UFC Unfiltered: Board votes to end cannabis-related infractions on July 7

cannabis-related infractions

The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) voted unanimously to no longer discipline boxers or mixed martial artists for cannabis-related infractions. The new policy begins immediately but isn’t retroactive to cases already on the commission’s case list.

UFC unfiltered vegas sports today
Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via USA TODAY Sports

According to a report filed by ESPN, the new policy will begin immediately but won’t be retroactive to include any currently pending cases in their system.

The NSAC will follow in the footsteps of their counterparts at the Florida State Boxing Commission, which ended their testing policy in May and is similar to the positions currently held by the UFC’s anti-doping program with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which ended most disciplinary measures in January. Fighters can still receive sanctions if they are found to be under the influence on the night of their fight.

This is a significant development for combat sports athletes, given that Nevada regularly hosts some of the biggest boxing and MMA events every year.

More on this at the end of the post…

UFC and Crypto.com partner up

UFC and Crypto.com have announced a partnership that makes Crypto an “official fight kit partner,” giving the cryptocurrency platform a logo on all fighter walkout and cage gear around the world. The deal is said to be valued in the low nine figures over the length of the contract.

The partnership begins on July 10 at UFC 264 in Las Vegas, which is headlined by Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor.

The cryptocurrency juggernaut will have a logo inside the Octagon during pay-per-view events, White’s Contender Series programming and integration across UFC media properties.

The UFC fighters won’t receive a cut of the money, though. They will cut individual deals as paid ambassadors but will largely be left out in the cold.

CM Punk finally gets a ‘W’… sort of

Three years after he last stepped foot inside the UFC Octagon, Phil “CM Punk” Brooks picked up a win… or more specifically, a “no contest.”

In a report by MMA Junkie, the mixed martial arts website filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation confirmed that Punk’s unanimous decision loss to Mike Jackson at UFC 225 had been overturned to a no contest.

Brooks, 42, battled Mike “The Truth” Jackson at UFC 225 in June 2018 and lost a unanimous decision in a fight that was largely derided by MMA fans, pundits and UFC President Dana White for being, well, not good.

The event took place in Illinois, which apparently has a pretty strict no-tolerance policy regarding athlete’s use of marijuana around competition time. Jackson, 36, was popped for traces of “tetrahydrocannabinol due to marijuana.” Jackson was suspended for three months and his victory was overturned.

It remains to be seen if this means a highly anticipated return to the cages for Punk. We collectively hold our breath.

Nate Marquardt returns

Former UFC title challenger and Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nate “The Great” Marquardt announced that he is ending his retirement and has signed a new fight with Titan FC. Marquardt, 42, announced during the Titan FC 70 television broadcast on July 2, with no opponent being named.

Marquardt (35-19-2) was last seen dropping a split decision loss to Cezar Ferreira at UFC Fight Night 120 in November 2017. There was a time when Marquardt’s heavy hands and accuracy made him one of the more feared strikers in mixed martial arts, evidenced by his absolute starching of future UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley in July 2012 to claim the vacant Strikeforce title. After that win he ended his career on a 3-9 skid in his last 12 fights, with four of those losses coming via devastating knockout.

His return fight is scheduled for August 6, with the middleweight division being the most likely landing spot for the former champion.

UFC’s love affair with WWE continues

The UFC has long held a love-hate relationship with the WWE.

UFC President Dana White has never been shy about his admiration of sports entertainment kingpin Vince McMahon or his friendship with Vince’s son, Shane. It was rumored a few years ago that Shane McMahon was eyeing a hefty investment in the MMA company. Though that never came to fruition, the UFC has often imitated the WWE as far as production value is concerned.

White abhors any consideration that WWE is anything more than fake fighting. Still, his love of WWE-styled vignettes and promos has pushed the UFC to a different stratosphere as far as the ability to push or hype a fight is concerned.

For the trilogy fight between Dustin Poirier and Irish superstar Conor McGregor on July 10, the UFC tapped former WWE champion and fellow Irish-born superstar Becky Lynch.

UFC remains as real as it gets when it comes to combat sports, but the pomp and pageantry continue to borrow from WWE’s scripted universe unashamedly.

Greg Hardy blasts ‘ex-con’ Derrick Lewis, self-awareness takes a vacation

Ex-NFL player turned mixed martial artist Greg Hardy went on a tirade against heavyweight title contender Derrick Lewis.

Hardy and Lewis (sounds like a great comedic duo, actually) have a long-standing feud since Hardy’s 2018 UFC debut. Since then, things have not been cordial between the two heavyweights. Lewis let it be known that he had no love for the former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys defensive end.

In 2014, Hardy was infamously found guilty in a bench trial of assault and communicating threats to an ex-girlfriend only to appeal the decision and have the charges dropped when the victim failed to appear in court. His record was later expunged.

“He ran his mouth,” Hardy said to MMA Junkie and other reporters at the UFC media day. “Say my name and I’m coming for you. The boss is going to send me. That’s a guy that wasn’t mentioned but decided to grace his fat, Popeyes, greasy chicken lips with my name when I was a peasant when I was a young child. What would it look like for me to attack somebody that just came off the Contender Series right now? You’d be like, ‘Oh, he’s childish.’ But you guys let that man gyrate and beat little me? Nah, he needs to be handled.” (h/t MMA Junkie)

UFC Unfiltered Final Thought: Finally on cannabis-related infractions…

It’s only taken four years for NSAC to change how it handles athlete testing. Cannabis became legal in Nevada on January 1, 2017, with legal sales beginning on July 1.

The NSAC is one of the leading combat sports commissions globally, given that several mega boxing and mixed martial arts events happen within its jurisdiction yearly. It’s a huge win for athletes moving forward, as many have come out in support of the healing properties of cannabis both for the body and mind. In the new world of focusing on physical recovery and mental well-being, this can only be seen as a positive, if not late, step forward.

To be fair, UFC athletes can still face penalties for cannabis-related infractions if they are found to be visibly impaired on fight nights.

But I can’t help but feel for athletes who have been unfairly or rather harshly penalized for cannabis usage.

This same commission handed Nick Diaz a 5-year ban and a $165,000 fine in 2015 for failed drug tests. Diaz, 32, had been treating his ADHD with marijuana under the California medical marijuana laws at the time. His lawyer argued in vain that his samples had been mishandled (they most assuredly were) but the commission still struck a prime fighter down in his physical prime. Diaz will be 38 years old when he finally makes his return to fighting later this year.

Diaz is only one example. There has been a multitude of fighters who have faced lengthy bans and fines for minor cannabis-related infractions.

Regardless, at least now, these professional athletes can heal or relax however they want without having to look over their shoulders for cannabis-related infractions any longer.