TORONTO — Ring boy. Model. Actor. Producer. Medical marijuana advocate. Elias (The Spartan) Theodorou delights in wearing many hats.
But the Toronto middleweight returns to Job 1 on Saturday when he takes on former University of Alabama linebacker Eryk (Ya Boi) Anders on the undercard of UFC 231 at Scotiabank Arena.
The main event pits featherweight champion Max (Blessed) Holloway against No. 1 contender Brian (T-City) Ortega while Valentina (Bullet) Shevchenko faces off against Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant women’s flyweight title in the co-main event.
Theodorou (16-2-0, including 7-2 in the UFC) is coming off a unanimous decision over Trevor (Hot Sauce) Smith in Liverpool in May. The Canadian, ranked 14th among 185-pound contenders, needed 10 stitches to close a diagonal cut on his forehead caused by a clash of heads.
“Well, chicks dig scars,” Theodorou said with a smile post-fight. “And luckily so does my girlfriend.”
Six months later, the scar has faded. But Theodorou’s smile is as wide as ever.
And why not? The 30-year-old is looking to produce and star in a film about an injured MMA fighter who reinvents himself as a top video gamer.
In March, he took a sexist stereotype and turned it on its head by becoming a ring boy for the all-female Invicta FC promotion. He’s done it four or five times since and is working on a ring boy calendar featuring other fighters.
“In the true pursuit of equality, I’m going to have many different weight classes because big is beautiful in MMA,” he said.
Theodorou says he is breaking barriers — and a few hearts.
Circling a cage clad only in fight shorts while holding a ring card is also incentive to watch your weight, says Theodorou.
“Being ring boy-ready obviously keeps you a little bit lighter. Nothing like a little vanity to get you motivated,” he said with a chuckle.
He’s heading to Kansas City later this month for Invicta 33 and expects to be a ring boy at more than a dozen events next year.
Theodorou, who won the TUF Nations reality TV show in April 2104, was originally slated to meet Antonio Carlos Junior at a UFC event in Sao Paulo on Sept. 22, but the Brazilian was sidelined by injury. The fight was pushed back to the Toronto date, but the 12th-ranked Brazilian was still not ready so Anders took his place.
Anders fought in the main event of that Sao Paulo card, losing a short-notice light-heavyweight fight to Thiago Santos, a bruising Brazilian whose nickname is Sledgehammer. With Anders unable to keep his feet and get to his corner after a barrage of elbows at the end of the third round, the referee stopped the bout to prevent further damage to the stunned fighter.
The 31-year-old Anders had seven tackles, a sack and forced a fumble in Alabama’s 37-21 win over Texas in the 2009 NCAA championship game.
Anders (11-2-0, including 3-2 in the UFC) had his first amateur MMA bout in 2014 and made his pro debut in August 2015, winning 10 straight before running into former UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida in February 2018.
In Theodorou, he is facing a fighter with a big gas tank. And while the Canadian cannot be accused of being a stylish MMA practitioner, he is effective — be it lashing out with kicks while constantly on the move or hanging on his opponent at the fence like a limpet as needed.
Away from the cage, Theodorou continues his campaign to get a therapeutic use exemption for the medical marijuana he has been prescribed. Theodorou suffers from congenital bilateral neuropathic pain in his hands, wrists and elbows.
UFC fighters are not tested for cannabis out of competition, as per the World Anti-Doping Agency code.
Cannabidiol or CBD — which unlike the THC component of marijuana does not have any psychoactive effects — is no longer prohibited. But THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, is prohibited above a certain level immediately around the fight — out of concerns a fighter may not be able to defend himself or might absorb more damage as a result of taking it.
CBD can be used for pain management. But Theodorou says his ailment also requires the THC component. He currently has to scale back use about three weeks from fights.
He wants to be able to medicate all the way to the weigh-in, whereas fighters who use marijuana have to scale back ahead of the fight to get it out of their system.
The UFC’s anti-doping partner is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which relies on independent experts to assess cases like Theodorou’s. Their review of his case continues.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press