A meeting at rapper Wiz Khalifa’s studio between “Mighty” Matt and “Big Lonn” ignited the spark that started High Rollerz. The submission-only grappling event not only embraces cannabis use but requires each participant to smoke a joint with their opponent before the match. If you’re going to compete at HR, you’re going to compete high. Several pounds of cannabis later, the event is still going strong and growing in popularity. And with an all-women exclusive night, the ladies have joined in the fun.
Story: Evelyn Sutton | Photos: Blanca Marisa Garcia & High Rollerz
Walking into High Rollerz HQ in Las Vegas for the first time is like walking into a dream. A very lucid dream. A heavy fog of burning marijuana hangs in the comfortably trendy reception area. A large variety of bongs, pipes, weed, beverages and snacks for the munchies are readily available, as well as High Rollerz premium designed merchandise. At first glance, you might think you are at a hip smokers’ lounge. And you wouldn’t be totally wrong. After all, everybody at HR is smoking.
As you leave the reception and walk through the doors that lead to the warehouse converted gym where the action is taking place inside the cage, you realize this is so much more than just a haven for cannabis enthusiasts but a sanctuary for the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Puff, Puff, Roll
High Rollerz arrived on the scene in 2018 and immediately turned heads as the first event to promote the use of cannabis in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. A submission-only tournament, no points are given for position, and that creates exciting matches with lots of interaction between the fighters and submission attempts.
High Rollerz is the brain child of ‘Big Lonn’ Howard & ‘Mighty Matt’ Staudt. Each participant is required to smoke a joint with their opponent before the match. The prize varies from a pound of cannabis flower to each division winner, to quarterly cash prize brackets and $1,000 gift certificate from Jardin Dispensary. When compared to what other promotions offer, HR is at the top of the list, bringing more fun and value to the athletes. Competitors also receive a care package with a variety of cannabis and CBD products including cannabis water for hydration.
For the audience, High Rollerz is the Disneyland of BJJ and cannabis enthusiasts, weed is everywhere. Joints are handed out by the fistful and even if you choose not to indulge and don’t puff-puff-pass, chances are you’re still getting a pretty solid contact high.
It’s not uncommon to look into the audience and see familiar faces such as Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, Tyron Woodley, Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz… you just never know who is going to walk through the doors at a HR event. Staudt is grateful for the support: “I look out at our audience, and it feels like we’re doing something right. I am very thankful. The support we’ve enjoyed from notable people from all walks of life is and has been incredible.”, says Staudt.
From the quality and quantity of cannabis available, the elite fighters, engaging entertainment, setup of the facility and organization of the events, everything is well done. The level is second to none and the careful attention to detail is evident. High Rollerz successfully puts the stoner stigma to bed that “potheads” are cloud headed, lazy couch potatoes incapable of creating and executing anything with excellence.
“As “active stoners” ourselves I hate the lazy and stupid stoner stigma personally. Beyond having fun and doing things differently and creatively our mission has always been to destigmatize cannabis use”, Staudt explains.
Even in this day and age with all the advancements and attention cannabis has been getting from the media and medical fields, an event that openly encourages and requires participants to smoke pot is still something that will attract a fair amount of critics. The promotion has dealt with critics in a respectful way, by being up front and honest about their intentions to promote responsible cannabis use in sports, build sponsorship opportunities by connecting athletes and cannabis brands, and create an atmosphere that fosters sportsmanship and solidarity.
Nevada law allows anyone 21 years old or older to buy, possess and consume marijuana for recreational use. Users do not need medical approval to smoke or use weed.
“High Rollerz successfully puts the stoner stigma to bed that “potheads” are cloud headed, lazy couch potatoes…”
As ambitious entrepreneurs and lifelong practitioners of the sport, Staudt and Howard are helping change societal perceptions in a time when legalization sweeps the nation and science uncovers more evidence of the myriad of benefits of cannabinoids.
For many athletes, cannabis plays an important role in their recovery process especially after hard training sessions, rolls and matches. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners who are cannabis users claim the herb also helps reduce anxiety and enhance creativity. From facilitating physical recovery to promoting faster healing of sports injuries and relief for chronic pain sufferers, cannabis offers a multitude of medical uses and lifestyle benefits. Athletes now have the option to refuse dangerous and addictive prescription painkillers and instead take advantage of natural treatments with cannabis.
