MMA pioneer Paul ‘The Polar Bear’ Varelans’s final fight is over.
Friends announced via his Facebook page that the UFC 7 tournament runner-up lost his battle with COVID-19, after spending the past month in an induced coma.
Varelans announced on social media back on December 13 that he had tested positive to the virus and that he felt “like hell”.
The Alaska native went on to describe the virus as “like fighting a guy who specializes in kidney punches, and they never stop coming”.
Shortly after, Varelans was hospitalised and placed on a ventilator. Despite the 18-fight veteran’s best efforts, he never recovered.
Varelans made his MMA debut at UFC 6 in 1995. The 6’8 giant was an imposing figure, knocking out Cal Worsham with an elbow in his first bout, before succumbing to Tank Abbott in the semi-finals. He returned later that year at UFC 7, defeating Gerry Harris and Mark Hall on his way to the tournament final, losing via TKO to MMA legend Marco Ruas.
Varelans will be remembered as one of the early faces of the UFC. In addition to his UFC 6 and 7 appearances, ‘The Polar Bear’ shared the Octagon with MMA legends Mark Kerr, Dan Severn, Kimo Leopoldo and Igor Vovchanchyn before retiring in 1998 with a 9-9 record.