Elias Theodorou was born on February 26, 1988, in Mississauga, Canada. 30 years later Elias became known as “The Spartan” in the UFC. As of November 2018, Elias holds the rank of #13 in the UFC middleweight division. The Spartan is a fierce competitor who also recently won “The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia.”
“Sixteen fighters from Canada and Australia live, train, and compete for 44 days battling the elements, loneliness and each other in a quest for a coveted contract with the UFC”- IMDB
Elias has to fight two opponents every time he steps into the ring. He has to defeat his competitor and bilateral neuropathic pain at the same time. What is bilateral neuropathic pain you ask?
Have you ever stood up to walk and all of a sudden, your leg was numb and tingly? Then when you stepped down it feltlike you had needles sticking all over your leg down into your foot? Imagine this all day every day. That’s sort of what living with neuropathic pain is like.
Bilateral neuropathic pain is a complex condition that wreaks havoc on the body’s nerves. It causes pain, burning, numbness, tingling, and a feeling described as needles poking you all over your body, especially in the hands and feet. You can learn more about the specifics of bilateral sensory abnormalities by reading the following quantitative testing study.
“Bilateral Sensory Abnormalities in Patients with Unilateral Neuropathic Pain; A Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST) Study”- NCBI
For those who live with neuropathic pain, life is a daily battle. This battle often leads to dangerous prescription drugs and painkillers. The opioid epidemic is very real. It claims the lives of hundreds of people globally every day.
When it comes to medical conditions, the first line pain management medications currently used are drugs like, Oxycotin, Toradol, Percocet, Vicodin and more. These drugs come with loads of side effects and an excessive addiction rate.
Prescription drugs and painkillers are something Elias has had to battle with throughout his career. Since being diagnosed with his condition by his family doctor he has had to stay in compliance with the regulations set forth by the anti-doping agency and athletic commissions where he is set to compete.
For Elias Theodorou, the battle with bilateral neuropathic pain gets even deeper both in and out of the octagon. This fight has led The Spartan down a path to a natural plant medicine called cannabis.
Elias has been working diligently for over a year and a half to obtain permission in the form of a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) from the UFC and multiple athletic commissions. A TUE would allow Elias to utilize medical cannabis before and after competing.
The best way to get accurate information is by going to the source. In this case, the source happens to be a BA competitor that’s currently ranked #13 in the UFC’s middleweight division. This source, is of course, none other than, Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou.
In one corner you have James Priest, writer for Roottie and in the other corner we have #13th ranked, with a current 16-2-0 record, Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou. Let’s get it on!
Roottie- When did you first discover you suffered from bilateral neuropathic pain? When were you diagnosed officially?
Elias- I was diagnosed with bilateral neuropathic pain by my family doctor after years of attention, examination, and tests on my upper extremities. This most likely stemmed from my previous diagnosis with arthritis in both hands and most likely being genetically predisposed to rheumatoid arthritis as my mother and degenerated from there. My line of work, on the hands, feet, legs, head, well… all around, it's not easy.
Roottie- What method or methods of medical cannabis consumption work best for you?
Elias- I personally prefer to medicate by vaporizing dry flower or oils. Vaporizing allows me to medicate as clean as possible, removing the harmful effects of combustion and other toxic by-products of smoking joints, bongs or anything else use with a lighter. I medicate like a professional (athlete) after all.
Roottie- Would you agree that being the official #13th ranked contender in the middleweight division of the UFC should prove to those who don't get in the ring that you're capable of competing with THC in your system?
Elias- Yes, part of my desire to come out of the shadows of prohibition is to fight the current stigma of medical cannabis and show other (Canadian) athletes cannabis is a viable alternative to the harmful and even addictive opioids and other current first line pain management medications anti-doping organizations like the USADA push at the moment.
Roottie- I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this question but for the readers of Roottie, how do you feel about being forced to exhaust all first-line medicines such as painkillers and opioids to satisfy doctors when medical cannabis already works for you?
Elias-It's just that - exhausting. My doctor and I have already found a medication that works best for me, both as a patient and athlete, yet the outdated "clean sport" approach to medicine USADA is taking head scratching. USADA ironically has a current "opioid prevention campaign" in the works, all while pushing me (and other athletes) to opioids before an already medically prescribed (by my family doctor) plant.
Roottie- What do you believe is necessary to get athletic commissions to reverse their zero-tolerance stance towards cannabis?
