LAS VEGAS -- Mark Coleman made history Sunday when he became the latest fighter to have his name enshrined in two separate wings of the UFC Hall of Fame, but his thoughts remained with his departed Hammer House teammate, former UFC heavyweight champion and Pride FC icon Kevin Randleman.
"One of my best friends, my teammate, my training partner, Kevin ‘The Monster' Randleman, he's not with us, but he deserves to be up here right now instead of me," Coleman said through tears. "So get him in here, UFC. Get him in the Hall of Fame, man."
Coleman, whose 1998 bout against Pete Williams was honored at the event, had been campaigning for Randleman to be part of the 2016 Hall of Fame class since Randleman tragically passed away in February at the age of 44.
"His actions and his highlights and his record and what he accomplished speaks for itself," Coleman recently told MMA Fighting. "There is no reason why Kevin shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. None. You see the outreach from the whole world who loves him. It's simple. He should be in the Hall of Fame. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."
Randleman and Coleman were integral parts of Team Hammer House, one of the dominant teams in the early days of no holds barred, the sport that eventually became mixed martial arts. They first met at Ohio State University, where Coleman coached Randleman to one of the most prolific collegiate careers in the university's history, with Randleman winning NCAA titles in both 1992 and 1993.
Coleman then introduced Randleman to professional fighting, where Randleman quickly blossomed into one of the early stars of the sport, blessed with natural charisma and prodigious athletic gifts. Randleman went on to capture the UFC heavyweight title with a 1999 victory over Williams, then defend it once with a decision over Pedro Rizzo. But his greatest exploits came four years later, when Randleman scored a shocking knockout over Mirko Filipovic in the PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix, then nearly dethroned the legendary Fedor Emelianenko with one of the most memorable suplexes in the sport's history.
"We lived together, wrestled together," Coleman said of Randleman to MMA Fighting. "We fought together, and just enjoyed it. Did we fight back and forth? Of course we did. That's what guys do. But we just loved and respected each other, and I miss him. I miss him bad. I hope they get in him into the Hall of Fame here soon. He deserves it."
Coleman and fellow Team Hammer House veteran Phil Baroni, along with Randleman's widow Elizabeth, campaigned heavily for "The Monster" to be honored during International Fight Week in the months since Randleman's passing. Coleman said he was saddened to see his old friend not recognized this year, but he will continue asking for it and he hopes that 2017 brings better news.
"I just push it," Coleman told MMA Fighting. "You're not going to speak to anybody directly. They know. They know about Kevin Randleman and it'll happen. It has to. Look at what he did. Look at what he did in his career. It'll happen. I just think the sooner the better. It'll happen sometime, but I'd rather see sooner than later."