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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
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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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Skateboarder JS Lapierre Rides to the Top with CBD

JS Lapierre talks to Cannabis Aficionado about his skateboarding history, his future and the role CBD plays in his health and fitness regimen.

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JS Lapierre
PHOTOS | Supplied

To the masses, the concept of skateboarding invokes images of urban streets, concrete, metal fixtures and graffiti art. In stark contrast, skateboarder JS Lapierre began his venture in the simplistic farmland setting of a small Canadian village. No handrails and no jumps, just hard work, passion, and creativity.

JS Lapierre has made a commitment to focusing on mental and physical health as he continues to pursue his journey in skateboarding. He makes conscious decisions every day to better himself, which is something that can arguably be seen as counterintuitive to the traditional skateboarding lifestyle. Now, as a skateboarder riding for Zero Skateboards, he continues to add knowledge and skills to his repertoire, a lot of which is motivated by his new passion for CBD.

We spoke exclusively to JS Lapierre about his skateboarding history, future and the role CBD plays in his health and fitness regimen.

Cannabis Aficionado: What was your first memory of skateboarding?

JS Lapierre: The first time that skateboarding was introduced to me was when one of my friends got a mini ramp in his backyard. I think I used his older brother’s skateboard and I was instantly obsessed. That friend and I keep in touch. I don’t know if his older brother ever found out I was using his board, but I know his parents were proud when they found out I was doing so well skateboarding.

What is it about skateboarding that is so appealing to you?

When I was a kid I did it because I loved it so much. There was no reason, I just thought it was really fun. Now, as I grow older and learn more about spirituality I realize that extreme sports give a moment of clarity. Nothing else is going on. There is no voice in my head, no ego. It is a pure form of meditation for me. Everything it has given me has been amazing. I’ve been crazy places and met all kinds of people. I’m very grateful.

 

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Thanks @jackalopefest for having me again this year ❤️📷: @danmathieu

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When did you make the decision to pursue skateboarding as a career?

I think deep down in my heart I knew that I wanted to pursue skateboarding as a goal. I believe there was a decisive moment when I finished high school. My parents wanted me to keep going to school, so I applied to go to college.

I was supposed to start the next month, but there was a big contest in Montreal. I decided to go out there and try. I got first place and won like eight thousand dollars. That was the perfect opportunity to set aside regular life and pursue skateboarding. My mom was super supportive and I had a little money to live on, which I think made her more ok with it. It has been such a blessing.

You grew up in a small town on a farm. Skateboarding is often associated with urban lifestyle. How do you combine those two worlds?

I’ve been really lucky. When I was young my parents were really supportive. We lived in a small village that only had about 400 people. I loved it so much that I wanted to skate every day. I would skate in front of my house, practicing ground tricks. They would bring me out to the nearest skatepark whenever they could, which was 15 minutes away. In the winter there was an indoor skate park 45 minutes away by Montreal. I was really lucky they did that for me.

How much time do you spend skating a week?

I think I skate probably once every two days, depending on a lot of things. You can’t really film at skate parks. You have to find handrails and sets of stairs. It takes some time to drive around trying to find skate spots and then try not to get kicked out. Most of the time I skate 5-10 hours during the week. That’s one of the reasons it’s good to have other things around that you like to do. I read, stretch a lot and do yoga.

Finding a great place to skate and film can be difficult. Skateboarders are often stereotyped as youngsters with no regard for others’ space or property. In reality, most have no intention of disturbing the peace.

I’ve been really lucky. Some people go to jail for trespassing or ridiculous fines. When I was young, I got a $600 fine for skating. I believe I was under 18 so the fine was significantly reduced. We are just trying to have fun and skate. Some people don’t see it that way.

 

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Thanks @williamcristofaro93 🎥💖

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How do you know when it is time to stop skating for the day?

That is what’s cool; you are never going to know everything in skateboarding. There are so many tricks that you are never going to master more than yourself. I skate as much as I can without being too sore the next day. I listen to my body.

Some skateboarders prefer to skate alone, while others like to travel in groups. I like to have friends around, but if we are in a city it can be kind of annoying to have a big group. But I like a good communal session. Talk some shit and do some skating.

If you could ride with anyone, who would it be?

Laird Hamilton. He’s actually a surfer, not a skateboarder but the reasons for that is that he’s got so many insights about how to maintain a healthy body through cold exposure and breathing exercises. He’s got these underwater exercises that a bunch of people come to his house to try out and it looks so epic.

How has your decision to adopt a meat-free lifestyle affected your body?

It started off as an ethical decision. I saw videos of what goes on in slaughterhouses and I wanted to do something about that. If I’m consuming those products I’m supporting the industry. So, I started as a vegetarian. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was really a healthy option. There is a lot of misinformation about how you lose important nutrients and protein. As I got older, I began to read about the nutrition side of things. I also watched a lot of documentaries, which prompted me to become a vegan.

I try to be as healthy as possible. Since skateboarding is my career, I have some extra time on my hands to learn and use my knowledge efficiently. I want to be able to skate as long as possible. I want to be able to use all the tools I can outside of skateboarding to do what I love the most.

A vegan lifestyle takes a lot of dedication. How do you make it work?

Honestly, I used to eat for taste. I love eating food still, but I try to center my diet on the healthiest things. I cook a lot. I don’t eat out much. I make a lot of smoothies with superfoods so I am full of energy throughout the day. I love Indian food. That’s probably my favorite.

My parents are starting to realize more about healthy eating. Whenever I go home I try and tell them what I know without being too annoying. I can see an improvement and I want to see my parents stay healthy and energetic.

What do you do to stay mentally focused?

I do yoga and try to meditate daily, which is a difficult thing to do. I also do Wim Hoff breathing exercises and cold showers, which help to restore balance and maintain energy. It’s amazing.

I’ve been super into health and self-improvement for a few years now and I was always jealous of my friends who would be able to benefit from the cannabis plant. I wished I would be able to smoke a joint after a long day of skating so I could recuperate faster and just relax. I personally always had a hard time getting high though, I would be super paranoid and it ended up just being a turn off so I haven’t smoked weed in years now.

What made you decide to start incorporating CBD oil into your healthy routine?

I think it was from seeing other friends posting about it and I kept seeing CBD oil in some of the health stores and hearing about it. I knew cannabis had a lot of benefits, but I don’t smoke. I get too much in my head. I knew there were good things in cannabis but I didn’t want to smoke. Then I looked up the benefits of CBD. I think it is the perfect tool to skate and recuperate. And mentally it makes me feel really calm.

I take Receptra CBD oil every day, in the morning and at night. In the long run, the tincture makes a difference in overall health. The topical is good for short-term pain.

For me, being sore is the issue rather than bruising. You jump the same set 40-50 times and you are going to be sore. Receptra helps with that. It is super effective and really easy just to use the liquid every day as part of my routine.

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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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NFL Players Will No Longer Be Suspended for Cannabis Use

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Suspended for Cannabis
PHOTO | bondarchik

In the midst of a global pandemic, canceled seasons for the NBA, NHL, international soccer leagues, the PGA and a handful of other sporting events, races and leagues, the NFL Player’s Association and the owners were hard at work negotiating a brand new collective bargaining agreement.

After weeks of negotiations, a deal was struck, the votes were cast and the final details of the deal were set in stone. The owners got one more regular-season game and the players got something arguable even more important; reduced penalties for failed cannabis tests.

That’s right, the famously stuffy and conservative National Football League has loosened their stringent rules when it comes to players enjoying cannabis. Following in the footsteps of Major League Baseball, NFL players can no longer be suspended for cannabis in positive tests. Gone are the days when a player testing positive could mean lost game checks, multi-game suspensions and even season-long bans for multiple-time offenders.

On top of that, the threshold for failing a test has now been bumped up to 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, way up from the previous standard of 35 nanograms.

If a player still manages to fail a test despite the newly heightened standards, their test will be reviewed by a board of medical professionals who will then determine if a player needs further treatment for potential drug abuse.

The testing window for players is also set to be shortened from four months to two weeks, meaning fewer players than before will get tested than in previous years.

On top of the new testing standards and smaller window, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement also states that “a neutral decision-maker” will be the one to officially make the disciplinary decisions that decreases commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary power.

Working this perk into the new CBA, along with a slightly larger portion of overall revenue for a league worth nearly $3 billion, is a huge deal for pro athletes in a sport whose careers average only about three years.

NFL Players and Cannabis: A Long Forbidden Love Story

While this new CBA certainly opens the door for a new age of cannabis-loving NFL athletes, the love affair between the NFL’s players and cannabis is a long, storied and sensible one.

Former NFL running back Ricky Williams has long been a supporter and proponent of cannabis, even going as far as starting his own cannabis business in 2018. Former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett went on record in 2018 to say he thinks “about 89 percent” of the league’s players use cannabis. And, of course, who can forget Laremy Tunsil and his astounding draft day slide due to being hacked and tweeting a video of him hitting a gas-mask style bong?

Simply put, the new reduced risks around being suspended for cannabis use is a long-time coming for one of the most violent and physically taxing pro sports leagues in the world. We’ve already seen high-profile early retirements over the last few years like Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski, the latter of the two immediately signing on to advocate for CBD use for pain and recovery.

This new CBA is a massive step in the right direction for the future of players, allowing some of the richest athletes in the country access to a substance that nine of the 32 teams can legally use recreationally.

Keeping NFL players on the field AND removing their risk of being suspended for cannabis? Now that’s a brand new type of Super Bowl.

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