Professional mixed martial arts fighter Elias Theodorou, best known for advocating for athletes who use cannabis, has died of cancer, his family announced on Monday. He was 34 years old.
“Elias ‘The Spartan’ Theodorou answered his final bell yesterday, September 11, 2022,” his family said in a statement to NBC News.
“He passed away peacefully at home with his family and loved ones in his corner after a fierce battle with colon cancer which metastasized.”
On Monday, MMA promoter UFC said the “affable Toronto native” had a career and a life he could be proud of.
“Elias Theodorou has had an impact in his 34 years, an impact that will not be forgotten,” the UFC said.
Theodorou left the UFC in 2019 after racking up a 16-3 record overall and an 8-3 record in the sport’s top league. One of his last fights came in December, when he defeated Bryan Baker in an event called Colorado Combat Club 10.
In addition to his fighting career, Theodorou is perhaps also known for his advocacy of medical cannabis, known for securing Canada’s first cannabis exemption for professional athletes in 2020.
The following year, Colorado granted a similar exemption. Theodorou said it was a first for a professional athlete in the United States.
Sports attorney Erik Magraken, who memorialized the middleweight fighter on his website, said those cannabis victories directly led to similar stances from the UFC and the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
“A remarkable legacy that Elias has created,” the lawyer wrote on Monday.
Theodorou was active in the Toronto marijuana community and served as the “head of access” for the Leafythings cannabis platform, which helps Canadians find delivery services and dispensaries.
He also fought for other fighters. According to Magraken, he lobbied the Association of Boxing Commissions to recognize a committee of retired fighters and athletes and give them a voice in fight regulations.
After earning a degree in creative advertising from Humber College in Toronto, Theodorou branched out into acting, stunt work and modeling. He also appeared on the cover of several romance novels published by Toronto-based Harlequin Books, the UFC said.
As an MMA fighter, Theodorou has won his first eight fights.
As a contestant on “The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia” in 2014, he reached the reality show’s climactic bout, a fight against fellow Canadian Sheldon Westcott.
Théodorou beat him in 4 minutes, 41 seconds at a “UFC Fight Night” event in Quebec.
His first loss came to Thiago Santos in December 2015.
“I learned from that and I’m really proud of the fight,” he told the UFC. “It will never change my desire to have this fighter’s journey, this journey identity.”
On Monday, Theodorou’s family remembered him as “eternally, irrationally and contagiously optimistic”.
“It is impossible to capture all facets or all of his accomplishments in a single post in order to make a long story short.”