Last Sunday, 34 year old mixed martial artist (MMA) fighter and cannabis advocate Elias Theorodou passes away after a long 11 month battle with liver cancer. Known for his successful career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Theodorou was one of the first professional athletes in any sport to be cleared for cannabis consumption while competing.

medical cannabis advocate mma fighter elias theororou passes away

The Lows and Highs of Elias Theodorou

Born in Mississauga, Canada, located in the province of Ontario, Theodorou had began in career after his first year in college. As he started his MMA career, he had many successful wins, until one match really put a pause in his career. From an interview with High Times, Theodorou explained how a video of him losing a fight on YouTube went viral and sent him in a downward spiral.

elias theodorou passes away

After confiding in his father about his lost fight, he took his body and mind back to the gym and prepared himself to never enter that mindset again. With a newfound sense of purpose, Theodorou’s career took him to becoming a UFC fighter, and the 2014 middleweight winner of “The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Vanada vs. Australia.” Since the end of his UFC contract in 2019, Elias Theodorou continued his fighting career to win the Prospect Fighting Championships in December 2019, Rise FC in March 2021, and Colorado Combat Club 10 in December 2021.

Theodorou’s Cannabis Consumption

Theodorou’s cannabis use was first influenced by his coach and longtime friend, Lachian Cheng. Cheng was a medical marijuana patient for over 10 years, and had introduced the benefits of cannabis to Theodorou, which had changed the fighter’s outlook on medical treatments for the rest of his life.

At first, Theodorou’s use of medical cannabis was to treat his bilateral neuropathy (nerve damage) in his torso. His path to choosing cannabis as his ultimate remedy was a logical choice. Instead of taking prescription pain killers, substances that are highly addictive and may kill you, he chose to take a non-lethal alternative. He needed something that could help him without the side effects he received from painkillers that would prevent him from performing at his peak.

elias theodorou cannabis

Theodorou, the First Cannabis Athlete

In 2020, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a part of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), had given Theodorou the first Therapeutic Use Exemption in North America for his cannabis use. Unfortunately, despite his condition and potential need for cannabis as agreed by the USADA, the UFC did not accept Theodorou into the organization due to the USADA ultimately being funded by the U.S. government, which categorizes marijuana as a schedule one controlled substance with zero medical benefits. The only recommended solutions from the UFC was to take painkillers, opioids and anti-depressants.

Since then, he became a strong advocate for cannabis and continued to support the plant all the way until his passing. In doing so, he shared his support for cannabis brands, and openly discussed his advocacy on Twitter.

Remembering Elias Theodorou

remembering elias theodorou

Many who have known Theodorou will say that his light-hearted personality shined alongside his career in and out of the ring. In the High Times interview, Theodorou talks about his camaraderie with the people he works with. “I have the biggest smile and constantly laugh with my team throughout training camp and fight week,” he said. “It might sound the opposite of what a fighter does, but I love what I do, so it’s easy to enjoy the process.”

Beyond his advocacy for cannabis, Theodorou was also one to express his value in equality. Serving as a “ring boy” for Invicta FC, an all-pro women’s MMA championship, Theodorou believed that it was a necessary act to help even the playing field for the sport for all genders. Despite his actions receiving some controversy, Theodorou remained resilient. He told BBC in 2018, “I put out a pretty positive conversation in general. When people troll me for other things, I show them kindness.”

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