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Matt Riddle opens up on marijuana use ahead of UFC 154 bout

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When the UFC visited Calgary in July for UFC 149, it should have been one of the greatest nights of young Matt Riddle’s career. After a hard-fought back and forth battle, he latched on an arm-triangle submission and dragged Ontario’s Chris Clements to the ground, submitting him in the third round.

The jubilation on Riddle’s face was evident, the smile from ear-to-ear. This was his kind of fight. He got in the cage with a fighter who was willing to brawl and the two stood toe-to-toe. For Riddle, this is all he ever wanted.

“I know it sounds stupid, I’d rather fight more exciting and lose a close fight than lay on top of somebody and win a boring 30-27. When I started in the UFC I went 3-0 in my first 3 fights. I don’t even think I got punched in the face, maybe once or twice in three fights. All I did was take people down and grind them out. I didn’t make as much money as I do now, people didn’t know who I was, and I wasn’t really having that much fun. I was hurting people, but it wasn’t exciting.”

But the glory of UFC 149 was short-lived for Riddle. After a submission of the night victory – which could have easily taken fight of the night as well – Riddle tested positive for marijuana. Despite a license to use drugs from the state of Nevada, Riddle was stripped of his victory. Even taking the fight on short notice, he paid the price.

“The last time (for UFC 149) I was training a lot so I didn’t have to drop much and I wasn’t fluctuating weight too much. I was close to weight. I got drug tested right after the fight. I think if they would have got a sample of my pee after I had let the water actually kick in, I wouldn’t have popped. I barely popped as is and my urine was brown when it came out because I was so dehydrated. It was really concentrated.”

Riddle’s marijuana use has become a science within itself, and how long before a fight he stops taking the drug is timed to avoid testing positive. Riddle knows the game, and knows when to quit using. He does not want to be “the pot guy” and he doesn’t plan on getting caught again.

“When I know I have a fight coming up, I usually cut back and then I quit at least two weeks out prior to a fight. Two weeks ago Saturday (Oct. 27) I probably smoked my last little bit. The UFC hit me up a week before the fight (at UFC 149) and I quit right away. I quit the second they called me for this fight because I don’t want to fail again.”

Marijuana smoking is nothing new to Riddle, as he’s been a user since his teens. Following the recent U.S. election, Riddle released a Facebook status celebrating the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. Although he doesn’t consider himself an advocate, he does believe the drug should be legalized everywhere.

“I would like to say I’m that (an advocate), but I would never say I’m the one carrying the torch. I think there are a lot of people like myself out there who have been using it since mid-teens and it’s not bad for us. I’m out there getting submission of the night. There are other athletes like Allen Iverson who smoke all the time. There are scientists who smoke, there are doctors who smoke, and it’s not something that’s so taboo. The government, the way they’ve made it out, they make it seem like a crime and drug dealers sell it. It’s not, it’s a plant. The only reason people think it’s bad is because of propaganda back in the day. I’m not buying that shit. I know what’s up; I’ve used it for years. I’m in perfect health. It inhibits cancer cells, people in chemo use it. It makes me feel great. It’s the dumbest thing that it’s illegal anywhere. It’s a plant. That’s just my opinion.”

“The fat cats in Washington and the pharmaceutical companies with the money, they hate what I say and they hate what I think and everybody else that thinks like me. If I’m addicted to Vicodin, I have to go buy it. If I want to smoke weed, I can grow it in my back yard. That’s the problem I have. It’s something completely natural, but people want to make money and be selfish and that’s why it’s outlawed and why it’s banned.”

Life is not easy for the welterweight when not on his medicine. The mood changes are drastic, and he’s difficult to be around for training partners and family members. With two children already and a third on the way, the pressure for Riddle to be controlled out of the cage and violent in it is immense.

“I’m very high strung. When I’m not using, I’m pretty intense. Even from an early age, when my parents would catch me smoking they would say ‘we don’t want you smoking, but you’re such a nice person and you’re calm and you listen and you relax.’ I used to be prescribed Ritalin and Adderall. For me, it just makes me normal. It slows me down to the right speed. I can think before I act and now just going everywhere having road rage. Right now I drive about 95 (miles per hour) everywhere I go in Vegas and if you get in my way I’m freaking out. I’m just trying to relax and get ready for this fight.”

