Middleweight Elias Theodorou refuses to be down about his release from the UFC and looks forward to reinventing himself as a fighter.
The 31-year-old Canadian is even upbeat about promotional and sponsorship opportunities he believes will allow him to thrive as a professional fighter.
“There are many organizations that have already reached out that pretty much pay what the UFC pays in some capacity,” Theodorou (16-3 MMA) told MMA Junkie. “And now with the avenue of having sponsors potentially involved, there are avenues I could make the same money as a UFC fighter elsewhere.”
Theodorou declined to name the promotions, but said he’ll announce his move soon. In the meantime, he welcomed his new freedom to negotiate deals without the UFC’s apparel restrictions.
The “TUF Nations” winner previously said he makes as much from sponsors as from fights; he is a spokesperson for shampoo Pert Plus and recently booked a social media campaign with Coors Light.
“I have no ill will toward the UFC,” Theodorou said. “I don’t think being upset about it does anyone good. Especially myself. I don’t want to burn any bridges, but I also want to look at it in the positive aspects where I’m happy and healthy, and I’ve been successful in 20 of my professional times.”
Online MMA observers reacted with surprise that the UFC had cut a fighter with an 8-3 UFC record. Explaining the release of Theodorou and heavyweight Justin Willis, both of whom had winning records, UFC President Dana White told TSN.com that they had no chance of ever making it into the top five of their divisions.
Theodorou accepts responsibility for a lackluster fight against Derek Brunson at UFC on ESPN+ 9 in May and called his pink slip a business decision in a crowded promotion.
“The UFC does have 600 athletes,” Theodorou said. “I think they just looked at what I was making now being 8-3 in the UFC, the five or seven Canadian fighters they recently added, they probably can pay every single one of their paychecks with my paycheck.
“I think the surprise – I think it kind of speaks to what my value is as a martial artist, and the people that know me inside the cage and out. I’m excited for the next step in my career and make myself undeniable, wherever that is.”
An outspoken stance as an advocate for what Theodorou calls “medical” equality put at times put him at odds with the UFC’s anti-doping partner, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which declined to grant him a therapeutic-use exemption to use medical marijuana in-competition for neurological pain his extremities. But he didn’t link his quest to receive an exemption with his release.
Moving forward, he indicated he would continue his quest to receive an exemption with Canadian anti-doping agencies and athletic commissions, which might offer him a workaround for the in-competition restrictions on marijuana. He thanked USADA for its efforts.
“It really did clean up the sport, and I’m thankful for that, I didn’t even have to think, ‘For sure, that person is on something,’” Theodorou said.
After an extended stint at the famed Tristar Gym in Montreal, Theodorou said he’ll be traveling to different gyms to add tools to his arsenal that make him a more exciting fighter. He doesn’t rule out a return to the UFC. He just has a better idea of what’s required of him to stay under contract, and it’s going to take time to evolve.
“I’ve kind of looked at myself as a Pollack painting,” he said. “Abstract with its own beauty. But it seems if you don’t look at MMA as a sport, but rather entertainment, I’ve gotta be more Van Gogh, and cut my ear – or someone else’s ear.”
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