Hollywood just lost one of its best fighters – Stefanos Miltsakakis, the legendary Greek American fighter who became a popular bad guy in action movies, died at the age of 60 in Los Angeles on Wednesday. An excellent martial artist, Miltsikakis was suffering from heart problems lately.
Born in humble surroundings in Provatonas, a small village near the town of Alexandroupoli, northern Greece in 1959, he shot to fame fighting Jean-Claude van Damme in five Hollywood movies.
“I remember fighting as soon as I started to walk,” he said in a TV interview in 2011.
“I was raised in an environment where children were fighting, wresting with each other all day long.”
In 1973 he moved to America with his family, although they could not speak English. They settled in a studio apartment, shared with another Greek family, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
He later described how as a teenager he was subject to discrimination: not speaking English and being culturally different, he was struggling to integrate himself with the local youth.
After getting into trouble, the high school free-fighting trainer encouraged him to join the school team: this changed his life forever. He won a scholarship for the State University of North Carolina and became a fighter for the All-Americans team.
In 1984, at age 24, he was selected for the Greek team at the Olympics that year, but a knee injury just before the event forced him to abandon his Olympic dreams.
This forced him to consider the idea of working in the world of cinema. In 1989 he got a small role in the film Cyborg, by Albert Pyun , where he had the chance to work with actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. He moved to Los Angeles and began a career of small character parts, especially in martial arts films.
With Van Damme he collaborated again in Lionheart (where he plays a soldier on a jeep), in La Prova (where he plays a Greek wrestler), in Maximum Risk (where he plays a killer) and in Derailed (where he plays one of the hijackers).
But Miltsakakis was also a great fighter in real life.
On September 27, 1999 he took part in the 9th Vale Tudo World Championship during which he won against judoka Joe Charles in 8:38 minutes, recording a personal record. In 2002 he participated in the 14th Vale tudo, where he won against Mariano Mendoza.
He was also a world champion in “Pagration”, an ancient Greek sport combining wresting with boxing.
After his retirement in 2011 he set up a gym in Venice CA.
He will be sorely missed by his friends and all the people who knew him over the years. In a post on Facebook Stephen Brown writes: “With a heavy heart and swollen eyes we say goodbye for now to one of the greatest human beings that ever walked this earth. He was a mentor to so many of us who was blessed to have known him.”