LISTEN: Giant Alaskan legend from early UFC dies of COVID-19

Paul Varelans at UFC 7 in 1995. (Robin Postell)

A larger-than-life Alaskan who was a legend from the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship died earlier this month from COVID-19.

Paul Varelans was a 6-foot-8, 300-pound giant from Fairbanks and a pioneer in the now wildly popular UFC. He died at the age of 51, battling COVID-19 in an Atlanta hospital.

Varelans’ close friend, Shane Viens, said Varelans was of course known for his size, but also his kindness. Varelans graduated from Fairbanks’s West Valley High School, while Viens went to rival Lathrop.

As Viens told Alaska Public Media’s Casey Grove, it didn’t stop them from being friends through high school and beyond.