by MMAWeekly Radio – Jeff Cain
When Kevin ‘The Monster’ Randleman is on top of his game, he wins Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight titles; he knocks out Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic; he slams Fedor Emelianenko on his head. When Randleman is not, he loses. His Mixed Martial Arts career has been marked by triumphs and tragedies, much like his life away from the ring. Kevin Randleman spoke exclusively to MMAWeekly Radio about a recent struggle that nearly left him without a lung and almost took his life.
Randleman hasn’t fought since October when he defeated Fatih Kocamis by decision in Bushido Europe. Little did he know then, he was losing a fight to a lung infection. “Within the last six to eight months the fight fans of the world just almost lost one of the craziest, funest fighters. 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 bullshit 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.” Kevin Randleman told MMAWeekly Radio.
Randleman added, “I fought Nakamura last year and during the fight I broke my rib, early in the fight. I thought that was one of the pains, and during the fight I kept grabbing my ribs, the back of my sides. And all my fights during the last two years, during the fights themselves, when I get to grab somebody, like when I get kneed or something, I had this tumor sized thing growing on my lung. As it grew, every time someone would hit me it would shockwave my body and this thing would push down on my lung. All my air was, by the time twenty minutes in a Pride fight came, I was literally tired. There was a huge ball, a softball on top of my lungs. This has been a year and a half, and we didn’t know this.”
Randleman has had an unbelievable string of bad luck lately. After his last fight he had to have shoulder surgery for a torn tendon. He passed a kidney stone, tore his bicep, and got shingles. Further discussing his lung issue, Kevin commented, “I came back home, got surgery on my shoulder and a week after the surgery I had the fevers of like 104. I was like, jeez, I don’t know what is going on, so my girl took me to the doctor again. They didn’t know what it was. After my shoulder surgery I flew home to watch my son play, my lung collapsed while I was in Ohio. They drained fluid off my lung. It was just like fricken 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.”
Things didn’t become alarming until Kevin began running a temperature for six straight weeks and dropped from 225lbs to 199 within two months time. He explained, “My fever kept rising. It started at 98.6 and it just climbed all the way up to 105.5 a couple of nights . . . It got to a 105 and my head felt like it was popping. I was just drenching water. We went to the doctors and they brought a disease specialist in because they had seen me for two months now. They had seen me in the emergency room for two months and they didn’t know what was going on, so they brought a disease guy in. He fricken took a chest x-ray, and they showed me the x-ray. He 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, when the doctor came in there and said we’ve got to cut you tomorrow; we’ve got to have emergency surgery, I was like, Okay. No big deal. Cut me. He was like, there is a chance you might lose your lung. I was like, what? No! I started crying.”
Kevin underwent emergency surgery to repair his damaged lung, but at the time, it wasn’t known if the procedure would be successful. “I was like, doc, can you do something? He was like, Kevin, I don’t know. He was like, look at your lung. It is flat. We’ve got to inflate it back up and we don’t know. The damage might be done.” Randleman told MMAWeekly.
The surgery was a success and Kevin has made a full recovery. Discussing the procedure, Kevin said, “They went in and they took four big, huge layers of skin off of my lung. – It all came so fast I didn’t get the chance to even have a pity party about it. I was like, do it. But when they said they were going to take my lung and they might need to take it, I was just like, dude, if you don’t give me my f#%king lung back I’m going to fight anyways.”
Faced with the possibility of never fighting again, Randleman reflected on his career and wasn’t satisfied with what he saw. He thought about his last fight and the last punch he took. Kevin commented, “The last punch I took, it was a pussy punch. And believe me, it was not enough. I mean, I’d rather get knocked out my next fight and retire that way than to ever finish this way.”
Kevin, determined to learn and bounce back from fate reminding him of his mortality, said, “God has still blessed the world with 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.”
The seriousness of the situation sparked a change in Kevin Randleman. He has a new outlook on life and a new perspective on fighting. He stated, “Someone almost took away the one thing, not someone. God just made me understand that this is a blessing for me . . . I’m a fighter. I’ve wrestled. I played football. I’m an athlete. To take that away from me, for me, it is like taking away, taking away a sex fiend’s sex. Boy that would drive him crazy.”
He continued. “I’m still in the game because I’m good enough to be in the game still. But I made a lot of mistakes along the road. When I got that title, I thought, everyone wanted to call my name and everyone wanted to be my friend thinking that they were, but they weren’t. You understand the game, the sport, the limelight. But you’ve got to change the things that are negative around you in order to become a better person, a better fighter. The bad things that happened, every time I lost to Sakuraba, it was because I took it for granted. Every time someone gave me that knockout punch, it was because I felt stronger. When Randy Couture got the better of me in the third round, it was because I felt like I could beat him on my feet all day, so I said let me try and wrestle him. He was the better wrestler that second. I just sometimes thing that I’m better than I am, so I’ve got to always stay grounded. The last year all Mark Coleman’s been telling me is, look Kevin, just give me two years and fight like this and you’ll have your belt. Trust me. So I’m giving him what he wants. I’m going straight back to fighting just like a wrestler. I’m going to take you down at all angles, stay on you. I have a lot in my arsenal. I mean I kick and do a lot of things, but I’ll stay within myself and do what is best for me.”
They say what don’t kill you makes you stronger, and Kevin Randleman subscribes to that philosophy. He said, “Who in the hell would I fear knowing the shit that I’ve gone through in my life? The things that I’ve endured, you know? I mean, come on. I’m not ever going back there, but I know where I’ve been. I know who I am. And I know how easy this sport is. I don’t mind getting punched in the face, or the notion of David Loiseau kicking my face. I just want to know how to stop him. This is a big chess game to me.”
Randleman further commented, “When I chose a chess game with like Sakuraba when he beat me, or like with Quinton Jackson. I’m trying to play everyone else’s game, so I can beat them at their game. But hell, I’m not letting people try to beat me at my game.”
Questioned about his Pride contract and if he would consider coming back to the UFC, Kevin answered, “I fight for Pride . . . Pride has taken such great care of me. They give me time off if I say I don’t want to fight and want to take time off for family or something. They say, Kevin, if you need anything. If I needed money, someone to sit there with me; they’ll send anyone to help me. I can’t imagine ever leaving them. They’re a great organization. The UFC, I started there. I love the UFC. I love what they’re doing for the fans there in America. But I fight for the Pride organization, and man I take pride in fighting for them.”
Randleman will be fighting again in June. When asked whom he’ll be facing, he responded, “Who wouldn’t I fight in June?”
No matter who will be standing across the ring from Kevin Randleman come June, they won’t pose as big a threat to him as the lung infection. He won’t be out there in the Pride ring fighting for his life. He’ll be out there fighting because it is his livelihood. He is a fighter whose fought through tougher battles than any opponent standing in the opposite corner. Focused and on a mission, Kevin Randleman has been resurrected.