10/01/2014 12:57 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST

Elias (The Spartan) Theodorou returns to action after 'TUF Nations' win

Elias (The Spartan) Theodorou says he is still living "the grind" of a mixed martial arts fighter since winning the middleweight portion of "The Ultimate Fighter Nations" reality TV show.

But life has changed.

"I'm just fortunate now to get to see more people, better people, getting to train with more coaches," said the 26-year-old from Mississauga, Ont.

"Same job, just better office," he added.

Theodorou, who won his TUF Nations title in April, returns to action Saturday in Halifax against Brazilian Bruno Santos.

Welterweight Rory (Ares) MacDonald takes on American-based Belgian Tarec (Sponge) Saffiedine in the main event of the televised card at the Scotiabank Centre as the UFC makes is first foray into Atlantic Canada.

The 25-year-old MacDonald, a native of Kelowna, B.C., who trains out of Montreal, is ranked No. 2 among welterweight contenders while the 28-year-old Saffiedine is No. 9.

It's one of two UFC cards Saturday. Iceland's Gunnar Nelson, ranked 12th among welterweight contenders, faces Rick (The Horror) Story in the main event of a Stockholm show, which is being shown by the UFC's Fight Pass online subscription service.

Theodorou (pronounced Theo-dor-oh) is a larger-than-life character whose resume reads actor, model, stuntman, dancer, TV pitchman and Harlequin Romance cover boy as well as fighter.

He says he is always looking to expand his brand both inside and outside the cage.

It has not been all nose to the grindstone for Theodorou since defeating Sheldon Westcott via second-round TKO.

"After the fight I got to enjoy a couple of dance floors and some extracurricular activities," he said.

Perhaps as a result, the six-foot-one Theodorou put on some "happy weight," getting as high as "230ish."

But he says he has trimmed pounds via good nutrition. "Science is going to allow me basically to be 185 for about an hour."

Theodorou (9-0) says he's realistic about what winning the reality TV show meant. The hard work lies ahead.

"I literally just got my place in the race now ... Now it begins with Bruno Santos."

The stocky five-foot-nine Brazilian likes to take people down.

"He's a tough dude," said Theodorou. "He's 14-1. What he basically does, even though not it may not be that exciting, (is) he just grabs a hold of you, picks you up and does exactly what he needs to do to win.

"He breaks his opponents to be completely honest with you. He's very headstrong. He's very focused on what he wants to do. But I think I'm just equally as headstrong and a little better technically ... Every time he tries to grab a hold of me, similar to Sheldon, I'm just going to say no. I'm going to punch him, I'm going to kick him and I'm going to move.

"It's not too easy to grab a hold of something that's moving. Especially when it kicks you in the head."

Theodorou believes he can showcase his standup skills in the fight. During the reality TV show, he used his grappling to control his opponents.

The 27-year-old Santos is 1-1 in the UFC with a win over Krzysztof Jotko and a loss to Chris Camozzi.

Theodorou's camp for this fight has included time in the Toronto area (Headrush Training Center and the Tapout Burlington Training Centre) and Montreal (Tristar Gym, Titans Academy, BTT Canada and the Montreal Wrestling Club).

In Montreal, he got to train with MacDonald.

Theodorou is no stranger to Halifax, having stopped Mike Kent in the first round of an Extreme Cage Combat card in May 2013.

"I've fought in Halifax before and it's going to be another home away from home."


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