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Former UFC fighter who battled for medicinal cannabis in sport dies of cancer at 34

Theodorou had not shared his cancer diagnosis publicly ‘because he couldn’t bear to make people sad’

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 13 September 2022 06:34 BST
Filre. A former MMA fighter, Elias Theodorou, was also known for advocating for medicinal cannbis in sports
Filre. A former MMA fighter, Elias Theodorou, was also known for advocating for medicinal cannbis in sports (Getty Images)

Elias Theodorou, a professional mixed martial arts fighter from Mississauga, Ontario, known for his medicinal cannabis advocacy, has died of cancer, his family said on Monday.

He was 34.

Theodorou’s family issued a statement in which they said: “Elias ‘The Spartan’ Theodorou answered his final bell yesterday, September 11th, 2022. He passed peacefully at home with his family and loved ones in his corner after a hard-fought fight with colon cancer that metastasized.”

UFC on Monday also expressed grief over the death of an “affable Toronto native” and said that he “won’t be forgotten.”

The UFA paid tribute to the fighter on its website. It said: “Owner of a BA degree in Creative Advertising from Humber College, Theodorou was also an actor, a stuntman and a model who appeared on the cover of several Harlequin romance novels. But MMA was his true love.”

TSN fight analyst Robin Black, a friend and former fighter, said Theodorou had not shared his cancer diagnosis publicly. He was quoted as saying by ESPN that Theodorou made that choice “because he couldn’t bear to make people sad.”

“He was a really, really, really special guy,” Mr Black added.

Theodorou left UFC in 2019.

The Canadian MMA fighter is also known for his medical cannabis advocacy. He campaigned for years to use medical marijuana in the sport, and eventually secured a therapeutic use exemption for the marijuana he had been prescribed for bilateral neuropathic pain in his hands, wrists and elbows.

He said at the time that cannabis allowed him “to even the playing field and fight at a baseline level,” and got the exemption in February 2020 from the BC Athletic Commission.

In an interview with, Theodorou spoke about his stance on medical cannabis. “I want to use my platform to bring attention to what I’m doing. But, also bring attention to the current stigma that unfortunately surrounds cannabis. It is something that I can slowly remove. Obviously, the stigma still remains, but one step at a time. Not only for myself but for other athletes to educate themselves and that this is an option.”

Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s senior vice-president of athlete health and performance, tweeted: “RIP Elias Theodorou. A great person and a huge voice for the more fair and equitable treatment of marijuana use in MMA and sport.”

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