Elias- Every commission is different, and even when I do get a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), I will have to discuss with every commission moving forward on a case, by, case bases. I am a patient, athlete and play by the rules. If a commission doesn't respect my medical needs moving forward, I am quite willing to sacrifice my opportunity to compete there.
Roottie- It's my understanding that you were recommended medicinal cannabis by your family doctor. Have other doctors criticized this recommendation?
Elias-No, not that I know of. Medicine and patient care are a very personal process, any outside criticism would be just that - outside the knowledge of any facts of my personal case.
Roottie- I've covered fitness and cannabis many times. Some people prefer cannabis before a workout and others post workout. Some prefer both. How does medical cannabis help you?
Elias- My medical needs are focused on recovery and quality of life post training. My line of work (as mentioned) isn't easy on the body or mind. Cannabis is the only effective medication to relieve my neuropathic pain and symptoms. Furthermore, all first-line medications like opioids and other painkillers only add to the stresses of my job and inflict tremendous side-effects.
Roottie- What's been your biggest challenge when advocating for your right to treat your bilateral neuropathic pain utilizing medical cannabis?
Elias- So far, it's been the outdated medical approach from the anti-doping agency. Not being able to medicate has seriously put me at a competitive disadvantage as my opponent could elect to use the first line medicate, Vicodin, while I would receive a potential suspension for having cannabis in my system.
Roottie- Where do you see yourself one year from now?
Elias- Hopefully, well on my way to becoming one of the top 10 or even top 5 ranked fighter in the world. Approved for my therapeutic use exemption for cannabis and sharing my story with and to other Canadian athletes all over this country.
Roottie- Do you believe cannabis in particularly THC affects your ability to perform in the octagon? Elias- I do not believe cannabis is a performance-enhancing drug. My TUE request is not to medicate on game day, but rather the ability to medicate all the way up to weigh-ins, which is the day before my fight. Compete and then medicate the day after. Completely removing any question of “performance enhancing" or concern of "impairment" as I am not medicating the day of the fight.
Roottie- Do you find any particular diet in conjunction with medical cannabis therapy to help you control your bilateral neuropathic pain?
Elias- A healthy diet is the first step. I definitely incorporate a (near) keto diet and have switched to a mostly healthy fat fuel source. This has helped quite a bit to reduce my inflammation in daily life. Of course, the additional damage and use of my body for my job will inflict unbearable pain.
Roottie- Do you feel that the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada at a retail/recreational level will help to influence a change in the UFC’s policies or the policies of other athletic associations?
Elias- The UFC has been quite supportive, but they did partner with USADA and followed their guidelines as a third-party testing system. There is a path to a TUE for cannabis, the process is long and complicated, but anything worth doing usually is. My cannabis advocacy is no different.
Roottie- The floor is yours. If you could tell the world about medical cannabis, what would you tell them? Elias- My next UFC fight is on December eighth, in Toronto, ON, against Eryk Anders, at UFC 231. He’s an incredibly tough opponent, no doubt; however, my biggest fight is not against one man, but instead transcends sports — it is against the stigma attached to medical cannabis.
Dangerous prescription drugs and painkillers have taken their toll on the world. Times are changing, and people are looking for healthier options for pain management. Plant medicine was the way of the world since recorded history began. Only over the last hundred years or so have synthetic pharmaceuticals hit the global market. Look at the damage they’ve done since.
People are returning to plant medicine again. Cannabis offers loads of therapeutic benefits and has many studies to support this claim. Roottie and CannaLance support “The Spartan” in his fight for the right to utilize medical cannabis both in and out of the ring and hope that you will too.
Roottie would like to give a huge thank you to Elias Theodorou for taking time to speak with us and would also like to thank Tim Simpson with Paradigm Sports Management and Steve Fader for helping to facilitate communication between James Priest and Elias Theodorou.Posted: Monday, November 12th, 1:00pm a month ago
James has a passion for wordsmithing content specific to the cannabis community, culture, and industry. This father of seven spends all his time writing about the plant he loves. James believes that cannabis should be an essential part of everyone's life but, this doesn't mean that everyone has to get stoned to do this. Only through education and sharing the stories of the community can we help to tear down the negative walls of stigmas and stereotypes that cannabis has received or the last 80 years. James likes to say, "A single seed can tip the scales, be the seed."