Johnny Walker hasn’t been the same for three years, he said in an interview with MMA Fighting’s free exchange. The Brazilian brawler, who returns to action on Saturday against Ion Cutelaba at UFC 279, explained how cannabidiol (CBD) use has led to decreased quality of life and mental health issues.
Walker started using CBD oil during his UFC run to improve his sleep and recovery after being approached by companies offering sponsorship deals in the past, but it took him years to detect that this was the cause of the many problems he encountered.
“I had no idea, and only found out about four or five months ago, that CBD has a small amount of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), a small percentage, and I’m extremely allergic to THC,” Walker said. . “It gives me schizophrenia, a panic attack. I’ve been drugged every day for the past three years and I didn’t know it. It’s not strong, it’s a small percentage, but my brain is super sensitive to these substances and I didn’t know it.
Walker said he’s had two “episodes” in the past few years that were caused by his CBD use.
After his fight against Thiago Santos in October 2021, Walker decided to take “ten doses” of CBD to ease the pain caused by an ankle injury sustained in the five-round decision loss, leaving him “f*** *** crazy” for days.
The panic attacks worsened further during a vacation trip to Thailand with his fiancée, he said.
“I went to Thailand and the first week there I had an episode, the [CBD I used] had higher levels of THC,” Walker said. “It’s not huge, but high enough for my brain. I took 10 days to come back [to normal], brother. I was spoiled for 10 days. My fiancée had to take care of me like a baby. I wouldn’t let her get away from me, I didn’t trust anyone.
“She was giving me diazepam to sleep but I spat it out, I didn’t trust her. She put diazepam in a pudding and I ate two. I slept for half an hour and woke up and she was off for a massage, and I went after her. I took a van, a taxi, I went to get her. Brother, I gave him a hard time. I woke up in the middle of the night seeing things, woke up and started packing my bags saying I wanted to go home, that I couldn’t stay there anymore. It was a difficult episode, bro, and I knew it wasn’t normal.
Walker said he researched CBD earlier this year and realized it wasn’t good for him. He now sleeps “like a baby” with the help of two mental coaches and no medication, and the 30-something feels his sanity is finally where it should be.
“When I stopped using [CBD] I became more confident and trusted people more, I was able to focus on a goal and get to the gym early. My life is 100% better now bro,” he said. “I had been on drugs for three years and I didn’t even know it. I’m just healthier now, head in the right place, able to make plans and everything works.
“I was arguing with my fiancée all the time, thinking a bunch of bullshit. I wasn’t acting like myself, you know? It affected me a lot and I had no idea what it was. The more anxious I got, the more CBD I took, thinking “this shit will help calm me down”, and I drugged myself more with the poison. I do not say [CBD] it’s like that for everyone, it’s good for anxiety, but not for me, who suffers from hyperactivity (ADHD). THC was no good [for me] and I didn’t know.
“I’m back to being the guy I used to be. I didn’t need any of that – just rice, beans and supplements, training hard and nothing else. I’m better now with all the experience I’ve gained, at the level where I am. I fight the best in the world and I have to take responsibility for that. I know it’s hard. They train hard like me, they are great, they are champions in their country.
Feeling ‘more mature’ as a man and an athlete and reading more books every week – he is currently reading ‘Behind The Mask’ by Tyson Fury – Walker said the past three years have been ‘a tough time’ for him because ‘life doesn’t prepare you when you go from nothing to success, to fame and money, to other countries and other opportunities.
“We have to stumble and learn to deal with everything around you,” he said. “I made a lot of mistakes and I learned from each of them. I had mental health issues for the past three years and managed to win. I’m more focused now. I was always a bit late for training, focusing on different things, doing more strength and conditioning. Now I understand what I need. I’m a fighter, I’m not a weightlifter. I focused more on martial arts this time.
“It’s a daily fight,” he added, “but I’m ready, I’m happy, I’m motivated, I’m back and I’ve already won. Let’s go.”
Walker has lost four of his last five UFC fights after an impressive 3-0 start in the business, and feeling better mentally could help deal with the pressure of having his back against the wall.
Cutelaba is also looking to bounce back from a loss, a first-round loss to Ryan Spann in May.
“If Cutelaba fights like he does in all of his fights, I’m going to knock him out,” Walker said. “I’ll catch him with a counter or set traps for him, make him miss a punch and when he does, it’ll be lousy. If he knocks me down, he has no jiu-jitsu for me. His jiu-jitsu isn’t tight enough and he won’t be able to hold me there, and I can submit him. But the plan is to knock him out.
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