ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Nate Diaz lit up a joint Wednesday in the middle of Honda Center ahead of Saturday night's UFC 241.
Rather than a traditional open workout, the controversial UFC star took a few pulls of cannabis while shadowboxing in front of the hundreds of fans gathered.
A few seconds later, Diaz handed the joint to his videographer, who passed it to some fans in the front row. They took turns smoking it.
"I said pass it around," Diaz said. "It's good etiquette, for sure."
It was a unique scene -- one you wouldn't see at a promotional event for most high-level professional sports. Diaz will fight Anthony Pettis in the co-main event of Saturday's UFC 241. This was the UFC-sponsored workout for fans and media.
Diaz said afterward that he was smoking cannabidiol, better known as CBD, an extract from the cannabis plant that has no psychoactive properties. The science is unclear on CBD, but proponents of the drug say it can help with pain, inflammation and anxiety, which is why it has become extremely popular in MMA.
Diaz and his brother, Nick, also a UFC star, have been the poster boys for cannabis use in MMA. After his UFC 202 loss to Conor McGregor in 2016, Diaz famously smoked a CBD joint at the postfight news conference. USADA, the UFC's anti-doping partner, issued him a public warning for cannabis use in-competition but has since changed its rule on when the in-competition window closes. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its banned list in 2018.
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THC and other cannabinoids remain prohibited by WADA in-competition over a threshold of 150 ng/ml. For UFC purposes, "in-competition" means the 24 hours before the event until the postfight drug test.
On Wednesday, Diaz said he was smoking a CBD joint from his and his brother's line with Game Up Nutrition. He said he'll have to save the THC for after UFC 241, when the in-competition window closes.
"I have to smoke the weed after the fight," Diaz said with a laugh.
The UFC and the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) declined comment on Diaz's smoking at open workouts. UFC president Dana White, meanwhile, let an emoji speak for him:
🤦🏻♂️ https://t.co/u8DMkWzgcD— Dana White (@danawhite) August 15, 2019
The UFC recently signed a partnership with Aurora Cannabis and will be testing the usage of CBD with volunteer athletes at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas. Cannabis is legal in California, Nevada and other states for recreational use, but it remains illegal federally.
In addition to Aurora's work with the UFC, a spat of CBD sponsors have popped up in MMA. Daniel Cormier, who will defend his heavyweight title at UFC 241 against Stipe Miocic, is sponsored by CBDMD. Diaz was at the forefront of the CBD wave three years ago.
"It's crazy," Diaz said. "It's real cool that everybody is up on game now since they stuck their head in the book a little bit after we had to bring it to the attention. And they stepped their game up."
If Diaz, 34, was actually smoking THC on Wednesday (like many in attendance assumed) and tested positive for it in an in-competition drug test this weekend, the consequences would be pretty minimal. USADA has been handing out three- or six-month suspensions for cannabis failures. By comparison, suspensions for anabolic steroids can be two years. The CSAC, which also has jurisdiction over UFC 241 because the card takes place in California, is extremely lenient with marijuana. Positive cannabis tests likely lead to a $100 fine, plus the cost of the drug test, and no suspension.
Nate Diaz has never tested positive for cannabis. Nick Diaz, however, has tested positive for cannabis three times, all in Nevada. The last time, in 2015, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) suspended him five years, but that was later reduced to 18 months.