A new research from Oregon State University show cannabis compounds even have the ability to prevent the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells, effectively preventing infection. This is a game changer.
The use of cannabis has become more accepted in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also due to the support of popular community influencers such as Joe Rogan, Eddie Bravo, Joe Schilling, Kron Gracie and Diaz Brothers.
Friendly chill atmosphere, elite athletes, the endorsement of famous celebrities and quality cannabis is a formula for success. What started as an idea Howard shared with Staudt during a casual meeting, evolved into an incredible BJJ promotion with a unique appeal. Together, they have created a community that is
The Ladies Get High
Valerie Wong an active BJJ competitor and professional mixed martial artist is currently High Rollerz’ women’s division champion, having won the title three times.
“The events they put on are amazing. What they’re doing for the cannabis industry and the athletes is really cool and is making cannabis more athletic. Hey, here’s an idea: let’s do the sport we love while smoking cannabis! Being at High Rollerz is such a good time!”
The idea to have a High Rollerz Ladies Night initially came from Howard who wanted to have an event to showcase women’s Jiu-Jitsu and support Breast Cancer Awareness foundation with a donation from the proceeds. Staudt was on board: “Women’s Jiu-Jitsu is super entertaining so the idea was always going to happen, it just took a little bit to plan.”
Talking about entertaining… keeping the party going emceeing at High Rollerz is the one and only, Renato Laranja. A well-known charismatic presence in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community, Laranja is famous for his hilarious sense of humor and podcast, The Vale Tudo Hour. In true “The Bachelor” fashion, Renato gifted each winning lady a pink rose at the end of the matches.
The next High Rollerz Ladies Night is scheduled for October. We speculate the current champion, Valerie Wong will be in attendance to defend her title, as well as some big names of women’s Jiu-Jitsu. If you have the opportunity to be in Vegas during the event, we encourage you to attend it. It’s an unique experience of community, sportsmanship, positive vibes and overall good times.
As High Rollerz moves into the future, Staudt’s intention is to continue to put on better and better shows, and grow viewership for their featured athletes and sponsors.
“We appreciate our fans, competitors and sponsors more than they know. Without them we are nothing and with them we have something really unique. I’d like to thank Jardin Dispensary, The Originals San Diego, Vibes Rolling Papes, Dr. Dabber, GAME UP Nutrition, Khalifa Kush, Cookies and Good Things Coming for allowing us to do what we do.”
Q&A with ‘Mighty Matt’
JM: How did High Rollerz get started?
MM: I had been looking to do a similar event with the Diaz brothers in 2017 and had it somewhat planned but I met Lonn one night at Wiz’s studio and he told me the idea: a tournament where everyone smoked and a pound was awarded. I immediately started trying to convince him his idea could be done. Once he agreed to let me rock High Rollerz 1 was planned and executed inside about 70 days total.
JM: Did you anticipate the success?
MM: No, we knew it would draw attention, and it has, good and bad. There was definitely a novel aspect to us at first. Folks weren’t sure if we were for real and it was such a new idea it brought crazy attention. Once that subsided we have continued with the support of our die hard competitors and fans. There is definitely something we represent that many identify with and therefore show us support. If you’re a stoner and do Jiu-Jitsu I can’t see how you wouldn’t dig what we do. The angle of incorporating fun into our events does well for us as well, as we stand starkly defined to other promotions and remain a friendly platform for athletes to compete. Anxiety is lowered as a result for the competitor. I think many are drawn back for this. We see many athletes lose matches and then train and smoke a joint while watching the show, running back how they lost with the person that beat them. We know this doesn’t happen at very serious tournaments and we love it.
JM: What has been your most memorable moment at High Rollerz?
MM: There’s been a lot of really special and memorable moments but the one that always stands out was when Lonn broke up the fight at our first event with the joint. The competitors calmed down, each hit it and got back to their match. We had probably 700 people packed into that room and everyone went nuts. It was a really great moment for us and cannabis.
JM: Can we expect any big news/exciting surprises for 2022?
MM: Yes, always! We are working on a few exciting things right now that are new, fun and different. We hope to be able to announce soon.
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