The last year and a half has been a very turbulent time in the life of Pride and UFC veteran Kevin Randleman. With his body ravaged by a severe lung infection, Randleman underwent eleven different surgeries, which took a huge toll on his body.
As Randleman said on MMAWeekly Radio earlier this year, he has taken a significant amount of antibiotics and painkillers over the past year and a half, and when Randleman found out that some of those antibiotics and painkillers were banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, he provided fake urine in an NSAC drug test.
Two days ago at a disciplinary hearing in front of the NSAC, Randleman admitted that what he did “was very wrong.” Randleman’s license as a fighter was revoked, and his future is now uncertain.
Shortly after a major health scare in early 2006, Randleman appeared on MMAWeekly Radio in March 2006 and said, “I almost died from a lung infection that I didn’t know I had. I had it for about a year and a half, two years, since I’ve been coming to Vegas, and I’ve been coming to Vegas for two years. But I didn’t know. Every time I was fighting, every time I would train, every time I’d get hit in, like, in my ribs, I thought it was a broken rib or something, so I just kept training through it because that is all I know. I guess it was kind of… I was being a tough guy, and that’s bull—t, people. When you’ve got a nagging injury that lasts more than a week, you need to go get it checked out. Well, I let this nagging injury last almost two years, and I was on the slab table and they were taking my lung. I was very lucky… eight weeks ago, I was laying on the table dying.”
Randleman had numerous health issues in 2005, including a torn tendon in his shoulder, a torn bicep, kidney stones, and shingles. As Randleman said on MMAWeekly Radio in March 2006, “I came back home, got surgery on my shoulder, and a week after the surgery I had the fevers of like 104… my lung collapsed while I was in Ohio. They drained fluid off my lung. It was just like frickin’ six months of bull crap. They inflated my lung again. I’m back in Ohio, my lung collapsed. I flew back out here to Vegas to get better care, to get a pulmonary doctor, and they still couldn’t tell me what it was because what I had was a fungus. It is different from having a virus, something you can treat with antibiotics. A fungus, you have to treat that with medicine totally different.”
Randleman’s condition worsened, his weight rapidly dropped from 225 pounds to 199 pounds and he had a fever of 105 degrees on many nights. After X-rays were taken of his lungs, Randleman was told that immediate action had to be taken. Randleman said in March 2006, “They showed me the X-ray. [The doctor] was like, ‘This is what we need to take out. This is what your lung looks like.’ My lung, if you can just imagine an X-ray of your lungs, my left lung was gone. It was just completely flat. Every time that I broke my ribs, because of this fungus that I got, it would drain all the blood from the broken rib into my chest cavity. It was just making this bigger ball of stuff. It cracked, crushed my lung. Literally, the doctor came in there and said, ‘We’ve got to cut you tomorrow. We’ve got to have emergency surgery.’ He was like, ‘There is a chance you might lose your lung.’”
Foreshadowing the decision that he would make later in 2006 to fight on the Pride USA show even with his ongoing medical problems, Randleman also said on MMAWeekly Radio in March 2006, “When they said they were going to [operate on] my lung and they might need to take it, I was just like, ‘Dude, if you don’t give me my f—ing lung back, I’m going to fight anyways.’”
Fortunately, surgeons were able to save Randleman’s lung, and he appeared to have recovered from his infection. Having faced his own mortality, Randleman said early last year, “God just made me understand that this is a blessing for me… For me not to look at it as a glorified blessing, I’d be stupid. I definitely look at it as a blessing. I finally learned to realize that life is short… but you know what? This sport is a rush.”
Though Randleman survived his early 2006 brush with death, an infection in his lungs would later return. In the months before his October 2006 fight against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on the Pride USA card, Randleman struggled with the effects of the infection, and he had one of his many surgeries just two months prior to the fight.
By his own admission at his NSAC disciplinary hearing, Randleman was in no condition to perform. Nonetheless, he decided that he was going to fight on the Pride show, even in his poor health.
On the day before the October 21st Pride event, Randleman says that he was given the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s list of banned substances, and panic quickly set in as he saw that some of the antibiotics and painkillers that he was regularly taking were on the banned substances list.
Randleman had three choices at that point. He could have told the athletic commission about his medical condition, which would have caused the NSAC’s doctors to pull him from the event. He could have still fought and then submitted his own urine during the NSAC drug test, which would have caused him to test positive for banned substances. Finally, he could have still fought and then submitted fake urine during the drug test.
A choice had to be made, and it had to be made in a fairly short period of time. Regarding his frame of mind at the time, Randleman would later say at his disciplinary hearing, “I was just thinking [before the fight], ‘I can’t let everybody down. I can’t let my organization down.’”
Randleman ultimately decided that he was still going to fight, and that he was going to submit fake urine if he was one of the fighters who was drug tested by the NSAC. As it turned out, he was indeed one of the drug tested fighters, and he failed his post-fight drug test when the fake urine was detected in the lab. He would have to face a possible suspension or license revocation from the Nevada State Athletic Commission at a disciplinary hearing within a few months of his October 2006 fight.
