canadian mma fighter elias theodorou dies at 34 from liver cancer

the fighter and medical marijuana advocate was widely loved in the mma community.

did canadian mma fighter elias theodorou die from liver cancer?
in 2020 elias theodorou became the first mma fighter in history to receive a therapeutic use exemption (tue) for medical cannabis for pain in his wrists and elbows. (photo by vaughn ridley/getty images).
canadian mma fighter and medical marijuana advocate elias theodorou died of stage four liver cancer, a representative for the athlete confirmed on sunday. he was 34.

the winner of the 2014 ultimate fighter: nations middleweight tournament hadn’t publicly disclosed his liver cancer diagnosis. news of his death came as a surprise to many in the mma community, who described theodorou as a “ helpful, knowledgeable, great guy and a “natural-born fighter.”

theodorou, a native of mississauga, ont., fought as a middleweight (171 to 185lbs) in the ufc series from 2014 to 2019, where he won 8 of 11 matches. after leaving the series, he continued to fight and won his next three matches. theodorou last stepped into the ring as a competitor december 2021, where he won over bryan baker.

theodorou passed away from stage four liver cancer

there are different forms of liver cancer, the most common of which is called hepatocellular carcinoma (hcc), according to the canadian liver foundation . hcc is cancer of the liver cells, which often forms a tumour in one area of the liver before spreading. in individuals with cirrhosis — scarring of the liver — multiple tumours may form around the same time before spreading.



liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide, according to the american society of clinical oncology . in canada, the five-year survival rate for this kind of cancer is only 20 per cent, largely due to the fact that it is often not diagnosed until later stages. other not-uncommon health factors, such as cirrhosis, have a negative impact on survival rates.

there are usually very few symptoms of liver cancer in its early stages, according to the canadian cancer society . as the cancer progresses, patients may develop pain in the upper-right abdomen that can spread to the right shoulder; swelling in the abdomen (ascites), legs or feet (edema); a lump on the right side of the body below the ribs; a loss of appetite; or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

in 2022, 1,650 canadians are expected to die from liver cancer and 3,500 are expected to receive a diagnosis. men are expected to be more significantly affected from the condition than women, with 2,700 new diagnosis and 1,350 deaths in men and 840 new diagnosis and 340 deaths in women.

previously having contracted hepatitis b or c virus, and developing cirrhosis are the primary risk factors for liver cancer. lifestyle factors that increase the risk of these conditions will also increase the risk of developing the cancer, including drinking alcohol and living with obesity. other risk factors include family history of liver cancer, and coming into contact with certain chemicals, radiation or mould.

theodorou was a medical marijuana advocate

theodorou made headlines as a medical marijuana advocate. in 2020 he became the first mma fighter in history to receive a therapeutic use exemption (tue) for medical cannabis for pain in his wrists and elbows . the tue was granted by the british columbia athletic commission. theodorou had previously tried to receive a tue while in the ufc, but was denied by the u.s. anti-doping agency.



“what i’m trying to do in regards to medical cannabis is provide an alternative option for myself,” theodorou told tsn in 2018. “this is a very individual aspect in regards to my personal medication and it’s doctor-prescribed — my doctor feels that cannabis is right for me and, as part of the process, i’ve had to exhaust all other first-line medicines, whether opioids or other types of painkillers and the side-effects have been just as bad, if not worse, than the actual ailment that i have.”

the world anti-doping agency permitted cannabidiol (cbd) in 2019 , but maintained the prohibition on all other cannabinoids. because it is incredibly difficult to extract a pure cbd sample from cannabis plants, this constitutes a risk of disqualification for any athletes who are approved to use cbd as the products likely contain at least some levels of thc or other banned compounds.

according to a 2011 paper published in sports medicine , cannabis continues to be a banned substance because the effects of smoking cannabis can result in “increased risk taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making,” which may constitute a danger to the athletes and teammates during competition. depending on the sport and athlete, the calming effect of some strains of the plant may also be considered performance enhancing.



emma jones is a multimedia editor with healthing. you can reach her at or on instagram and twitter @jonesyjourn.
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