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Elias Theodorou, former UFC fighter and cannabis advocate, dies of cancer at 34

The Canadian mixed martial arts fighter was granted cannabis use exemptions in British Columbia and Colorado.
Elias Theodorou of Canada battles Derek Brunson in a middleweight bout in Ottawa, Ontario, in 2019.
Elias Theodorou of Canada, left, battles Derek Brunson in a middleweight bout in Ottawa, Ontario, in 2019.Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Professional mixed martial arts fighter Elias Theodorou, best known for his advocacy on behalf of athletes who use cannabis, has died of cancer, his family announced Monday. He was 34.

"Elias 'The Spartan' Theodorou answered his final bell yesterday, September 11th, 2022," his family said in a statement.

"He passed peacefully at home with his family and loved ones in his corner after a hard-fought fight with colon cancer that metastasized."

MMA promoter UFC on Monday said the "affable Toronto native" led a career and a life to be proud of.

"Elias Theodorou made an impact in his 34 years, one that won’t be forgotten," UFC said.

Theodorou left UFC in 2019 with a 16-3 record overall and an 8-3 record in the sport's top league. One of his last bouts was in December, when he beat Bryan Baker at an event called Colorado Combat Club 10.

Theodorou is perhaps equally known for his medical cannabis advocacy, noted for having earned Canada's first cannabis exemption for professional athletes in 2020.

The next year, Colorado granted a similar exemption. Theodorou said it was a first for a pro athlete in the U.S.

Sports lawyer Erik Magraken, who memorialized Theodorou on his website, said the cannabis victories led directly to similar stances by the UFC and the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

"A remarkable legacy Elias created," Magraken wrote Monday.

Theodorou was active in the Toronto marijuana community and was the "chief access officer" for the cannabis platform Leafythings, which helps Canadians find delivery services and dispensaries.

He also fought for other fighters. Magraken said he lobbied the Association of Boxing Commissions to recognize a committee of fighters and retired athletes and give them a voice in matters of fight regulation.

After having graduated from Toronto's Humber College with a degree in creative advertising, Theodorou took up acting, stunt work and modeling. He also appeared on the cover of several romance novels published by Toronto-based Harlequin Books, UFC said.

As an MMA fighter, he won his first eight bouts.

As a contestant on 2014's "The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia," he reached the reality show's winner-deciding fight, a bout against fellow Canadian Sheldon Wescott.

Theodorou beat him in 4 minutes, 41 seconds at a "UFC Fight Night" event in Québec.

His first loss came to Thiago Santos in December 2015.

"I learned from it, and I’m really proud of the fight," he told UFC. "It will never change my desire to have that fighter’s journey, that traveling identity."

Theodorou's family remembered him Monday as "eternally, irrationally, and infectiously optimistic."

"It’s impossible to capture every facet or all of his accomplishments in a simple post so as to 'make it a long story short.'”