Randleman was in big trouble, but the trouble that he faced from a disciplinary standpoint still paled in comparison to the serious trouble that was continuing to plague him physically. As Randleman put it, “My body just shut down” in January 2007, as Randleman was hospitalized with severe kidney problems. Randleman’s wife, Elizabeth, told MMAWeekly that he did not suffer kidney failure, but she did state that if he had not gone to the emergency room on the night that he did, Randleman’s health would likely have deteriorated to include kidney failure.
A measurement of 150 for CPK (creatine phosphokinase) is considered normal, and according to Elizabeth Randleman, Kevin’s CPK levels reached a measurement of 68,000. This means that Kevin’s muscles were shutting down, and if they hadn’t got it under control when they did, his kidneys and other organs would have started to shut down as well.
How did this happen? As reported at the time by MMAWeekly, much of the problem stemmed from complications following several surgeries and Randleman’s refusal to slow down and let his body fully recover before resuming his normal routine. This resulted in Randleman having to be on intravenous antibiotics for an extended period of time, which is very stressful on the body. Also, if antibiotics are taken for a long enough period of time, they eventually start to have the opposite effect of what is intended.
With doctors working to flush out his system, Randleman remained in the hospital for several days. Randleman appeared on MMAWeekly Radio from his hospital room and said, “I can honestly say that no matter whatever happens in my life, I have been blessed.”
Randleman also addressed his pending NSAC disciplinary hearing during the same interview on MMAWeekly Radio in January of this year, as he said, “If you’re going to be a man, you have to stand up for what is right. I made a very bad mistake. I did something wrong. I want everyone to understand that I am so sorry to my fans, to MMA, I am going to accept everything that I get… From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry for the deception. It is not my right to fight. It is an honor for me to fight.”
More than a week after he arrived, Randleman was released from the hospital. According to Elizabeth, Kevin’s CPK level was 2,000 when he was released. That is a far cry from what it was when he entered the hospital, but it’s also a far cry from the normal measurement of 150.
A few weeks after being released from the hospital, Randleman’s disciplinary hearing in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission took place. At the hearing this past Friday, February 16th, the commission ultimately decided to revoke Randleman’s fighters’ license. He will only be eligible to re-apply for a fighters’ license after October 21, 2007, and even then, it’s not a given that his application will be granted.
The commission was upset not only with the fake urine sample that Randleman submitted, but also with the fact that he did not disclose his very serious medical situation prior to his fight in Pride last October, putting his health in great jeopardy.
Commission chairman Dr. Tony Alamo said at the hearing, “We need to protect you from yourself… if you had told the doctors about your medical condition, you would not have been cleared to fight.” Alamo also expressed concern that with Randleman could have potentially passed the infection along to his opponent, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, if both of them had sustained open cuts during the fight, which is not an uncommon occurrence in MMA. Fortunately, neither fighter was cut during the fight.
Randleman said during the hearing, “I was wrong. I was very wrong. I should have come to you and said, ‘Ladies, gentlemen, I have a problem here, but all I wanted to do was fight… I’m extremely sorry for the deception… I had 16 months of pure hell.”
At the hearing, NSAC commissioner John Bailey summed up the commission’s issue with full medical disclosure and the danger that Randleman put himself in: “Sometimes we have to protect fighters from themselves… You were not healthy in this case, and you did not make the right judgment. You cannot really provide us any assurance that if there were a fight next week, that you would not try to fight next week, irrespective of the fact that your health is bad. We have to protect you when you can’t protect yourself. You have demonstrated that you can’t protect yourself and that you will deceive us instead of protecting yourself. You could have gotten killed in that ring.”
The Nevada State Athletic Commission will have a chance in the coming months to demonstrate just how serious they are about the issue of full medical disclosure. If they are truly serious about it, one would think that it would be mandatory for fighters to have more extensive pre-fight medical testing and examinations if those fighters have previously fought in Nevada with significant, non-disclosed injuries. Just a few examples in addition to Randleman: Chuck Liddell fighting with a torn knee ligament in December 2006, Sean Sherk fighting with a torn rotator cuff in October 2006, Jorge Gurgel fighting with a torn ACL in 2005 on The Ultimate Fighter 2, Rob MacDonald fighting with a torn labrum in 2005 on TUF 2, Ken Shamrock fighting with a torn rotator cuff in June 2004, and Ken Shamrock fighting with a torn knee ligament in November 2002.
As the commissioners said several times during Kevin Randleman’s disciplinary hearing, the NSAC has a duty to protect fighters from themselves. In the case of Kevin Randleman, the NSAC ruled that when or if Randleman re-applies for a fighters’ license at any time after October 21, 2007, he will not be granted a fighters’ license unless he can provide conclusive medical evidence that he is completely healthy.
For Kevin Randleman, this is not just a matter of his MMA career being at a crossroads; it is a matter of his life being at a crossroads.
His medical issues have, on multiple occasions, led to brushes with organ failure that he admits could have killed him. He stated that he had a new outlook on life after his life-threatening medical issues in early 2006, only to make choices later that same year which put his health at great risk, specifically fighting in October even though he had a severe infection. Regardless of whether or not we have seen the last of Kevin Randleman as an MMA fighter, we should all hope for the best for Kevin Randleman as a person.