cbd for mma fighters

If you train MMA, I can guarantee you always want to perform your best, both in and out of the ring.

So, what if I told you that CBD could help you maximize your performance, regardless of your experience?

Well, it can.

Read on for an in-depth look at how CBD can benefit MMA fighters.

Understanding the Demands of MMA

Before I look at the benefits of CBD for MMA fighters, it’s important to understand the demands of this sport.

Below I’ll take a closer look at what it takes to be a MMA fighter:

The Physical Demands of MMA

The most obvious demands of MMA fighting are physical.

Let’s start with training, for example.

In a brief interview with Ask Men, trainer and coach Mike Dolce explains the basic training day of a UFC fighter.

Fighters usually start their day between 6-8am with a light run and breakfast.

Between 10am and 12pm, fighters start their first hard training session.

Roughly 4-6 hours after their first session, fighters go back for their 2nd and final hard training session of the day.

Hard training sessions obviously vary greatly from one fighter to another.

However, they tend to include:

  • Sparring: Going toe-to-toe in the ring against another partner to practice skills and technique.
  • Strength and Conditioning: A combination of both strength and stamina workouts. This includes weight training, functional and circuit training, bodyweight workouts, cardio, and flexibility workouts.
  • Discipline Training: Discipline training really aims to hone in on a fighter’s technique and skill specific to the MMA discipline they specialize in.

Training sessions tend to vary and really focus on constantly pushing the athlete to their best.

In his interview, Mike Dolce explains that “hard sessions” are really defined by the intensity and volume of the training, not just the type of exercise.

Another important demand of MMA fighting is recovery.

If you don’t give your body everything it needs in order to recover from the gym, sparring, or even a fight, I can almost guarantee you won’t be as successful as you hope to be.

Like in any other sport, recovery is the stage where your body repairs, grows and adapts to the challenges you put in front of it.

There are many different aspects of sports recovery, but some of the most important include nutrition and rest.

Again, what a fighter eats and how they recover can vary.

In an interview with Boston Magazine, for example, UFC Welterweight Jon Manley explains that clean eating is probably the most important aspect of a fighter’s nutrition plan.

When it comes to rest, MMA fighters rely on good, solid sleep just as much as any other professional athlete.

Sleep is when your body repairs itself, builds muscle and refuels for the day ahead.

Mike Dolce recommends professional fighters get at least 8-9 hours of solid sleep every day.

The Psychological Demands of MMA Fighting

Besides the physical demands of fighting, training, and recovery, there’s also a very big psychological aspect to MMA.

MMA is a fast-paced, full-contact sport that encourages fighters to look for a submission or KO.

And let’s be honest; no one steps into that ring wanting anything other than a victory.

Combine the unpredictability of the sport with the imminent threat of injury and the pressure of winning, and you’ve got yourself some stressful fighting conditions.

Besides, the physical stress of constant training can also put fighters under a lot of psychological pressure.

In his interview with Ask Men, Mike Dolce touches on the pressures of fighting in the UFC Octagon and how fighters need to prepare accordingly.

“You have to feel that pace, the energy, and the intensity of competing in the octagon so you don’t get frazzled… You need to feel that in training thousands of times in order to defend yourself, reverse the role, and pull out the victory,” says Dolce.

In fact, sometimes the mind is what can help a fighter pull out a victory, even when facing a bigger or technically “better” opponent.

“The best fighter never wins, it’s always the guy who fights the best,” says applied sports psychologist Brian Cain (who has worked with UFC fighters like Georges St. Pierre).

And some of Cain’s clients agree.

Retired UFC Middleweight Champion Rich “Ace” Franklin says that, while MMA training is almost entirely physical, the day of the fight is almost entirely mental.

Being able to control the mind and manage the pressure of stepping into the ring is what can help some fighters outperform others.

How Can CBD Benefit MMA Fighters?

Until now, I’ve tried to briefly review the demands of being an MMA fighter in order to better understand the benefits of CBD for these athletes.

Note that this has been far from a comprehensive overview, and there’s a lot I haven’t been able to touch on.

For a more detailed look at the demands of being an MMA fighter, make sure to check out these resources:

By activating the endocannabinoid system, CBD can help MMA fighters manage pain, get better sleep, recover from training or injury, and much more.

Here’s a closer look at 6 ways CBD can benefit MMA fighters:

1. CBD Can Help You Sleep Better

The endocannabinoid system is involved in managing all kinds of bodily functions.

One of those functions is sleep.

As an athlete, I’m sure you understand the importance of a good night’s rest.

When we sleep, certain systems within our body kick into gear to help us recover and repair from the stress of training and get ready for the day ahead.

We know, for example, that most muscle repair and growth happens when we’re resting.

That’s because your body produces more muscle building hormones like Insulin Growth Factor and testosterone while you sleep.

We also know that systems like the glymphatic system work while we rest to clear the body and brain of toxic chemical build up.

Our blood pressure and heart rate also drop while we sleep, which some sleep experts refer to as a “reboot” of the cardiovascular system.

Besides knowing the benefits of sleeping, we also know that not getting enough shut-eye can lead to a wide variety of health problems.

Luckily, there’s a growing body of research that shows CBD and other cannabinoids can help athletes get better sleep.

Studies show, for example, that CBD can help us get to sleep faster, avoid waking during the night and leave us feeling rested and refreshed in the morning.

Here are a few studies that look at CBD and how it can affect sleep:

Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature (Current Psychiatry Reports, 2017)

CBD Affects The Sleep-Wake Cycle In Rats (Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2013)

Endocannabinoid Signalling Regulates Sleep Stability (PLoS One, 2016)

Cannabidiol, a Constituent of Cannabis Sativa, Modulates Sleep in Rats (FEBS Letters, 2006)

2. CBD is Great for Fighting Pain

There’s a lot of “ums,” “ifs,” and “buts” when it comes to cannabis research.

