UFC pioneer Paul Varelans died on Saturday, Jan. 16, following a month-long battle against COVID-19.
Varelans had been feeling ill in early December, confirming in social media posts that he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“So it’s official, I am COVID-19 positive. And I feel like hell,” Varelans tweeted on Dec. 12.
A day later he added, “The best way I can compare the feel(ing) of COVID-19 in my experience is it’s like fighting a guy who specializes in kidney punches. They never stop coming.”
On Dec. 17, UFC co-founder Art Davie stated that Varelans’s health had worsened. He added that Varelans had been put in a medically induced coma and placed on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit.
A month later, on Jan. 16, Varelans lost his battle with COVID-19.
Paul “The Polar Bear” Varelans: 1969-2021
Most newer mixed martial arts fans probably aren’t all that familiar with Varelans, but he was an easily identifiable character when it comes to the origins of the UFC.
Varelans was six-foot-eight and 300 pounds, a rather imposing figure in the Octagon; though his nickname was “The Polar Bear.”
He first fought at UFC 6, where he defeated Cal Worsham and then lost to Tank Abbott. Varelans is probably most remembered for his 13-minute battle in the finals of an eight-man tournament at UFC 7, where he lost to the legendary Marco Ruas after suffering numerous crippling leg kicks.
His final UFC bout was opposite Kimo Leopoldo at Ultimate Ultimate 1996. Varelans went on to fight several more times outside of the UFC, fighting for the final time Feb. 8, 1998, in the Netherlands. He was 9-9 overall in his fighting career.
Paul Varelans was born on Sept. 17, 1969. He passed away on Jan. 16, 2021. Varelans was 51 years old at the time of his death.