U.S. win for medical cannabis after MMA fighter Elias Theodorou triumphs against Bryan Baker

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Elias Theodorou is more than just a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter with a strong fleet of fans. He is also a cannabis-sanctioned pro-athlete.

A Canadian MMA fighter of Greek descent, Theodorou is the first professional athlete to have ever victoriously competed in the United States with a ‘Therapeutic Use Exemption for Medical Cannabis.’

Theodorou made news headlines across the board following his December 18th win against Bellator veteran Bryan Baker. An army of supporters turned up at the fight, which took place inside the Colorado Combat Club 10 at the Island Grove Event Center in Greeley, Colorado.

Back in 2014, “The Spartan” was recognized as the first Canadian to win the title of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ for the UFC’s reality television competition.

Professional athlete Theodorou refrained from consuming THC 48 hours before fight

Just like his first fight as a sanctioned pro-athlete, MMA fighter Theodorou avoided using the plant for a 48-hour period ahead of his most recent fight with Bryan Baker at the Colorado Combat Club 10. Instead, he prefers to use CBD-only products for medicating. 

“I believe in clean sport and in transparency, so I’ll be switching to CBD, essentially moving away from the psychoactive component into more anti-inflammatory components during the latter part of my training,” Theodorou previously told reporters.

Boasting a professional fighting record of 18 wins and just three losses, Theodorou was set to have his first fight as a cannabis-sanctioned pro athlete on April 20. This would have been quite fitting, since April 20 or “4/20” as many cannabis connoisseurs refer to it as an annual weed-celebrating ritual. However, the event took place on March 13.

Then, in May, Theodorou’s Therapeutic Use Exemption was granted by the Colorado Office of Combative Sports and Colorado Combative Sports Commission.

MMA fighter Theodorou suffers from bilateral neuropathy

Cannabis rules vary on a statewide basis, not to mention among specific sports governing organizations, including the UFC and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). With that being said, athletes who want a medical exemption still face an uphill battle until the plant is fully embraced in the sporting community; not to mention on a federal level.

After experiencing prolonged “pain and discomfort” from bilateral neuropathy, Theodorou turned to cannabis. The middleweight’s condition arose after he endured nerve damage close to the brain and the sensitive spinal cord.

Thanks to the plant’s natural therapeutic properties  — which include neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anxiolytic effects Theodorou experienced significant relief from his symptoms. Unfortunately, however, the UFC rejected his plea for an exemption when he fought for them.

“They kept on telling me to take more prescription drugs, when my doctor and I knew that cannabis was right for me,” explained Theodorou. “They were telling me to take antidepressants and opioids, all while ironically or sadly having a campaign about the opioid crisis.”

A January announcement from the UFC confirmed that it would be updating its policy to permit cannabis consumption for competing athletes. However, the UFC noted that athletes will still be penalized if they discover proof that the drug is being used “for performance-enhancing purposes.”