Paul Varelans is in the ICU, currently battling a severe case of COVID-19.
The UFC pioneer revealed his symptoms on social media back in December 10, writing “I have never felt so sick in my life, going to get tested today.” Three days later, he announced that he officially tested positive and “feel like hell.”
On December 14, he explained the gravity of his situation. “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. They never stop coming.”
Thursday night, UFC co-founder Art Davie announced that things have worsened, and the 51-year-old heavyweight has been put on a ventilator.
Varelans’ friend also wrote about how the former UFC heavyweight is currently in the ICU in Atlanta, Georgia. According to him, Varelans has been in a medically induced coma since the 15th, and isn’t breathing on his own.
Known as “The Polar Bear,” the massive 6-foot-8 heavyweight is known for having eight fights in the UFC from 1995 to 1996. Most notable was his involvement in the one-night, eight-man tournament at UFC 7. Varelans destroyed two opponents in one minute to advance to the finals, and then lost to eventual MMA legend Marco Ruas in one of the most iconic bouts from the earlier UFC tournaments.
Varelans went 4-4 in the UFC, and 9-9 overall in his brief 3-year MMA career. Apart from Ruas, his losses were against some of the best fighters from that era, facing the likes of Dan Severn, Mark Kerr, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kimo Leopoldo, and Tank Abbott.