Nick Diaz just went up against his toughest opponent of his career, and it wasn’t even in a steel octagon.
Instead, the mixed martial arts fighter teamed up with a lawyer for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which wants to end the career of one of the sport’s biggest starts – for marijuana use.
The NSAC handed Diaz, 32, an unprecedented five-year ban from fighting — meaning no more UFC title matches in Las Vegas — after he failed a post-fight drug test conducted after the UFC 183 event in January, when Diaz fought Anderson Silva in the headline fight.
Oddly enough, both fighters would test positive for controlled substances: Diaz on marijuana and Silva on various types of anabolic steroids.
Silva was also banned, albeit only one year, from using performance-enhancing drugs.
While Diaz’s offense may seem tame by comparison, the NSAC decided to send a message to Stockton’s warring pride for his third marijuana-related offense.
Ironically, the decision was made just weeks after Nevada’s first medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors. Las Vegas has embraced cannabis, and the state could legalize recreational marijuana next year — ahead of California.
“I’m pretty pissed off,” Diaz told the press after the hearing. “I got into this sport for exactly this reason, being stuck in a room with people like that.”
“I wanted to tell them what I think,” Diaz added. “I wanted to tell them all they’re a bunch of suckers. Anyone who sees them or knows who they are should tell them. I would if my experts didn’t advise me to shut up. I wanted to stand up and say, ‘Look. You guys are really the f- off the line.’”
Diaz also tested positive for cannabis metabolites before his 2012 UFC 143 fight against Carlos Condit, as well as a fight against Japan’s Takanori Gomi for the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championship in 2007.
While most fighters who use marijuana tend to stop using it as soon as a fight approaches, Diaz is adamant about keeping medical marijuana as part of his training regimen.
“He doesn’t take painkillers,” Diaz’s trainer Cesar Gracie said in a February interview with MMA Fighting. “If he’s in pain after a workout, he likes to smoke marijuana. It calms him and relieves the pain in his body. It’s his way of coping naturally with pain and other problems.”
Current research also supports Diaz’s post-workout pot use as a healthy activity.
A 2009 study published by the National Institute of Health states that certain cannabinoids — the compounds found in marijuana — can be used as potent anti-inflammatory agents. The NIH also signed a licensing agreement with medical marijuana company Kannalife to patent a drug rich in cannabinoids that would serve as a neuroprotectant for the brain. Further studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD) can help treat brain trauma and in particular chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the dreaded onset of dementia and confusion that many fighters and soccer players face after a career of punishing blows to the field. head.
Despite the medical benefits to fighters who use cannabis, the NSAC believes they are protecting the fighters themselves by banning the use of marijuana – which is also prohibited in global sport under the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Other athletes, most famous Olympic gold medal snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, have encountered similar problems.
Why can’t fighters smoke weed?
“The drug is banned because of the harm it causes to the person taking it,” Keith Kizer, director of NSAC, said in a 2009 interview with the LA Times. “It can make you lethargic, slow your reflexes, and those are dangerous things in a martial art.”
The NSAC’s decision has sparked outrage among several cannabis legalization advocates, and even Diaz’ close friend Ronda Rousey.
“It’s so not right that (Diaz) is being banned for five years for marijuana,” the UFC women’s bantamweight champion said at a recent press conference ahead of the upcoming UFC 193 event in November. “I’m against testing for weed. It is not a performance enhancer. It has nothing to do with athletic competition, and it’s only been tested for political reasons, so they say, ‘Oh, it’s just for your safety so you don’t hurt yourself while you’re there.’ So why don’t they test for all the other things that could potentially hurt us and be intoxicated while we’re out there?”
The situation has even led to boxing champion Floyd Mayweather – who recently sparked a media-driven rivalry with Rousey – finally agreeing to the women’s champion.
“Let the man smoke weed and enjoy his life,” Mayweather noted in a video on his YouTube channel.
Regardless of the decision, Diaz hopes he can continue to fight in other states, although the UFC usually holds its biggest events in Las Vegas.
“I’ve heard that the athletic commissions of other states are upset about the ruling, so hopefully I can fight in those states,” Diaz told TMZ Sports days after the ruling.
“I put off having kids and getting married so I could fight,” Diaz added. “I gave my life for this. I am a fighter. It is what I am. Many men have to worry about what their wives and children think, not me. All my attention is on fighting, and now I don’t know if I can fight. They took it from me.”