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Matt Riddle Interviews with NORML Athletics

image_Matt Riddle in NORML Athletics Shirt “Marijuana is my miracle drug. It made everything better. It made me happy. It made me deal with what I was going through at the time. I love marijuana.” Matt Riddle is outspoken on the benefits of deliberate marijuana use.

His relationship with the plant started when he was entering adulthood. Growing up, Matt was always high strung. He would cut up in class and didn’t take his studies seriously. He grades reflected the indifference toward school. But once he began smoking marijuana occasionally, he noticed a change in his demeanor. His grades improved and so did his disposition.

“When I started getting more competitive with wrestling, I started using cannabis a lot more. I noticed when I used cannabis I wasn’t the class clown. I was focused on wrestling and becoming a better wrestler. By the time I was a junior in high school I won state and nationals. Cannabis… helped me focus on what I needed to be focusing on.”

After college he moved to New York to focus on another form of grappling. Matt trained jiujitsu and in the process sought a proper balance of marijuana in his practice. He would use cannabis before and after most workouts which were as often as three times a day.

“When i first started training, we’d rip a couple tubes each and get our gi’s on. We would do jiujitsu for hours, just talking, and doing the moves, and we really didn’t have a great instructor at the time so we just bought books and DVDs. And we might sit around reading the books, smoking some weed and say “hey let’s try this!” It worked for me. I got to the UFC pretty quick.”

In 2008 after taking advantage of his spot on the reality show Ultimate Fighter Matt won his first UFC fight in the Season 7 Finale. He parlayed this opportunity into a stellar UFC record of 9-3 over the next five years. But when he tested positive for marijuana after UFC 149 and then again after the fourth win in a row, UFC terminated Matt’s contract. His sponsors did too.

“I never smoked prior to a fight. I was always clean when I fought. But leading up to a fight it helped me out, with my family, with my issues that are my own. It kept me on a sane path. One of these sponsors would smoke weed at their house, find out that I smoked weed, and they would stop paying me. That’s how it’s looked at. They might do it themselves behind closed doors, but if the public knows, they’ll drop you. You’re a professional athlete, but god forbid you smoke marijuana.“

The world should know though that despite UFC’s puritanical stance on marijuana, more than 80% of the jiujitsu community ingests marijuana regularly, according to Matt. “People who do jiujitsu love marijuana.”

Even Joe Rogan, the UFC’s personality commentator is outspoken on the benefits of deliberate marijuana use and the plant’s numerous psychoactive and biologically healing properties. Some practitioners use cannabis to accept the pain that goes along with bruises, strained ligaments, and broken bones. Others use the plant to enhance their mind-body connection and put them into an accelerated state of flow. Unfortunately too few in the jiujitsu community are outspoken about the plants value. Despite its widespread use, the topic is still taboo.

“UFC says marijuana is a performance enhancing drug. [They say it] enhances your performance in the cage. You still feel pain when you’re high, it just takes your mind off of it. It does not relieve pain or get rid of your pain. Marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug. It’s a life enhancing drug.”

Science agrees with Matt on this subject. Since the results of first federally funded study on the psychological effects of marijuana were published, the consensus has been the benefits of a marijuana ‘high’ far outweigh the risks. The majority of the characteristic traits associated with how cannabis changes our outlook reads like a list of qualities we traditionally value as a society. Increased empathy. Greater acceptance. Deeper gratitude. Insight into self and others. The list of benefits is long.

Because the intensity of the effects can vary based on a number of factors, casual use isn’t recommended. Beginners and experts alike should respect the psychoactive properties of THC. Matt says people approach him often looking for guidance in mixing cannabis into their practice.

For starters, if you care about your cardio performance, don’t smoke blunts.

“Take the cigar paper off that and smoke out of bowl… or better yet, vaporize it. And, after all that, you feel like it’s still affecting your cardio, you need to digest it. Everyone has a different tolerance and different preference on how they want to feel. I never give too much advice on that. You shouldn’t get baked out of your gourd. Be functioning when you come in to train.

I’m a smoker. I smoke glass tubes.  Maybe 3 to 5 one hitters, or maybe just two that day depending on how I feel. I like the immediate effect. Edibles take longer. A lot of other athletes I know are into vaporizing and eating it. But in my mind marijuana never affected my cardio. My nickname in UFC was Deep Waters, because as the fight went on I got stronger. It never made me tired.”

Because of his high strung and energetic nature, Matt prefers a heavy indica. A strain like Girl Scout Cookie strikes that ideal balance of relaxation and focus for him. But it’s up to everyone to dial in that preferred strain with their ideal dose.

“[Marijuana can] help a lot. Especially when you’re trying to balance work and fitness. Instead of stressing about it you’ll just do it. And the feedback I’ve gotten has been extremely positive. Everyone says it’s a miracle plant. It’s a miracle drug. It makes everything better. It makes life easier. It helps you get through the day. It helps you get through training. It helps you enjoy the training.”

Because the plant is only legal in some states and remains illegal at the federal level, everyone who is a potential consumer must do so with some caution. Matt shared his thoughts on who does the most harm to the cause and who should be leading the activism movement.

“In my eyes [marijuana] is the least harmful thing on the planet. You can die from drinking too much water, you cannot die from using too much marijuana. It baffles my mind how it’s illegal, how some people are in jail and might never get out over a plant that it literally not harmful. I still think that i made out like a bandit, because at least i still get to see my family. Yeah, I’m a victim of prohibition but at the same respect I’m paying less of a price than a lot of these other people.

I’m not a person that wants pot. I’m a person who needs it. When I was at the party [at the Playboy Mansion], many people there who just wanted it. They abused it and made it look bad. It’s a bunch of people who really don’t need this. It’s one thing if you use it recreationally – and I think that’s acceptable too. But at the same time, the people who are using it recreationally shouldn’t be fighting that fight. The people who NEED it should be fighting that fight, because they have the passion to fight it.”

Matt has final words of wisdom for those of us who want take full advantage of this life while using marijuana responsibly.

“Whether you’re a professional athlete, or doctor or construction worker, we’re all human beings, and we all have stress. We all have pain. We all care. So, don’t judge somebody just because you knew one skeevy stoner. A lot of us aren’t like that. Most of us, especially if you’re a pro athlete or you’re a doctor or you’re a lawyer or you’re a school teacher, because i’ve met tons of these people that all smoke marijuana, and they’re all extremely successful and great people i don’t think there’s any reason why anybody should frown upon us for using a non-lethal, medicinal plant that has done nothing but make people happy.”

Matt currently teaches jiujitsu at several gyms in the eastern Pennsylvania area and offers private lessons. He is also pursuing a livelihood in his childhood dream of professional wrestling.

Matt can be contacted through Twitter @riddletuf7

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