Thursday, March 8, 2007

Former UFC Champion and PrideFC Star Kevin Randleman

By Mark Davies

Kevin Randleman has been one of the biggest stars in MMA for almost as long as there has been modern MMA.. The Monster has provided some of the most exciting moments in MMA history including his knockout of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, his epic battle with Randy Couture at UFC 28, the Randleplex against Fedor and his action packed victory over Murilo "Ninja" Rua (a personal favorite of our Managing Editor).

In addition to the incredible highs, Kevin’s career has had its share of lows. A legendarily bad decision in his fight with Bas Rutten deprived Kevin of the UFC title he would later win, and in recent years he has suffered a parade of career, and life threatening injuries. We last saw Kevin at Pride 32, where he lost to Shogun Rua and failed a drug test. Soon after that card Kevin had to be admitted to a hospital to prevent his kidneys from shutting down. This hospitalization was less than a year after Kevin had to have a mass removed from one of his lungs that had been growing for years.

Mark Davies: How is your health?

Kevin Randleman: First of all, thank you to all the fans and all those that have supported me through all the years. My health is about 90%, I am just a couple of weeks away, hopefully.

Mark Davies: When will you resume training and how will your approach to training be different?

Kevin Randleman: In about two to three weeks. The only difference is going to be for the first few weeks I have to take it easy so my CPK levels don’t sky rocket again. After that, the only difference is going to be that I will probably train harder than I ever have. When you have something that you love to do so much taken away from you, like I have with illness over the past (16) months, it makes you hungry. I can’t wait to be able to train two or three times a day because I have not been able to train since October, and on and off before that for a year because of infections. I will broaden my training partners more than in the past. There are so many talented fighters that have offered me to come and train with them and I plan on taking them up on their offers.

Mark Davies: You received a one-year suspension from the NSAC for your failed drug test. Can you explain to us what happened with that test?

Kevin Randleman: I was struggling with a reccurring infection in my shoulder and about (8) weeks before the fight my shoulder blew up from infection. I had surgery in August and had an I.V. in my arm up until a week before the fight. I had been on so much medication, including pain pills and heavy duty antibiotics that the night before the fight at the rules meeting when they gave us a list of banned substances the I.V. and pain medication that I had taken was on there. I should have gone to the commission and told them, but my shoulder was still infected and the wound was open and oozing out. I knew in my heart that they would not have let me fight. The thought of letting down Pride on their American debut, letting down the thousand of fans that had sent me emails saying they are coming to Vegas, or already rented it on PPV, not to mention all my family and friends and sponsors that had so much invested in being here to support me put me in a panic mode. I was not healthy enough to fight in that fight and I was too stubborn to admit it.

Kevin Randleman: The bottom line is a made a poor choice in trying to hide from the Athletic commission that I was not healthy and still had a serious infection in my body. It is their job to protect fighters, even when we won’t protect ourselves. After meeting with them a few weeks ago, it is a blessing in disguise, because now I have (8) months to take my time and let me body heal and train harder than I ever have to get better so I can work my way back to the top.

Mark Davies: Do you plan to keep fighting and if so for how long?

Kevin Randleman: I love my job. I feel so blessed that I get to fight for a living and I plan on fighting for quite a few more years. I am 36 and once I get passed this last issue with my CPK levels, my body will be healthier than it has been for a long time. My shoulder was hurt for a while, my knee was damaged, my lung had an infection growing on it for what appears to be a couple of years and I had broken my neck. Right now my lung is healed, my shoulder is doing great, and my knee feels better than it has in over 5 years. I will take the next (8) months and prepare for the next 4-5 years of my career.

Mark Davies: You have been in the MMA game for a long time. What do you see yourself doing when your fighting days are over?

Kevin Randleman: Once I decide not to compete anymore, I plan on getting more involved on the training side of the sport. I am and always have been a fighter. There is no way I will ever be tired of this sport. I have been fortunate enough to have been around for a long time and to see MMA blow up the way it did and to have it main stream now, I look forward to being an active figure in it for many, many years to come. I don’t plan on training just fighters; I love to work with kids. I have done some camps and tournaments with kids and it brings me a ridiculous amount of joy. To help those kids not fear the unknown and help them take small chances to expand their mental pallets is uplifting to me. There are so many unfortunate kids out there as well, and if a few hours a week of my time can help change the lives of some of this kids, that is the least I can give back.

Mark Davies: If you didn’t believe you were good enough to be champion would you still fight for the money?

Kevin Randleman: I always go in with a win in mind, if I get paid for it, it is just icing on the cake. I have never gotten into the ring in my career thinking that I wasn’t good enough to win. The day that happens, is the day I should consider retiring. Many of my losses came because I beat myself for many different reasons. Some people have called me my worst enemy and they are not too far off. I have been through so much over the years that many people expected me to walk away from the sport, when instead; it just inspires me to do better. I am not one of those people that are all about money, my love for this great sport means so much more to me.

