MMA LEGEND – GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
By: Derek Moody
2/12/2016, 8:30 a.m
Tweet to: @DerekMoody619
Former UFC Heavyweight Champion and Pride FC Legend, Kevin “The Monster” Randleman, passed away at the young age of 44 on February 11th. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for pneumonia and died due to heart failure. The MMA community lost one of the good ones. The Monster truly will be missed.
Before trying his hand at MMA, Randleman was an All American collegiate wrestler who won quite often. A record of 122-11 in 3 years time, Randleman won state titles and the NCAA tournament twice while at Ohio State University. Close friend and coach Mark Coleman (UFC Hall of Famer) figured Randleman’s wrestling was so impactful that he’d be a force at MMA and eventually convinced him to try Vale Tudo.
One of the most dominant wrestlers to enter mixed martial arts, Kevin Randleman struck gold early attaining the UFC Heavyweight Title at UFC 23, defeating Pete Williams in 1999. After successfully defending the title once, Randleman would eventually lose the belt and drop down to light heavyweight. Light heavyweight may have felt more natural for him, but it didn’t go as planned. Losing two fights in a row in the new division, he became frustrated but didn’t quit. The third time was a charm, picking up a decision win over a very respectable veteran, Renato “Babalu” Sobral. That would be the last time we’d see him the UFC. He wasn’t there long, just over 2 years within the organization, he managed to fight just about everyone of importance building his legacy. (Randy Couture, Bas Rutten, Chuck Liddell, Pedro Rizzo, and Babalu.)
At the time, the money was better, the stage was bigger, the talent was deeper, and the fans were knowledgeable. Who didn’t want a piece of that pie? Legends were made at Pride FC. Randleman was a part of epic fights during his time at Pride, not knowing that a majority of his fights would be considered super fights years later. Whether it was a win or a loss, everybody won because it cemented their names into something greater.
There weren’t many cards at Pride that didn’t have what we’d consider a super fight. The Monster may have won a title at UFC, but the work he did at Pride possibly outshines that due to the level of competition depending on who you speak to. During the 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix, he gained a knockout victory over then Top Heavyweight contender Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović, earning Randleman Upset of the Year and Knockout of the Year.
Fans new to the sport probably look at Randleman’s record, 17 wins 16 losses, and wonder how he’s regarded as a legend. Well, entering a tourney with people like Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Heath Herring, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Sergei Kharitonov, Semmy Schilt, and Cro Cop will do it. There weren’t many fights you’d consider a tune-up fight in the Pride days, so many great fighters fought wars and left with losses. It would be impossible for a tournament with that caliber of competitors to take place today. Almost every fight was a super fight. He went 2-9 in his final 11 fights. Like many fighters who fought 15 years or so, you have to know when to hang it up to salvage your health and MMA record.
What he did for the sport was enormous, especially for wrestlers with no other martial arts background. He entered the sport with a strictly wrestling base, dominated, and captured a title on the biggest platform. Always looked at as undersized for the division due to his height, similar to Mike Tyson in boxing, he still became a powerhouse in the sport. He made sure we always knew what he was thinking or feeling, never straying from the truth. Always positive, willing to teach, and aiming to make the sport better and more competitive; he will be missed. RIP Kevin “The Monster” Randleman.