It is with heavy hearts that we note the untimely passing of Elias Theodorou, Canadian MMA fighter and passionate cannabis advocate. Elias was privately battling colon cancer, and won his final battle with strength and grace on Sunday, September 11, 2022. He spent his final moments at home, surrounded by his loved ones. Elias was kind, compassionate and always tirelessly working to create meaningful change in the world. He touched many lives, and there is no doubt that his legacy will live on long after his death.
Born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario, Elias Theodorou had been in high-contact sports from a young age. Over the years spanning his early days as a skateboarder, to his time as a UFC fighter and mixed-martial artist, he suffered many physical injuries and developed a nerve condition known as bilateral neuropathy. Theodorou sought out advice from doctors, but was constantly told that opioids were the only answer to his pain. Having tried a few different remedies, and not wanting to rely on prescription drugs, he instead chose to use cannabis for its health benefits and pain-relieving properties.
Theodorou found that cannabis was the most effective treatment he had tried, and since then had been advocating for a cannabis medical use exemption that would allow him to use it legally while training and competing in professional sports. In January 2020, he was granted such an exemption by the British Columbia Athletic Commission – making him the first athlete in North America to receive one. Two months later, the State of Colorado also issued Theodorou a medical use exemption, making him the first athlete in the U.S. to receive one.
Elias worked hard to fight for change within sports, in regards to cannabis and reasonable access by all those who need it. By sharing his story, talking about his experiences and advocating for change, he hoped to dispel the societal stigmas long associated with cannabis use. CAFE is proud to have sponsored this incredible athlete with a mission to drive social change. Watch our documentary on Elias as he talks about what it’s like to fight the stigma and work towards legitimizing cannabis use for therapeutic purposes in sports.
Elias was a beast in the ring, with a career pro record of 19 wins, 3 losses. He was an incredible athlete who trained hard and fought harder. He lived his life with routine, discipline and dedication, working to achieve not only his dreams, but also to reduce barriers for others in sports. In his 34 years, Elias managed to make a mark on our world resulting in changes that will only bring forth positive outcomes. His campaign to #FightTheStigma worked – Elias became the first professional athlete not just in North America but worldwide – to be legally sanctioned in using cannabis as a therapeutic treatment as part of his training for competition in pro sorts. This legal win is a huge breakthrough, not just for Elias but for other athletes in the same position, and for future generations to come. His case serves as a precedent by which, no doubt, future decisions will be made.
Last spring, CAFE was one of Elias’ top sponsors in his RFC fight against Matt Dwyer in BC. The fight was part of Elias’ #FightTheStigma campaign, aimed at raising awareness around cannabis for its healing, restorative properties and not a bad drug, as public perception has had it for years. In fact, cannabis in the USA is categorized as a Schedule I drug – if caught with it, one can face jail time, heavy fines and the loss of one’s driver’s license. This classification may serve as a deterrent to those who want to use cannabis recreationally in the US, but unfortunately also presents real barriers for those who rely on cannabis for medical issues and pain management. Elias’ tireless work has shown the world that the laws and stigma surrounding cannabis are outdated, and that it is time to re-examine our beliefs when it comes to the healing power of this plant.
We are so proud to have known Elias Theodorou. He was an incredible human being and we are grateful for the chance to have supported his passionate advocate efforts. He left our world far too soon, but managed to leave a beautiful legacy that will live on through others for generations to come. With the help of his family, Elias established two not-for-profit organizations – The Theodorou Foundation, and Higher Access – who work to provide educational content and access to resources for patients struggling to engage with the health care system or the medical system. There is no doubt that through these organizations, Elias’ work will continue to benefit others long after his passing.