Paul Varelans, one of UFC’s original fighters, reportedly died on Saturday from COVID-19 complications. He was 51.
A family member confirmed Varelans’ passing to MMA Junkie on Saturday. He had been in a medically included coma at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after first being diagnosed with coronavirus back in December.
Varelans documented his battle with COVID-19 in a series of Facebook posts where he detailed his declining health.
Shortly after he was diagnosed, UFC co-founder and Hall of Famer Art Davie posted on Facebook that Varelans was on a ventilator and “struggling.”
Varelans, nicknamed “The Polar Bear,” made his debut in 1995 when he fought in the UFC 6 event. His record was 9-9, with a majority of his wins coming by way of knockout.
“Best way I can compare the feel of COVID-19 in my experience is, it’s like fighting a guy who specializes in kidney punches,” he wrote of his diagnosis back in December. “They never stop coming.”
Varelans was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and participated in football and boxing at San Jose State University.