It’s a sad day for old-school fans of MMA, as former UFC and Pride star Kevin Randleman has passed away at the too-young age of 44. He was one of the pioneers of the early UFC, fighting and losing to Bas Rutten via split-decision for the UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 20, then winning the heavyweight title at UFC 23 before losing it to Randy Couture at UFC 28. He would fight for Pride, Strikeforce, Sengoku, and a bevy of other organizations, even saying in recent years that he was preparing for a comeback that would never come to be.
Randleman hadn’t seen the bright lights since the mid-2000’s, but his impressive highlight slams and his shocking knockout of a prime Cro Cop in Pride still resonate with fans today. Who can forget Randleman and his blonde hair slamming Fedor Emelianenko on his head in Pride? Sure, Fedor immediately popped up to sub Randleman, but no one had ever done that to The Last Emperor before. Randleman was so close to changing MMA history forever.
Unfortunately, beyond his wrestling prowess, Randleman would also remain in the minds of MMA fans for his horrific staph infection (don’t click that if you’re squeamish) and for his bad luck. At UFC 24, Randleman would be warming up backstage, preparing to defend his heavyweight title against Pedro Rizzo when he would slip and fall on the concrete, knocking himself out cold and giving himself a concussion. It was a series of blows to his stop/start career that was storied, and never fully realized.
Still, he made a huge impact as a fighter, and plenty of people took to Twitter to memorialize Randleman.
RIP Kevin Randleman. One of my favorite moments in PRIDE and thus MMA.https://t.co/MtOw3fcPUG
— Dr. Nguyen Van Phuoc (@902MMA) February 12, 2016
— TJ De Santis (@TJDeSantis) February 12, 2016
UFC Legend, Kevin Randleman Passes Away At Age 44. Can't believe my friend passed away. That's 2 in 2 months WoW pic.twitter.com/1lmKyWcMEi
— Gary H Goodridge (@garyhgoodridge) February 12, 2016
RIP Kevin Randleman. 44 is way too young to go. My thoughts go out to his family. Thanks for the memories Monster. pic.twitter.com/NQqU9FrXHi
— Jordan McCreery (@MMAAdvertising) February 12, 2016
Let’s hope the UFC will induct Randleman into the UFC Hall of Fame post-mortem. There are few more deserving of the honor. We don’t yet know how Randleman passed, but it’s his life that matters.