– Guest Editorial by Ed Theisen
Super-human strength, a vertical leap that would challenge even Michael Jordan, and a great personality. That pretty much sums up the late, great Kevin Randleman. In fact, Kevin was so strong he acted as his own jaws of life in a car accident that left him with 180 stitches in his head and an additional 70 in his arm from pushing his SUV’s motor off himself so he could exit the vehicle.
His strength would be put on display to millions of fight fans around the world on June 20, 2004, when he slammed Fedor Emelianenko on his head like a rag doll, and again when he knocked out Mirko Cro Cop in 1:57 of round one of Pride Total Elimination 2004. No matter if Randleman won or lost, he always brought a special kind of excitement to the fight. His jumping up and down in the ring before the fight and his loud yelling to pump himself up got the crowd to their feet in anticipation to the spectacle they were about to receive.
With wins over Maurice Smith, Pat Williams, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, and Cro Cop, and the split-decision loss to Bas Rutten in a fight that could have been judged either way, this man was in it to win it every time he stepped into the cage. Randleman fought in several promotions such as UFC, Pride and Strikeforce, to name a few, and trained under Mark Coleman’s Team Hammer House and later with Xtreme Couture.
Kevin Randleman: From National Champion to UFC Champion
Born in Sandusky, Ohio, on Aug. 10, 1971, Randleman was a standout athlete all through high school going on to win a high school state wrestling championship in 1989. He later attended Ohio State University where he became an All-American wrestler and two-time NCAA Division I national champion. He was also nominated in 2002 as the Ohio State University wrestler of the century.
After college, Randleman hooked up with his friend and mentor Mark Coleman and began his career in MMA. He soon became the UFC heavyweight champion on Nov. 19, 1999, in his victory over Pete Williams. A little over a year prior, Pete had a devastating head-kick knockout victory over Coleman, so it was kind of a vindicating fight for the Hammer House. Randleman successfully defended his belt against Pedro Rizzo at UFC 26, but eventually lost it to Hall of Famer Randy Couture in UFC 28.
I found a few pieces of Randleman memorabilia in my collection which I thought I would share. The glove is a fight-worn from his battle against Murilo “Ninja” Rua during their meeting at Pride 24, some MMA magazines of the era with Randleman on the cover; a Randleman Extreme T-shirt; posters from UFC 20, UFC 24 and UFC 26; and an HAO figure of the man himself.
The Final Years of Kevin Randleman’s Life
Randleman’s fighting career came to an end in 2011, afterward he would start his own wrestling program called “Monster Wrestling Academy,” which was a non-profit program at Coronado High School. He enjoyed helping kids develop into better wrestlers and was well-loved by many.
He married his longtime publicist, Elizabeth, in 2009 and was a devoted husband and father of four children. Kevin battled a horrible case of staph infection on his side that he said looked like a shark bite. His wife would fill the holes daily with gauze for nearly a year, but just like everything else, Randleman toughed through it. Tragically, we lost Kevin on Feb. 11, 2016, at the young age of 44. He died from complications from pneumonia while traveling on business.*
Kevin Randleman announced as 2020 UFC Hall of Fame Inductee
It’s not very often that we see the intensity that Randleman brought before us whether on the wrestling mat, Pride ring, UFC Octagon, or just in life itself. On May 16, 2020, it was announced that Kevin will be forever enshrined into the UFC Hall of Fame (Pioneer Wing, 2020 Inductee).
In an emotional plea to the UFC during his second induction speech, Mark Coleman said, regarding Randleman, his best friend and training partner, “Get him in here UFC, get him in the Hall of Fame, man.” Well, my friend, you got what you and the rest of us wanted.
William Hazlitt once said, “No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime, the test of greatness is the page of history.” Welcome to the UFC Hall of Fame Kevin “The Monster” Randleman and thank you to the UFC for recognizing greatness.
*Editor’s Note: According to Randleman’s wife, Elizabeth, he died from complications from pneumonia, but did not have a heart attack as has been widely reported.
Ed Theisen is a preserver of MMA and combat sports memorabilia. It is his goal, along with partner Charlie Smith, to open up the very first combat sports museum.
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