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These Pro MMA Fighters Don’t Just Use Cannabis, They Embrace It

At a time when some professional leagues are fining and suspending players for cannabis use, a group of leading MMA fighters and jiu jitsu champions are openly embracing cannabis as part of their training program and health regimen. This weekend they’ll gather in San Jose, Calif., for the world’s first “Cannathlete Seminar” program, which is open to the public.

Former UFC contender and Strikeforce Champion Jake Shields as well as three-time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion Denny Prokopos will co-host the “Cannathlete – Train Like a Champion” series from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The event is open to anyone interested in learning more about how to optimize their mental and physical performance with cannabis.

Tickets for the event are $125, which includes a doctor’s recommendation, or $100 if you already have an in-state recommendation. During the event, Shields will discuss the ways he manages his competitive nerves through diet and strength conditioning, while Prokopos will lead a series of breathing, meditation, and self-defense exercises in addition to sharing how he incorporates cannabis into his daily training routines.

The event is co-sponsored by VapeXhale, maker of a vape pen marketed toward athletes. Company founder and CEO Seibo Shen is a fellow MMA fighter and former stuntman. His company sponsors both Shields and Prokopos, and he hopes so-called cannathletes — athletes who incorporate cannabis within their daily workouts — catch on in the sporting world.

Jake Shields. Photo courtesy of VapeXhale

Jake Shields. Photo courtesy of VapeXhale

Shen, a veteran in the tech industry, has been a lifelong jui jitsu practitioner. After several years away from the sport, he looked to find a way back into martial arts. He eventually arrived at 10th Planet Jui Jitsu in California, run by jiu jitsu legend Eddie Bravo.

Bravo, a well-known regular on the Joe Rogan Podcast, has been a longtime cannabis supporter. At 10th Planet, Shen was introduced to Denny Prokopos and began training and sharing ideas.

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“I think it is a match made in heaven,” Shen told Leafly in a recent interview. “We were really trying to push the envelope of how healthy and efficient vaporizers can be, and here I found someone who was doing jui jitsu and had the same type of ideologies and methodologies as me.

“Once we started talking about cannabis and health, I started to notice what Denny was doing not just to train his body, but also [his] mind and spirt with yoga and meditating. I started implementing those practices as well.”

Eddie Bravo, left, and Denny Prokopos. Photo courtesy of VapeXhale

Eddie Bravo, left, and Denny Prokopos. Photo courtesy of VapeXhale

Prokopos agreed that the two hit it off immediately.

“From the beginning we have shared the same vision, which is, basically: jujitsu, cannabis, health, success, recovery, positive mental attitude — and we want to contribute,” he told Leafly. “We see that cannabis, jujitsu, strength and conditioning, meditation, and yoga — things of those natures and recovery — go hand and hand.”

Denny added, “We want to put something together that is unique, that hasn’t been done, and we think people will like it. This is something that I have been doing for a very long time myself — I am the lab rat on everything for this. I love it; it is my whole lifestyle.”

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Shields, a former UFC contender who fought the legendary Georges St-Pierre for the welterweight title at UFC 129, agreed with Shen and his training partner Prokopos. People would be surprised at how many fighters use cannabis, Shields said..

“It is a big crossover between jujitsu guys, MMA guys and cannabis,” he explained. “I would say half, if not more of the guys smoke, a lot of them not openly. I think more guys feel like they can come out about it now with the climate change” in favor of legalization. “It is a big part of the training for a lot of people. I definitely don’t smoke every day, but sometimes it is a good way to go in there and smoke a little bit and be a little more creative — like sometimes when you are in a big training camp before a competition, it really makes training fun again.”

Jake Shields. Photo courtesy of VapeXhale

Jake Shields. Photo courtesy of VapeXhale

All three athletes agreed that cannabis has helped them become more creative in jujitsu. When he began vaping, Prokopos said, it helped him approach things from a different perspective.

“One of the things that I realized early on was, when I first started smoking cannabis or vaping, I would see things I would normally would not see, and I started looking from a different lens, in a way,” he said. “Then also, when I started rolling, it relaxed me, I opened up, I cared a lot less about being smashed. I was a lot more interested in the moves.”

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For Shields, cannabis isn’t something he takes advantage of every time he goes to work and competes. He describes it more as an aid, used to bring a change of pace to training camp.

“It brings a whole new experience to it,” he said. “I certainly don’t encourage this during every workout, but maybe try it both ways so you can get new ideas and become more creative.”

“Cannathlete – Train Like A Champion” begins at 10 a.m. at the Cannathlete Training Center, on 96 N. Almaden Blvd., San Jose, Calif., 95110. 

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