UFC pioneer Paul Varelans, 51, dies of coronavirus
Paul Varelans, a popular 6-foot-8 fighter nicknamed “The Polar Bear,” died after a month-long battle with
COVID-19, A person close to Varelans’ family confirmed his death to MMA Junkie. Varelans was 51.
The 6ft 8in powerhouse passed away yesterday after a month-long battle with the virus, according to multiple
posts on his Facebook page.
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He had been in a medically induced coma at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Varelans had continued to keep his supporters on his condition throughout his health battle via social media.
But a few days after his last update, UFC co-founder Art Davie announced the veteran had been placed on a
respirator and was in a coma.
The former college football star made his octagon debut at the legendary UFC 6 event in 1995.
He memorably defeated Cal Worsham in the quarter-finals in just 62 seconds with a stunning knockout with
elbows. The pioneer then went on to suffer a TKO defeat to Tank Abbott in the semis.
At UFC 7 in Buffalo, N.Y., Varelans got all the way to the final, as he submitted Gerry Harris in the quarterfinals
and Mark Hall in the semis before getting TKO’d by Marco Raus at the 13:17 mark of the no rounds, no time limit
Varelans made two more UFC appearances, earning a decision over Joe Moreira and losing to Kimo Leopoldo
at Ultimate Ultimate ’96. His final bout was a knockout of Dick Vrij on a Rings card in 1998 in Amsterdam.
Varelans also dabbled in pro wrestling, making a 1996 appearance in the infamous ECW promotion in
Tributes poured in Saturday as the news of Varelans’ death spread: