More than 17,000 fans packed the American Airlines Center in Dallas the last time Elias Theodorou stood face to face with another man, with only the referee coming between them and pure chaos. With 53 seconds left in the second round of that fight, a featured prelim at UFC 185 on March 14, the 27-year-old former The Ultimate Fighter winner overwhelmed poor Roger Narvaez with persistent ground-and-pound.
The win marked the 11th in his perfect professional career and third in the UFC's Octagon. With Canada's dearth of native-born prospects and his model looks, Theodorou's track record could lead to big things.
It would have been easy then, for the UFC star from Mississauga to look down his nose at the tiny Great Hall in Toronto and the 200 fans who showed up to watch him step into the ring against veteran Kris Chambers.
Instead, the butterflies were real—and so was the risk. This, after all, wasn't the UFC. It wasn't even MMA. Only July 18, Theodorou wasn't even himself. As "Greece Lightning," he became the next in a growing list of fighters to blur the lines between sport and sports entertainment.
"Pro wrestling is something every 14-year-old boy wants to do when they grow up," Theodorou told Bleacher Report. "I thought I'd have some fun, and that's what the night was about. I'm a professional athlete and really didn't want to get hurt. The last thing I want to do is have to tell anyone at the UFC, 'Yeah, I'd love to fight, but I broke my ankle doing pro wrestling.' So, obviously, safety was first. But I got to unveil my alter ego and take a crack at it."
Stepping into the ring, however, was more than mere wish fulfillment. There was a method to his madness—and plenty to learn from another group of professionals who make their living convincing fans to watch them perform.
"It's not just how good you are—it's how many people want to come and see you," Theodorou said. "It doesn't matter if they love you or hate you. Just so long as they want to watch you. Pro wrestlers are great at finding a storyline. And that's something a lot of UFC fighters lack. People are spending their hard-earned money on what you're trying to sell."
While the appearance for the independent Superkick'd promotion didn't have the grandeur of Ronda Rousey's WrestleMania appearance or garner the attention CM Punk's departure from the squared circle for the cage did, Theodorou certainly looked to be having the most fun. Wearing white tights and running a brush through his trademark locks, he did his very best Shawn Michaels impression en route to victory with a Superman punch off the ropes.
"I have total respect for what they do and the bumps and the bruises that come with it," Theodorou said. "Kris Chambers was the real pro wrestler, and I was basically following his lead. I had a great pro wrestler show me the ropes, pun intended. He made me look good as a guest in his home.
"I did my due diligence. I don't half a-- anything, spent a couple days a week for a month in training with Superkick'd. A great group of guys who really took care of me."
While he didn't close the door completely on a career in "a--less chaps—because who doesn't want to wear a--less chaps," Theodorou made it clear the UFC was his priority for the time being.
"I'm not ready to become a pro wrestler or be the next Ken Shamrock anytime soon. I'm focused on getting ready for my next fight. But down the line, when I hang up my gloves? You never know. I just wanted to do it for s---s and giggles—but I don't think I looked too bad to be perfectly honest. I'm a mixed martial artist, but I'm also an entertainer."
Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.