UFC 159 is actually the second time marijuana has impacted Bryan Caraway‘s professional MMA career, but the first in which it’s actually paid off.
At UFC 149, Caraway saw a $65,000 bonus slip through his hands when Matt Riddle tested positive for the drug. Although Caraway had the only other submission victory on the fight card, the promotion already had given Riddle the check.
There was a small consolation: He and opponent Mitch Gagnon earned a pair of $65,000 “Fight of the Night” checks.
But when the UFC changed its rules to withhold bonuses pending drug-test results, Caraway became the first beneficiary when lightweight Pat Healy‘s fight-night bonuses from the April 27 pay-per-view event were taken away after he tested positive for pot.
With the only other submission win of the night – a third-round guillotine choke of Johnny Bedford (19-10-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) on the FX-televised prelims – Caraway (18-6 MMA, 3-1 UFC) was awarded one of Healy’s $65,000 checks.
Considering he haggled for a raise beforehand, upping the payouts by $15,000, he won even bigger.
“I couldn’t be more happy, and it was an insanely pleasant surprise,” said Caraway, who told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) he got a call from UFC President Dana White late Tuesday night to inform him of the news.
One thing Caraway isn’t feeling is guilt over taking the extra money, which he said marked the most lucrative payday of his career. Some MMA observers have offered sharp criticism of the size of Healy’s garnishment relative to his crime, but Caraway, who hails from pot-legal Washington state, feels the decision is just.
“All I’ve got to say is that’s some expensive weed,” he said. “I like Healy a lot. I came up through the fighting ranks with him. We used to train together at Team Quest. I love the guy. But I have absolutely zero remorse or guilt.
“I hate weed. I cannot stand it. I’ve never tried it. I’ve never smoked a drug in my life. So I have absolutely zero tolerance for people that do it. I don’t care if it’s legal in some places or not. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. Whether it’s legal in real life or not, they tell you to follow the rules. You need to follow the rules.”
Caraway invested and bought a Corvette with his UFC 149 bonus money, but this time around, he said he will save the money for a down payment on a house.
The 28-year-old hasn’t always been favored by MMA fans, who’ve taken jabs at him and his relationship with girlfriend and fellow UFC fighter Miesha Tate. He was blasted for threatening on Twitter to break the arm of UFC champ (and Tate rival) Ronda Rousey when she said she could beat him up. But as of late, his fortunes seem to be changing.
The call to fight at UFC 159 came five days before the event when an injury forced Erik Perez to withdraw. Caraway cut in excess of 20 pounds to make the bantamweight limit and said afterward that he will never cut that much again.
But now, it’s clear he made the right choice.
“It was the best five-day decision I’ve ever made,” Caraway said. “There’s going to be haters in this sport, but I know I’m a genuinely good person, and I know that’s eventually going to shine through. People are going to start seeing my character and that I’m a tough dude. It does feel good to get recognition. It’s welcoming.”
As for when he fights next, Caraway said he’s strongly considering surgeries for his shoulder and his knee, but he also wants to stay active.
“I don’t want to get my shoulder surgery because I know it’s going to put me out for three, four, five, possibly six months, and that scares me,” he said. “I’ve fought all my UFC fights with my shoulder torn, so we’ll see what happens. I want to get back in there and fight soon, but Miesha is going to force me to get my shoulder fixed because she’s going to kick my butt, and I don’t want that.”
For complete coverage of UFC 159, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.