Early UFC Competitor Paul Varelans Dead at 51 After Battling COVID-19

By: Tristen Critchfield
Jan 17, 2021

UFC pioneer Paul Varelans has died after a lengthy fight against COVID-19.

Varelans passed away due to complications from the virus on Saturday, according to his Facebook page. He initially revealed his COVID-19 diagnosis via social media on Dec. 12. “Best way I can compare the feel of COVID-19 in my experiance [sic] is it’s like fighting a guy who specializes in kidney punches they never stop coming,” he wrote regarding the illness.

Less than a week later, he was placed on a ventilator in a medically induced coma at a hospital in Atlanta. Varelans was 51 years old.

A 6-foot-8, 300-pound Alaska native who played college football at San Jose State University, the man known as “Polar Bear” compiled a 9-9 mark over the course of a three-year mixed martial arts tenure.

Varelans’ first fight came at UFC 6, where he knocked out Cal Worsham in the opening round with an elbow before being outsted from the bracket by David Abbott in the semifinals. He returned at UFC 7, besting Gerry Harris and Mark Hall before falling to Marco Ruas in the finals. Varelans would go on to square off against the likes of Dan Severn, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kimo Leopoldo and Mark Kerr before his career was through.

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