Elias Theodorou, a charismatic Canadian mixed martial artist and former UFC fighter, died on Sunday at the age of 34.
In an Instagram post, Theodorou’s publicity team confirmed that he died of colon cancer that metastasized. The fighter had only told a select group of people about his diagnosis.
Born in Mississauga, Ontario, Theodorou held various titles during his professional career including athlete, actor, model, stuntman, dancer, TV pitchman and Harlequin romance cover model.
He also became a known advocate for cannabis by successfully campaigning for the right to use medical marijuana as an athlete.
During his last fight in December 2021 against Bryan Baker, Theodorou became the first professional athlete in history to compete with a therapeutic use exemption for medical cannabis in North America (first in Canada and then in the United States).
UFC Editorial Director Thomas Gerbasi published a tribute to Theodorou, widely known as “The Spartan,” saying that he left behind a legacy to be proud of but which ended too soon.
“Some fighters make an immediate impression. Elias Theodorou was one of those select few who made everyone pay attention as soon as they saw him,” Gerbasi wrote. “… But just like he wanted it, Elias Theodorou made an impact in his 34 years, one that won’t be forgotten.”
Fellow Canadian fighter Sarah Kaufman also remembered Theodorou on social media.
“A positive energy if ever there was one, a man who almost always flashed a winning smile, a man who spoke out about what he believed in,” Kaufman wrote on Twitter.
Theodorou took up MMA in 2009 after his first year at Humber College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in creative advertising.
He made his pro debut in June 2011 and was 8-0-0 in 2013 when he joined the cast of “The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia,” an edition of the UFC’s reality TV show featuring teams of aspiring Canadian and Australian fighters.
Theodorou and 15 other fighters spent six weeks filming in a lodge in the woods approximately one hour outside of Montreal.
“It was an interesting and amazing experience,” he said later.
Theodorou earned his UFC contract in April 2014 when he defeated fellow Canadian Sheldon Westcott via second-round TKO. He remained with the UFC until being cut in May 2019 after a loss to Derek Brunson.
Theodorou’s pro record was 19 wins and three losses, with six wins in his last seven outings.
Afflicted with bilateral neuropathic pain in his hands, wrists and elbows, he campaigned for years to use medical marijuana in MMA and secured the therapeutic use exemption in February 2020 from the British Columbia Athletic Commissioner.
“RIP Elias Theodorou. A great person and a HUGE voice for the more fair and equitable treatment of marijuana use in MMA and sport,” tweeted Jeff Novitzky, UFC’s senior vice-president of athlete health and performance.
Theodorou’s family created a GoFundMe to raise money for his two foundations, Theodorou Foundation & Higher Access, both of which aim to help people facing barriers accessing hospital support and medical cannabis.
As of Thursday, the fundraiser has yielded nearly $25,000 Canadian dollars.
Featured image: Elias Theodorou after a victory at UFC 231 in Toronto. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
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