is nowhere near over. While the U.S. Women’s team won’t be booking their tickets to the White House anytime soon, they’ve certainly caught the attention of lawmakers in one way or another these past few weeks.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Megan Rapinoe shared her must-haves for traveling. Along with her work out gear, CBD is right up there to help make traveling easier.

“I usually have CBD drops of some kind so I can just relax with all the travel. I use it as an overall health benefit. I usually take it at night or I definitely will take it if I’m going on a long flight. We have to be kind of careful with how much THC is in those. Sometimes, at a competition they don’t really test for it, but then they will. So you have to be careful. Select is a good one; they have just a pure CBD line.”

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