And that’s to be expected.

After all, cannabis and its derivatives have been so heavily criminalized over the last 70 years that it’s been almost impossible to study and, therefore, understand the plant and its compounds.

But if there’s one thing we know for certain about cannabinoids like CBD, it’s that they are very effective at relieving pain and inflammation.

In fact, the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of CBD is what makes it so popular among people with arthritis and other chronic pain conditions (even including fibromyalgia).

That’s because the endocannabinoid system plays a key role in managing how we experience and process pain.

Stimulating the endocannabinoid system can activate anti-inflammatory processes and relieve both acute and chronic inflammation.

This is great news for all kinds of athletes, especially MMA fighters who often have to deal with pain either from a fight or from training.

Something as simple as a CBD-rich balm, for example, can help reduce the pain, tenderness, and swelling of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (which, as an athlete, I’m sure you’re all-too-familiar with).

For a great overview of how CBD and other cannabinoids can help fight pain and inflammation, I highly recommend reading this review from the European Journal of Rheumatology.

3. CBD Can Help You Recover Faster

As I mentioned earlier, recovery is super important for MMA fighters.

Without recovery, your body simply can’t perform at its best.

Luckily, CBD can help here too.

Thanks to its ability to enhance sleep, fight pain and soreness, and relieve inflammation, CBD can help you recover both from training as well as injury.

While I don’t practice MMA, I regularly use CBD as part of my workout recovery routine.

I regularly use CBD balms and topicals, for example, to spot-treat sore and tight muscles after a tough day at the gym.

I also use CBD gummies and oils to unwind after a long day, prepare for bed, and get a solid, rejuvenating night’s sleep.

For a more detailed discussion on how CBD can help with sports recovery, click here.

4. CBD Has Neuroprotective Effects

Besides helping you sleep better and recover faster, CBD can even help protect your brain cells.

Again, this is big news for MMA fighters and any other contact sports athletes who regularly suffer from head trauma and/or concussions.

Knockouts or concussions happen when our brain suffers blunt trauma by hitting against our skull.

This blunt trauma damages brain cells and can cause neurons to fire rapidly, resulting in an overload of the central nervous system and causing us to lose consciousness.

CBD can help MMA fighters protect against and recover from brain damage caused by this kind of trauma.

That’s because CBD is neuroprotective and can also stimulate the growth of new, healthy brain cells.

In fact, CBD’s neuroprotective properties make it a promising treatment alternative for patients with neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and more.

For more information on the neuroprotective effects of CBD, make sure to check out this review:

Plastic and Neuroprotective Mechanisms Involved in the Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol in Psychiatric Disorders (Frontiers In Pharmacology, 2017)

5. CBD Can Help Athletes Avoid Other Medications

Another way CBD can help MMA fighters is this:

It can help you stay away from prescription pain medications like NSAIDs and opioids.

As I’m sure you’re aware, prescription painkillers have some very serious side effects.

Ibuprofen, for example, can cause stomach ulcers and liver/kidney problems when used excessively.

Opioids, on the other hand, can cause tolerance and addiction, alongside a variety of other adverse effects.

Unfortunately, for many contact sports athletes, these drugs have long been the only option for dealing with pain.

Using CBD, however, athletes can now get fast, effective relief from sports-related pain without all the side effects associated with regular analgesics.

That’s why UFC fighters like Nate Diaz, for example, turn to CBD for post-fight recovery and relief.

Following Diaz’s infamous press conference, many other MMA fighters have turned to CBD as well.

Nate Diaz smoking cbd oil at a UFC post fight news conference

Former UFC light heavyweight Quinton Jackson, for example, even thanked Diaz for introducing other athletes to CBD and its benefits.

Rampage Jackson talking about CBD oil
Screenshot taken from MMA Mania

Again, this all comes down to CBD’s ability to relieve pain and inflammation without any of the side effects associated with regular medications.

I’ve likely covered this topic in more detail in other posts which you can search here.

6. CBD Can Increase Focus and Energy

CBD is a really comprehensive supplement.

One final way it may help MMA fighters like you is by improving your focus and relieving anxiety.

Remember how I talked about how important it is for MMA fighters to be in the right headspace when fighting and training?

Well, CBD can help you get into that headspace thanks to its anxiolytic effects and ability to increase alertness.

While CBD is often described as a sedative, it actually has energizing effects in smaller doses.

That’s why I use it as part of my pre-workout routine, for example.

Not only can it help improve energy levels, but CBD can also help keep you focused and reduce stress and anxiety before performing.

Again, I’ll likely cover this topic in more detail in future posts which you can search for on the blog.

Start Reaping the Benefits of CBD Today

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing this.

Well, I’m an athlete myself, and while I don’t practice MMA, I use CBD for a number of reasons:

It helps me sleep better, treat sore muscles, and helps me recover and get back in the gym faster.

And I’m not alone:

More and more professional athletes are discovering the benefits of CBD every day.

If you’re an MMA fighter and looking for ways to recover faster and perform better, I highly recommend using CBD in the form of topicals, edibles, oils, and workout formulas.

Check out my homepage for in-depth reviews of different CBD products for athletes, and make sure to read my blog for more articles like this.

Finally, to learn more about my personal experience with CBD, make sure to check out my About page here.


Hey I'm Tyler the main contributor here at CBD for Athletics. I'm a huge CBD enthusiast and I've been studying how CBD can improve overall athletic performance for years. I've personally seen great results with CBD, and if you decide to use it, I hope it helps you achieve your fitness goals.