Mark Davies: You have fought through an incredible list of medical problems in the last few years. Did you feel pressure from Pride to fight hurt?

Kevin Randleman: After what happened with the Shogun fight, Pride felt bad because they thought they pressured me into fighting too soon. I have no one to blame but myself. I held back from them that I was not well enough to fight. When I had to have surgery in August, my girl was like-there is no way you should take this fight, it is just too soon. But I am stubborn so I let them think that I was healthy just because I knew they were counting on me.

They stood by me during all my injuries and surgeries and that is why I have and always will be loyal to them. Offers come and go all the time, but I believe in the big picture, especially where this sport will be in a few years from now.

Mark Davies: If you could rematch one fighter who would it be and why?

Kevin Randleman: There is not just one fighter-it would be every fighter that ever beat me. Rampage, Liddell, Shogun, Nakamura. That would be the ideal way for me to finish out my career-to go back and get a second chance to fight again some of the great fighters that I have fought. I am a better fighter and person than I ever was. Many of my fights that I lost could have easily went the other way, and that goes back to the fact that I can be my own worst enemy sometimes. After my recent illnesses, it has given me a great deal of time to reflect on my career and I can’t wait to come back stronger and better than ever and give the fans some more great memories.

Mark Davies: What do you think of Arona as a fighter?

Kevin Randleman: Arona will always have my respect along with his teammates. He is a great fighter and deserves the respect of other fighters.

Mark Davies: Of the top LHWs in Pride who is the best match up for you and the worst?

Kevin Randleman: I don’t really think there is a best and a worst. If I come into the ring with my A game and my head on straight and prepared, they are all great match ups. I love to give the fans a great fight. Many fighters underestimate cardio-cardio is everything. With that first 10 minute round, if you are in shape you are ready for anything. I have spoken to Pride about some potential fights for me upon my return at the end of the year and they never want me to fight the easy fight, they always count on me to fight the guy that no one else wants to fight. Right now Shogun is the guy to beat, and Pride has promised me that I will get another chance to fight him. But there are so many great fighters in the LHW division and I look forward to getting my opportunity to fighting as many of them as I can in the next few years.

Mark Davies: If you could give advice to a young Kevin Randleman before he ever stepped into the Octagon what would it be?

Kevin Randleman: My advice to a your KR would be to take their time and train and get as much experience under their belt before ever stepping into the Octagon. Because MMA has become so main stream there are so many kids out there just in a rush to get that first fight in. The worst thing to do is come out before you are ready. Just like anything, put your time in, learn as much as you can and come out swinging hard. Everything else could be a terrible distraction for a young fighter.

Mark Davies: What did you think of Randy’s performance last night?

Kevin Randleman: I only wish we would have spoken on Saturday before the fight {editor’s note: this interview was delayed a day because of scheduling problems}, because I would have told you, just like I told everyone else that was talking shit about Randy not being able to beat Tim. No disrespect to Tim, but Randy is one of the greatest fighters ever. He is a warrior and has the heart of a lion. I enjoyed taking some money from some shit talkers Saturday evening, because there was no doubt in my mind that Randy was going to get that belt. I’ve known Randy since we wrestled in college together. He is by far, one of the nicest guys I have ever known and I am so glad that he has a gym out here in Vegas and can’t wait to go roll around the mat with him as soon as I can. The line for his gym will start behind me. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy-he has earned all the success upon him and I am proud to be able to call him a friend.

Mark Davies: How many fights are left on your Pride contract?

Kevin Randleman: I have no intentions of leaving Pride. They were loyal to me when I was down and I will never forget that. I have a ridiculous amount of respect for Dana and the Fertitas, as well as a good relationship with them all, but Pride has been good to me and I am very happy with them.

Mark Davies: How has Pride treated you during your problems?

Kevin Randleman: As mentioned earlier, they treated my like family. They were always only a phone call away if I needed anything. They are a great organization and I am happy to be a part of it.

Mark Davies: What do you think of the UFC’s renaissance?

Kevin Randleman: I hear so many people talk shit about Dana and the UFC. Well anyone in the MMA world should be grateful because of their deal with Spike TV, it has brought MMA to the mainstream audience. Critics called it cock-fighting and bull shit like that. I worked for the UFC before Zuffa took it over, so I can really appreciate all that they have done for the sport. At one point people were like-what’s MMA, now you have millions of people tuning in every Thursday religiously which in turn has made for better attendance and pay per views for the big cards.

God Bless the brains of Zuffa.

Mark Davies: Thanks again Kevin. I know all of us, and your fans, are wishing you a speedy and complete recovery. Thank you for all the great times we had watching you fight.

Kevin Randleman: And again, thank you for all the support. I promise that I will work my back to giving you more slams, knock outs and great MMA memories real soon. Don’t forget to pray for those less fortunate than ourselves every once and a while…


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