UFC Pioneer Paul Varelans Dies At Age 51 Following Battle With COVID-19

COVID-19 has claimed the life of one of the earliest UFC fighters.

Paul “The Polar Bear” Varelans has died at age 51 just over a month after testing positive for COVID-19. He’d spent weeks in the hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, receiving dialysis and using a ventilator before being placed in a medically induced coma. He tragically succumbed to the virus on January 16, and his friends, family, and fans have shared and lamented his untimely passing on social media.

Varelans, who was 6’8″, made his UFC debut in 1995 at UFC 6: Clash of the Titans, knocking out Cal Worsham with an elbow to move forward in the tournament before being TKO’d by David “Tank” Abbott. He then went on to TKO Gerry Harris and submit Mark Hall at UFC 7 before being defeated by Marco Ruas in the finals. Varelans retired in 1998 with a professional MMA record of 9-9.

On the day he went to get tested for COVID-19, Varelans remarked on his Facebook page that he had “never felt so sick in [his] life,” adding that he felt “like hell” after receiving his positive diagnosis. In one of his last posts before being admitted to the ICU, he said that living with the virus felt like “fighting a guy who specializes in kidney punches… they never stop coming.”

The Jiu-Jitsu Times sends our deepest condolences to Varelans’ loved ones.


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