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Alexander Volkanovski details his COVID-19 experience: ‘The blood just got worse and worse’

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UFC Press Conference with David Shaw and Alex Volkanovski Photo by Paul Kane/Zuffa LLC

UFC 260 took a big hit a week out with the news that Featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, was out of his fight with Brian Ortega because of a positive COVID-19 test. But, this bad news went beyond just a much anticipated fight falling through. Volkanovski also ended up having serious COVID-19 symptoms that landed him in the hospital for days hooked up to Oxygen.

Volkanovski was on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show and described the whole situation, starting with when he learned he had the virus.

“Obviously, I tested negative to get on the plane, negative to get into the bubble, everything we did was great,” he said. “And then we were training and got tested again later that week on the Friday the day before Brad Riddell was to fight and I got the news that I was positive. Obviously you’re just like what? It was a shock, devastating news.”

Volkanovski said headaches were the first symptoms he noticed, but soon things got pretty serious with his lungs.

“We realized my lungs are hurting a little bit, hurting to breath. We started wanting to pay attention to things when I started coughing up phlegm, pinky, like little bits of blood. I was lucky enough to have Geordie my fight dietician, he’s my nutritionist and he knew a little about it. So he knew that’s something we needed to look at because that was blood in the lungs.”

UFC had its champ taken to the hospital in an ambulance where a diagnosis was made.

“I had COVID pneumonia,” Volkanovski said. “The pneumonia in the lungs and they did a scan and we could see the infection in the lungs. But it was still a mild case at the time, my Oxygen was still good. They said we can take you back [to the hotel] but you need to keep an eye on your Oxygen levels. Geordie had an Oxygen meter ... they said if you hit 93 percent and under, come back to the hospital.”

“There’s videos of the Oxygen levels going down to 91 percent. There was a couple of days this was happening. My cough started spitting up more blood and phlegm. And then my team said we need to go back [to the hospital] ... The blood just got worse and worse.”

Volkanovski is now feeling fine and easing back into training. With a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) coming up, he’ll have plenty of time to properly recover before fighting Brian Ortega sometime later in the year.

“At the end of the day I’m UFC champion, I’m a fit human being!” he exclaimed. “It shows you that ... look how healthy and fit I was and look at what it still did to me. If I was unfit or overweight or had underlying problems, this could have gotten really really serious — you can see why people are obviously passing away. So it was a bit of shock to me to be like, ‘Why am I getting hit so hard with this?’”

“I have other guys on the team that tested positive, some of them had symptoms, some of them didn’t have symptoms. I went through the whole nine yards. I was in bed for days. Sleeping in til 12 o’clock in the day and not doing nothing, not eating all day. It got pretty nasty. Coughing up blood and struggling to breath. I’m glad the UFC were great through the whole process. Did a great job, the medication was good.

“Right now I’m much better, I can train a little bit right now,” he finished. “The doctors told me we need to ease into this, right now I’m only 50 percent training, and then I’m going to slowly pick it up. Feeling so much better, I got my color back, high spirits. But it got nasty.”

To check out a comprehensive list of UFC fighters, coaches and cornermen who tested positive for COVID-19 click here.