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5 UFC fighters who suffered badly after contracting COVID-19

UFC Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski was hospitalized due to COVID-19.
UFC Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski was hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 07 Apr 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

Ever since it started in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive effect on the world, and the UFC has been no exception.

The UFC has seen many of its fighters contract COVID-19 over the past year, and the virus has not only put paid to a number of fights but it’s also left some fighters seriously unwell.

With that in mind, here are five UFC fighters who have suffered badly after contracting COVID-19.


#1 Khamzat Chimaev

Khamzat Chimaev considered retirement after a severe case of COVID-19.
Khamzat Chimaev considered retirement after a severe case of COVID-19.

The most high-profile victim of COVID-19 in the UFC is probably Welterweight prospect Khamzat Chimaev.

The Chechnyan native shot to fame after debuting in the UFC in 2020 with three straight wins. It looked like he was on the fast track to Welterweight title contention when the UFC then matched him with top contender Leon Edwards. But disaster soon struck in the form of COVID-19.

After a positive test for Edwards – more on that later – ruled him out of the initial December booking, and Chimaev then contracted the virus himself.

That put paid to the plan to have the duo fight in January, but it quickly became clear that Chimaev wasn’t going to be back for some time.

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And in fact, Borz was reportedly so ill from the effects of the virus that he announced his retirement from MMA altogether in early March.

UFC president Dana White was quick to refute this, though – stating that Chimaev was simply over-emotional after attempting to train while still suffering from the effects of COVID-19.

Sure enough, White turned out to be right, as the Chechnyan announced later in the month that he’d be returning to the UFC once he was healthy.

However, he did detail his battle with the virus in more depth – stating that he was so sick from COVID-19 that he actually believed at one stage that he had cancer.


#2 Alexander Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski
Alexander Volkanovski's UFC Featherweight title fight with Brian Ortega was canceled due to COVID-19.

UFC fans across the world were disappointed when UFC Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski was forced out of his planned title defense against Brian Ortega at UFC 260 with a positive COVID-19 test.

However, once the Australian detailed his battle with the virus, it was hard not to be absolutely horrified.

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Alexander the Great stated that his symptoms were initially mild when the UFC’s doctors informed him that he’d tested positive.

But the case quickly spiraled out of control, causing some serious worries for the UFC champ.

Volkanovski explained that he began to cough up blood, saw his heart rate drop like a stone, and spent two days in hospital due to the virus's complications.

The Australian even stated that he probably only recovered due to his physical shape, and had he been more unhealthy, “you can see why people pass away."

Thankfully, Volkanovski is now on the mend – and is set to fight Ortega after the two act as coaches on the 29th season of The Ultimate Fighter.


#3 Leon Edwards

Leon Edwards lost 12lbs in four days after contracting COVID-19.
Leon Edwards lost 12lbs in four days after contracting COVID-19.

Leon Edwards’ scheduled fight with Khamzat Chimaev was canceled on more than one occasion due to COVID-19.

But while Chimaev’s battle with the virus was well-publicized, Edwards also had major struggles with it.

Rocky was reportedly left unable to train after contracting the virus, and incredibly, the British Welterweight lost 12 pounds over four days due to the illness.

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Edwards did recover relatively quickly from the virus and was ready to fight Chimaev just one month after their initial booking was canceled.

And he also stated that while his case was serious, “the virus (had) affected many lives and families much worse than mine."

It came as no surprise then when he showed sympathy when Chimaev was forced out of their rebooked fight – simply stating that health must come first.


#4 Cody Garbrandt

Cody Garbrandt
Cody Garbrandt's complications from COVID-19 included blood clots and vertigo.

Former UFC Bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt looked set for a big year in 2020.

June’s UFC 250 saw him pick up his first win since 2016 when he knocked out veteran Raphael Assuncao.

The victory was so impressive that the UFC immediately handed him a title shot at Flyweight, and No Love was all set to challenge champion Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 255. However, that was before COVID-19 struck.

Garbrandt was forced out of the fight after tearing his biceps – but this turned out not to be the case. Instead, No Love had suffered a torn vein in the arm due to a blood clot caused by the virus.

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And when he was asked about his battle with COVID-19, Garbrandt also stated that he’d suffered from other horrendous effects such as vertigo, body aches and fatigue.

In fact, No Love was still reportedly suffering the effects of the virus more than two months after initially testing positive.

At the time of writing, Garbrandt is now ready to return to action, as he’s scheduled to face Rob Font on May 22nd. Hopefully, the former UFC champion will now be free of any lingering symptoms going forward.


#5 Alexandre Pantoja

Alexandre Pantoja described COVID-19 as an illness that is "hard to believe until you catch it."
Alexandre Pantoja described COVID-19 as an illness that is "hard to believe until you catch it."

One of the best Flyweights on the UFC’s roster, Alexandre Pantoja was last seen in action in February when he outpointed Manel Kape.

However, the fight with Kape was initially supposed to happen in December – but ended up being rescheduled when The Cannibal tested positive for COVID-19.

And in an interview prior to the February fight, Pantoja detailed his battle with the virus, describing it as “an illness that’s hard to believe until you catch it."

The Brazilian explained that he showed nearly “every symptom,” except a lack of oxygen.

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The Cannibal suffered from fevers, fatigue and was completely unable to train despite attempting it. He also lost his senses of taste and smell – a common symptom linked to COVID-19 cases.

Thankfully, by the time his fight with Kape did take place, Pantoja appeared to be fully recovered from the virus. However, his case stands as yet another example that COVID-19 is no joke, even for high-level professional athletes.

Published 07 Apr 2021, 23:18 IST
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