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Elias Theodorou embraces UFC 185 bad-guy role: 'I love the boos'

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC has followed a certain blueprint over the years by tailoring their cards to the local market.

Putting on a show in Brazil? Load the card up with Brazilians. A date in Dublin? Give them Ireland's finest. And so on.

So, it comes as a bit of surprise that Canadian middleweight Elias Theodorou will fight this weekend at UFC 185 in Dallas, when UFC 186 in Montreal is just around the corner.

But while Theodorou, last year's TUF: Nations middleweight winner, would have liked to fight close to home, he confessed on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour that he doesn't mind playing the role of the bad guy.

"I love it," said Theodorou (10-0), who meets Texan Roger Narvaez (7-1) on the FX prelim broadcast Saturday night. "I've finished every single time I've been the ‘away' guy. So I'm basically excited to keep that going. For me, I love the boos because in my mind, I tell myself just before the fight with a little smile that they don't know what's going to f--- happen."

If that seems like surprisingly strong language coming from the part-time male model, he's also got some strong words for Narvaez, who has experienced mixed results in his UFC stint. Narvaez lost a bout he was winning against Patrick Cummins last year, and followed up with a debatable split decision win over Luke Barnatt in November.

Theodorou questioned his opponent on two levels: First, in Narvaez's quality of competition on his way up.

"He's a dangerous dude, he has some tools that he's going to want to use," Theodorou said. "There's a lot of aspects to it that I don't think he'll be able to handle. If you dig into his records, some of his mistakes he made are similar to [ones] many boxers make in that they don't fight the top talent in regards to, small increments in their challenges every single time."

Then, he essentially called his opponent's heart into question.

"When he does finally get into the UFC with the UFC talent, he gave up in the second round [against Cummins]," Theodorou said. "He was in a position where he should have dominated on the ground. He's a black black belt in jiu-jitsu. But instead he crumbled. I think in his last fight, it was more Luke screwing the pooch. Luke was trying to be too fancy. He lost, Roger didn't win."

Theodorou has made a point of traveling around the world and learning at new camps. For this bout, he trained at the Nogueira Brothers gym in Brazil.

It was his second such trip to the legendary Brazilian camp, with the first coming when his stature in the sport was much less than it is now.

"I got most of the lumps and bumps the first time I went out," Theodorou said. "It's kind of come full circle. Now I'm the Ultimate Fighter winner ... Honestly it was an amazing experience this time around because I could see both of the Nogueiras getting excited in training. There's what, 70-80 fights between them? They are very much prize fighters, and the idea to see them being excited about my camp, enjoying being mixed martial artists again, and just enjoying the craft of what they were doing, just teaching me, was honestly amazing."

As a byproduct, Theodorou happened to be around the gym when the Nog-affiliated Anderson Silva returned to meet Nick Diaz, and for the fallout of his drug-test failure afterwards.

"It was a huge 180 in the sense that I was there at a very popular local bar with hundreds of people watching the fights and there was a sense of pride that he was back," he said. "Anderson, for many, is holding the flag of Brazil, and he was when he was fighting Nick Diaz. And then just a couple days later that high became a 180. There wasn't much talking, but everyone was acknowledging the weird feeling that it was."

While he's been playing the part of world traveler, the state of MMA in Canada remains a hot-button topic North of the border.

There's one big, obvious reason: The loss of Montreal superstar Georges St-Pierre. But Theodorou sees that as just one of several reasons.

"You have the vortex of GSP leaving, maybe the greatest headliner of all-time, and especially Canada," Theodorou said. "Certain promotions have come and gone, and there are certain regulations in places like Ontario where it might be harder to put things together and only bigger organizations like the UFC can pull it off, to be completely honest. And there's variations of other fighters, other than Tri-Star there aren't too many gyms people think they can flock to, just in, that next step. Tri-Star is one of those places within Canada. Maybe some people leave and go to different parts of the world."

Still, though, these things are cyclical in the fight game, and Theodorou is confident things will come back around, even if he's not a part of UFC 186.

"I think there's great talent, and I'm optimistic for the future," he said.

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