“I’m just really short with people, and I feel bad about it. My wife will ask me a question and I’ll think it’s a dumb question and be like “why are you asking me stupid questions?” I shouldn’t respond to her like that, or anyone else that’s asking me a question. I’m on edge. I’ve got a fight coming up. I’ve got 2 kids and another on the way. I’ve got a lot of things on my mind. I can’t just sit back and relax and slow everything down. Things build up and that’s when my temper comes out.”

Riddle was originally schedule to fight Besam Yousef on Saturday night until Yousef dropped out of the bout to injury, an injury Riddle thinks was non-existent. Now Riddle takes on British slugger Tom Maguire, who just might be looking for revenge, as Riddle infuriated many when he referred to British people as “Butter-tooth Brits” follow an incident in Manchester.

“He (Besam Yousef) supposedly got injured. I personally don’t believe that at all for a second. He knew he was going to get taken down and his face beat in with elbows, and that’s what it is. The same manager who represents him represents John Maguire. Maybe because I called British people “Buttertooth Brits”, maybe that’s why he is coming at me. I personally don’t care. I don’t have anything against British people. I have something against the guy in Manchester who spit in my face.”

On Saturday night at UFC 154, Riddle is hoping to put the drama behind him and do what he loves: fight. And if you ask Riddle, he’s more prepared than ever for this bout. A test cut in the weeks leading up to UFC 154 saw Riddle make weight without issue and if you look at photos he’s posted, he might just be in the best shape of his life. Instead of hoping from gym to gym, Riddle now brings in training partners, and compliments grappling Guru Robert Drysdale for taking him to the next level.

“Even though I’ve been in the UFC, it’s hard to find good trainers who actually help you. Not just say they’re working with you, but actually help you. Sit down with you, go over your fights, and learn from them. I’ve never had that until this last camp for Chris Clements, I had a week with Drysdale. Now for this camp I’ve had three weeks with Drysdale plus I’ve been training the whole time. It’s amazing. I have people who want me to win. There are people who are telling me what I need to do, when I need to do it and how to do it. Literally, before I was just doing bag work, running 4 miles a day and showing up at random gyms for jiu-jitsu classes and sparring.”

“Now I’m working mitts with James McSweeney, I’m doing jits (jui-jitsu) with Robery Drysdale, and anyone who wants to wrestle me or spar with me, they come find me. It’s pretty legit. I’m more prepared for this fight on three weeks than I’ve ever been with a full camp.”

John Maguire is certainly not a ‘gimme’ fight for the American. The Brit is 18-4, with 10 submission victories. Fans had long been calling for “The One” to enter the octagon, and will come in hungry following a dismal debut performance against John Hathaway.

“He’s tough. I know he’s got a chin. He’s a lot shorter than me. Not saying he’s weaker, but he’s short and smaller. His stand-up is a little iffy. Not saying I’m world class by any means, but his stand-up is not the greatest. His jiu-jitsu from what I’ve seen and gathered is top notch. When he grabs an arm, he usually breaks it. He’s got good moves, he’s got sharp moves. He’s no joke on the ground, but then again, I’m no joke on the ground. I’ve rolled with black belts since I’ve started.”

“The game plan is I’m going to hurt his body, hurt him and then probably take him down and grind him. When he thinks he’s going to be winning, I’m going to be too slippery and sweaty, and then I’ll probably finish him.”

Riddle isn’t in an easy fight, and he wouldn’t want one. The Ultimate Fighter veteran considers it his job to keep fans on their feet, and seemingly has found great success doing so north of the border. A UFC 124 bout in Montreal against Sean Pierson had fans on their feet, followed up by the UFC 149 bout against Chris Clements, it’s easy to see why Riddle is fired up for his third trip to Canada.

“I love fighting in Canada. They are probably the greatest fans in the world. I remember when I fought Sean Pierson in the Bell Centre, that place was packed. Every person was in their seat before the first fight started. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a live fight here in Vegas, but nobody even shows up until the main card starts, and most of them are too drunk to know what’s going on. It’s Vegas, people like to party.”

“I like fighting anywhere other than Vegas. It seems like it would be the best place to fight, but it isn’t. It’s kind of the crappiest place to fight. I live in Vegas, but you don’t get that same love for the game.”

At UFC 154, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Riddle will return to take on Maguire in what could easily steal fight of the night. And after a year of controversy outside of the cage, it`s something Riddle would love to see happen.

“Fighting for me is kind of like my release. I love fighting. I’m happy fighting and competing. The problem is I can’t fight every day. My body can’t take that and I wouldn’t want to take that punishment in the long run.”

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