A pioneer of medical marijuana within sports has passed away at the tender age of 34. Elias Theodorou, best known as a Canadian MMA athlete, passed away at his home in Woodbridge, Ontario, due to his colon cancer metastasizing to his liver.
Theodorou brought cerebral flair to the ring and a relentless determination to his campaign for changing MMA’s drug rules.
Theodorou was a cerebral and charismatic MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter who made it his mission to change MMA’s drug rules. Elias Theodorou is believed to be one of the first professional athletes to be granted a therapeutic exemption to use marijuana.
Many professional athletes are believed to use cannabis — for pain, anxiety, and focus. However, most professional sports either prohibit or heavily regulate the use of cannabis. In the 2019 PGA Tour, professional golfer Matt Every was suspended for three months when he tested positive for THC. In 2021, American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified from the Tokyo Olympics after THC was found in her bloodstream.
Elias Theodorou suffered from a medical condition called bilateral neuropathy. His bilateral neuropathy caused his hands and arms to experience tingling pain.
Theodorou is known for his thoughtful and deliberative fighting style. He applied this mentality to his campaign to win permission to use marijuana during training and preparations for his fights. The results showed that he had built his case meticulously, collecting research and statements from lawyers and doctors and documenting his intensive efforts to find an acceptable alternative to highly addictive opioids.
“I am working towards an even playing field, where anybody with the same kind of injury would be able to take Vicodin to go and fight, and it wouldn’t be an issue,” Theodorou stated.
MMA drug laws and testing requirements are set at the state and provincial levels. This meant Elias had to specifically tailor his pitch over and over to receive exemptions to the different regulations.
Theodorou won his first exemption in the British Columbia Athletic Commission in 2020 and another year later in Colorado. He fought in both jurisdictions and planned to obtain further exemptions when he received his cancer diagnosis in January.
According to his lawyer, Eric Magraken, Elias was the first professional athlete in North America to obtain medical marijuana exemptions.
Elias Theodorou was a widely admired sports figure when he started his medical marijuana crusade.
Theodorou stood at 6-foot-1 and weighed 185 pounds. He fought at middleweight, with the nickname the Spartan.
His introduction into the MMA scene in 2011 was spectacular, going undefeated in his first four years as a professional fighter. In 2013, he appeared on “The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia,” a reality TV competition.
He then moved on to sign a contract with the UFC in 2014.
Theodorou held a record of 8-3 during his five-year contract with the UFC, making his professional record 19-3. However, his measured style did not fit the UFC’s emphasis on pyrotechnic aggression. After his loss to Derek Brunson in 2019, the UFC released him from his contract.
His fighting style was slow, grinding, and even a bit boring. However, fans loved him for the humility and charisma he brought to the sport, which is often stereotyped as humorless and violent.
Theodorou made much of his long hair, which he wore in cornrows during fights and let flow to his shoulders when not in the ring. He called himself “the Mane Event,’ ran a Twitter account dedicated to his hair, and signed a sponsorship contract with the shampoo brand Perr Plus.
He was also a model and actor, appearing on the cover of eleven harlequin romance novels, and had minor roles on Canadian television shows, including “The Listener,” “Played,” and the Canadian version of “The Greatest Race.”
Theodorou was known for crossing boundaries and openly spoke about his struggles with dyslexia. On one occasion, he moonlighted as a “ring boy” at several events held by Invicta. Geoff Girvitz, the owner of Bang Personal Training in Toronto, described Theodorou as a “beautiful subversion to this archaic institution of MMA.”
Theodorou was a true happy warrior who mixed with fans and became friends with other fighters, generally seeming to be in constant gleeful awe of his success.
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