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Big John Leading Cause For Cannabis in MMA?

(Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The Dean of MMA referees ‘Big’ John McCarthy is the son of the inventor of police SWAT teams. The younger McCarthy was a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department for 22 years, from 1985 to 2002. He has never smoked marijuana. In short, Big John is not some wacky radical anarchist hippie. However, in a recent interview with Bill Shehan for Vegas Cannabis Mag, he took a progressive attitude towards cannabis.

Bill Sheehan: With concussions and brain damage playing major roles on fighters’ lives and families, what else can be done to help brain trauma and recovery?

Big John McCarthy: The understanding of concussions and their severity is one of the big hurdles facing all combat or contact sports. We must do everything we can to educate the fighters about taking care of themselves not only in the cage, but in training as well. We need to do more to keep the fighters from getting dehydrated and carrying that condition into competition. We need to learn from studies concerning alternative medications that are less harmful to the fighters overall health and ones that actually help regenerate cell activity instead of impede it. Thanks to researchers like Professor Yosef Sarne of Tel Aviv University, we’ve discovered that cannabis may help prevent long-term brain damage by administering THC before or shortly after the injury. In fact, Israel Defense Force (IDF) practitioners administer CBD or low-dose THC as a first-line of treatment to IDF soldiers. Is that something that could possibly help a fighter who has developed Traumatic Brain Injury or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy? I don’t know for sure, but why in the world would we not explore the possibility?

BS: The UFC has a 50 nanogram limit on THC; do you anticipate the UFC ever lifting their ban on THC for medical purposes?

BJM: Well, the UFC doesn’t test fighters. The UFC uses USADA as the organization that checks and tests fighters under contract to the UFC. USADA does have a 50 nanogram limit on THC during in-competition hours. Those hours are 12 hours each side of the fighters competition time. There is no limit on THC in what is called out of competition testing. If you test positive for 300 nanograms of THC during a test that is outside of in-competition testing, you will not be penalized by USADA. What they are saying is, we don’t want fighters under the influence of THC during the actual fight. They are not saying that they think THC is performance enhancing, what they are saying is they don’t want a fighter under the influence of THC because it could possibly slow his reactions or instincts which could possibly endanger that fighter who has THC in their system.

BS: Many MMA fighters, as well as other professional athletes, have obtained a doctor’s recommendation to utilize and possess medical cannabis. Should fighters be able to choose cannabis over addicting pills and traditional Dark Age medicines?

BJM: I think every athlete under the care of a physician should be able to discuss with their physician what type of medication is best for their particular style of life and ailments. I think it is silly to say that marijuana is a dangerous drug while opiates and opioids are being used all the time and under medical supervision are considered safe. Any medication can have side effects, but we should always be open to finding better ways to handle some of the aches, pains, and problems that come with pushing your body to the point of it breaking down. I can remember commercials from when I was a kid that talked about all of the health benefits associated with smoking cigarettes. Is that what we say today? We should always be striving to learn and evolve. We should never hold onto old and outdated methods just because that’s the way we did it then.

BS: Fighters are extremely conscious of what they put in their bodies. Jon Fitch once told me that he uses cannabis to recover, and as a dietary supplement to induce hunger and get the calories he needs. Many professional athletes use medical cannabis as an alternative to addicting and liver-damaging pills. It’s time that Joe Rogan uses his passion and understanding of cannabis to help change the minds around him. It’s time to acknowledge this plant, not as a substance of abuse, but rather, as a useful medicine. The UFC should #standupforcannabis the way they support Budweiser, change this rule today. What is your opinion on cannabis as it relates to fighting?

BJM: Well, let’s make one thing clear. I have never ingested cannabis. Growing up, my father was against it and I have had asthma my whole life so I wasn’t big on inhaling anything into my lungs. So, I don’t have any type of personal experience to say yes or no. But my personal opinion on marijuana as a Performance Enhancing Drug for fighting is absolutely not!!! I think the problem with marijuana when it comes to fighting is it can reduce your abilities, slow you down, diminish your reflexes, which in essence makes it more dangerous for the fighter ingesting the marijuana.


BS: Any last words?

BJM: I just hope that everyone out there understands that we are all the same, but we are also different. What works for one person might not work for another. We must constantly strive to improve our QUALITY OF LIFE. I am the first person that thinks abuse of any kind is wrong. I know that seems funny coming from a guy that stands in a cage with two people beating the crap out of each other. But that is sport. Putting two skilled people against each other is competition. When you have one person that has skills, fighting another person that doesn’t, now you have an abusive situation. Nobody should abuse anything, be it alcohol, cannabis or even food. We all need to understand what our limits are, and know when we are ingesting more than our bodies need, but the craziness that has clouded the true medical benefits of cannabis needs to end. We need to embrace the fact that we have access to a natural product that can positively affect the lives of millions of people. What can be better than that?

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Aaron Portier
Highly passionate MMA Journalist, and I've followed the sport ever since my favorite fighter, Vitor Belfort won the heavyweight tournament at UFC 12. After that I've tried to go to every local MMA event around the Gulf Coast and surrounding areas and decided to make it a point to have a career in some aspect in the fighting sport other than fighting in general (didn't want to ruin my face). I'm currently enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana University working towards a degree in Communication. I cover MMA, Boxing and Football for The Daily Star newspaper in my hometown of Hammond, Louisiana, in addition to working as a promotional writer for a local Boxing promotion known as BoxnCar and I cover boxing for 8countnews.com however SciFighting.com is my home. My main goal is to bring more publicity to MMA in my area and to the sport as a whole as all of us involved with the sport are merely scratching the surface and laying the foundation of what mixed martial arts competition will be further down the road.