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UFC and Aurora Cannabis announce historic CBD research partnership

UFC Fighters will voluntarily participate in clinical studies on CBD oil’s
impact on sports medicine with Aurora Cannabis.

In a July 24 press conference at the UFC Apex Facility in Las Vegas, it was announced that Canada’s Aurora Cannabis is now on an eight year agreement with the UFC to conduct research on Cannabidiol (CBD) treatment. Utilizing this research data, in conjunction with UFC athletes they will develop products under the ROAR high performance sports brand. Aurora will conduct these voluntary clinical studies through the UFC’s Performance Institute, a facility which offers free access to state of the art treatment and training for all UFC athletes. Use of CBD products has become widespread since in 2018 USADA announced its removal from the annual Prohibited List. Due to the effectiveness of CBD its popularity has spread quickly throughout MMA culture as sponsorship deals with CBD related companies are now commonplace among fighters and promotions alike. UFC rival Bellator is even staying in the mix by signing a multi-year promotional deal with consumer brand CBDmd, according to PRNewswire.

Since USADA has begun to change its relationship with Cannabis products, the UFC had their vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitsky present to clarify what makes CBD products unique in comparison to other Cannabis products still prohibited under USADA’s S8 Cannabinoids category.

Speaking with in regards to concerns of potential contamination or false positives, Novitsky insists “on the CBD side? No, because as you heard today this is hemp derived CBD, and the definition of hemp is a cannabis plant with less than.03% THC”, which at those levels cannot cause false positives on drug testing because “it’s not going to have any impairment value. THC in the cannabis plant is the thing that actually impairs you – it literally has no THC in it, only CBD”.

Also present was UFC president Dana White to express his pride in setting the standard for the future of sports medicine. It is just another step in the UFC’s long journey to legitimize the perception of mixed martial arts as a professional sport, and to even exceed that by leading all other major sports by example.

“Would you rather have guys taking pain pills, sleeping pills? It’s much healthier and safer for the athletes. It’s the future. We know it, we get it, we see it and we’re not afraid of things like this,” Dana White stated and insisted that “the big ones, the NFL, the NBA, all these guys are afraid. They’re afraid to be the first ones to step in. We’re never afraid”.

Not only could this have a profound impact on the drug policies other major sports leagues’, but also on various state athletic commissions like Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan that still have zero tolerance CBD policies. Novitsky offers that research produced from this partnership will significantly aid their efforts in “educating and lobbying those athletic commissions to look at the science, to look at the research already conducted by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) in taking CBD off the prohibited list and hoping to get them into compliance with the rest of the anti-doping world”.

With all things considered this agreement between UFC and Aurora Cannabis looks to have a wide ranging implications for the whole landscape of professional sports and the various bodies that regulate them. Putting the history books and politics aside, remember this all begins with the athletes’ health and well-being as the priority. With that notion comes a reasonable expectation to not fear or stifle the development of life altering technology. The UFC has confidently set an example in that regard that as society’s attitudes and understanding of medicine evolves, the institutions put in place to administer them should also be along for the ride.

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