LAS VEGAS – Canadian cannabis conglomerate Aurora Cannabis and mixed martial arts promotion company Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have partnered for an eight-year research study that will involve treating UFC fighters with CBD-based medicinal applications, as research subjects.
A detailed announcement of the partnership was posted on the UFC’s website and a full media scrum was held where UFC President Dana White spoke on camera about treating pain with CBD—including himself as an example—and said the project’s goal was to innovate medicine for athletes or anyone suffering from pain. White took questions from reporters, one of whom asked if he had tried CBD.
“I just had shoulder surgery,” White said. “Rotator cuff surgery, and the physical therapists are using it. The physical therapist used CBD oil on me—it’s the future.
“I’d rather do this than pain pills,” he added. “If this is a viable option—that this can help some athletes, or any human being that’s in pain, I believe this is the future.”
Research will be conducted at UFC’s Performance Institute located in Las Vegas, with a team led by Dr. Jason Dyck, a professor at the University of Alberta and a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Medicine. The doctor also is a director on the board of Aurora Cannabis and provides guidance to the company’s scientific efforts.
UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky stood alongside White during the press conference, and explained that many athletes are already using CBD “in lieu of” other conventional, often addictive, medications, including “opioids, Xanax, Ambien, and other sleep aids.” Anecdotal evidence, he said, pointed toward positive results for CBD users. Formal research will go to further necessary clinical data, scientific findings, and documentation of CBD’s specific effects.
Cannabis-derived CBD, also known as cannabidiol, was removed from the list of prohibited substances for UFC and the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2018 (though psychoactive cannabinoid THC still remains prohibited). Since then, Novitzky said he estimates half of UFC athletes are currently using CBD.
“Our partnership with UFC is about committing to the science that will educate and advocate,” said Aurora Chief Executive Officer Terry Booth, in the UFC announcement. “We are going to work together to change the way people think, to change the industry, and to launch the first hemp-derived CBD products that are backed by scientific research. The brand-building and product development are all part of our move into the U.S., and in collaboration with UFC, and we intend to play a major role in that market.”
The UFC announcement also included comment from Dr. Dyck, who said, “We will be able to provide the UFC with clear evidence that determines which products are the best products to provide to their athletes. At the end of the day we are looking to make evidence based research on CBD products and understand how to best help athletes recover and improve the overall health of UFC fighters.”
Aurora and UFC anticipate starting the first phase of the program as soon as possible, and that they will begin the second phase six months from now.