UFC Pioneer Dies of COVID-19, According to Facebook Friends

UFC Octagon

Getty The Octagon prior to the start of the UFC 250 event at UFC APEX on June 06, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

UFC pioneer Paul Varelans has died, according to multiple posts from his friends on Facebook. Heavy has not independently verified Varelans’ death.

Varelans, who was known as “The Polar Bear,” competed in the promotion multiple times in the 1990s and has a professional MMA record of 9-9. He was 51 years old.

On December 12, Varelans revealed his COVID-19 diagnosis, sharing a post on Facebook, writing, “So [it’s] official I am COVID-19 positive. And feel like hell.”

The next day, the UFC pioneer wrote, “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.”

Paul Varelans

TwitterPaul Varelans

On December 14, Varelans wrote, “Now for food pangs I’d kill for candied salmon WTF.”

On December 17, UFC co-founder Art Davie shared on Facebook that Varelans had been put onto a ventilator. “Paul Varelans… (The Polar Bear)… has been diagnosed with Covid 19. He’s on a ventilator and struggling,” Davie wrote. “I urge everyone in the MMA world, to say a quick prayer for Paul. God speed…!!!.”

Shane Viens, who said he was one of Varelans best friends, revealed on Facebook the same day that the former fighter had been placed in a medically induced coma in the intensive care unit at the Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia.

On December 21, Viens shared an update for The Polar Bear. “Paul has also been on kidney dialysis since the day after I initially posted,” he wrote. “It’s been day to day and he’s still on the ventilator but there has been a tiny improvement with his breathing today and the dialysis is working; his blood pressure is starting to go down. He’s still out cold and he’s still fighting. Thank you to everyone for continuing to show him support. He’s hanging tough for now.”

A friend who says he knew Varelans for over 20 years confirmed Varelans’ death on Saturday.

“Sad update: Paul Varelans passed away today from complications from Covid,” he wrote. “He was definitely one of a kind: Football player, UFC legend, Bouncer, D&D player and philosopher. Having known him for more than 20 years he was as unique and the center of some good stories and truly a nice guy.”

Thoughts and prayers to his family and all that knew him.”

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Condolences & Prayers Were Shared on Varelans’ Facebook Page on Saturday

Over two dozen of Varelan’s Facebook friends posted on his wall Saturday night. One person wrote, “Rest easy champ! You where a true pioneer my friend!”

Another wrote, “Teach those Angels MMA, Paul. RIP my brother.” One Facebook friend wrote, “My prayers and condolences go out to Paul’s family. Godspeed to you brother and your journey.”

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Varelans Fought 8 Times in the UFC’s Octagon, Fought Multiple Legends

The Polar Bear made his professional MMA and UFC debut on the same night in July 1995. He competed in the UFC 6 tournament, fighting Cal Worsham in the first round and winning via KO. In his next fight, he took on Octagon legend Tank Abbott and lost by KO.

He then took part in UFC 7, winning two fights in the tournament, finishing Gerry Harris and Mark Hall, before losing to Marco Ruas in the finals.

Varelans went on to fight three more times in the promotion, including a bout against Dan Severn, as well as in other promotions around the world. He amassed a professional record of 9-9 with seven wins coming the way of KO/TKO.

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