Former UFC fighter Elias Theodorou dies at age 34

Elias Theodorou, a charismatic mixed martial artist who campaigned successfully for the right to use medical marijuana as an athlete, has died. He was 34.

Theodorou's official twitter account announced on Saturday that the former UFC fighter died Sunday in Toronto of colon cancer that metastasized.

Theodorou, from Mississauga, Ontario, was an athlete, actor, model, stuntman, dancer, TV pitchman, Harlequin romance cover model and cannabis advocate.

TSN fight analyst Robin Black, a friend and former fighter himself, said Theodorou had not shared his cancer diagnosis publicly. Black figured Theodorou made that choice "because he couldn't bear to make people sad."

"He was a really, really, really special guy," Black said.

Theodorou took up MMA in 2009 after his first year at Humber College, where he studied creative advertising.

He made his pro debut in June 2011 and was 8-0-0 in 2013 when he joined the cast of "The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia," an edition of the UFC's reality TV show featuring teams of aspiring Canadian and Australian MMA fighters.

Theodorou earned his UFC contract in April 2014 when he stopped fellow Canadian Sheldon Westcott via second-round TKO in the TUF Nations finale in Quebec City.

He went on to win eight of 11 fights as a middleweight in the UFC but was cut after a May 2019 loss to Derek Brunson in Ottawa. While Theodorou had a winning record, his grinding style lacked the fireworks the promotion looks for. Nine of his 11 UFC bouts went to a decision.

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