UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski said Monday that he’s feeling “much better” after a harrowing battle with COVID-19, which included being diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized after scans showed the infection spread throughout his lungs.
The illness forced Volkanovski to postpone his March 27 title defense against Brian Ortega.
“I’m a UFC champion, a fit human being … and look what it still did to me,” Volkanovski said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. “If I had underlying problems, this could have got really, really serious.
“It was a bit of a shock to me.”
Volkanovski, 32, said he received the news that he tested positive on March 19, and began to experience headaches, and the condition worsened with a fever, night sweats and body aches.
“But then it started getting a little more serious,” he said. “My lungs started hurting a little bit. It started hurting to breathe. We started really wanting to pay attention to everything when my phlegm started coming up pink with little specks of blood.”
Volkanovski said that’s when he went to the hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia.
“We did a scan, and we could see the infection was in the lungs, but it was still a mild case at the time,” Volkanovski said. “Oxygen levels were good. They said we need you to keep an eye on your oxygen levels.”
Volkanovski said over the next few days his fever subsided but his lungs started to hurt more and his oxygen levels started to decline, and he consistently started spitting up more blood. So he went back to the hospital.
“That’s when the doctors ended up doing another scan, and that’s when we found out the infection got worse,” Volkanovski said. “It spread through the lungs, and they told me ‘You’re going to have to stay in the hospital for a few days,’ and get on some medication.”
Volkanovski, who said he’s not sure how he got the disease, said he’s still on the medication and feeling much better. He also said he’s doing some light training.
Volkanovski decided not to return home to Australia because the postponement resulted in the UFC offering the opportunity for Volkanovski and Ortega to be the coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, which Volkanovski said begins taping later this month. His fight against Ortega will follow the airing of the series later this year.