Mark Coleman was one of the earliest inductees into the UFC Hall of Fame when he was enshrined into its halls in 2008. On Thursday, Coleman will return to the Hall of Fame stage once more in Las Vegas, but this time to honor his fallen friend and teammate, former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman, whose posthumous induction highlights the promotion’s 2020 Hall of Fame class alongside Georges St-Pierre, Marc Ratner, and others.
It’s a moment long in the making for many of Randleman’s loved ones. And for Coleman, who tragically lost his friend due to complications from pneumonia in 2016, it’s a moment that he says Randleman always hoped and prayed would some day come his way.
“I’m just so happy right now, because Kevin didn’t really care too much about awards, man,” Coleman said on Wednesday’s episode of The MMA Hour. “The couple times he’d move from his apartment, a couple friends would go back to his apartment and we’d check and see what he left behind and there were times when he left his national championship trophy laying there. He just didn’t care. But this Hall of Fame, this is something that Kevin really, really wanted. This really meant a lot to him. And for him to get this, I’m just happy.”
Randleman was a singular figure of the fight game before he unexpectedly passed away. A key member of Team Hammer House who went by the moniker “The Monster,” Randleman was just 44 years old when he was hospitalized and ultimately lost his life while on a work trip in San Diego. In the years since, both Coleman and Randleman’s wife Elizabeth have campaigned for “The Monster” to be inducted posthumously into the UFC Hall of Fame. It was always the one accolade Randleman told friends he wanted most, an honor that he felt could validate the journey he had in MMA and the legacy he left on the sport.
With Randleman now set to join Coleman in the Pioneer Wing of the UFC Hall of Fame alongside many of the legends of their era, this week has become a special one for many who remember the exploits of the “The Monster” from his heyday.
“I miss the guy always, but I had a long talk with his wife Elizabeth and we’re celebrating his life, we’re not going to just be sad about this,” Coleman said. “Things happen and I was just blessed to be able to spend 30 years of my life with that guy and we did everything together. He was a very, very special man. He touched so many people’s hearts. I knew he touched people’s hearts but I’ve found out more since he’s been gone — so many fan pages for Kevin Randleman, just so much love for the guy. He really, really loved people.”
In terms of sheer physicality, Randleman remains on the greatest athletes to ever lace up a pair of four-ounce gloves. He was a two-time NCAA champion who was named Ohio State University’s Wrestler of the Century and was renown for his doggedness on the mat. Randleman famously won his second NCAA title in 1993 despite having his jaw dislocated during the year-end tournament. As the story goes, he paused mid-match to ask his coach to “snap his face back into place” before fixing the issue himself and going on to win gold.
Randleman’s MMA career had its own highlights. He captured the UFC heavyweight title in 1999 with very little training or experience and defended it once against Pedro Rizzo at UFC 28. But his best moments happened in the Pride FC ring, where he competed from 2002-06 and became a star in Japan. Over a span of just two months in 2004, Randleman pulled off his two most celebrated moments when he scored the upset of his life with a first-round knockout of Mirko Cro Cop in the Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix, then nearly became the first man to truly defeat Fedor Emelianenko with his iconic “Randleplex” of the Russian.
But most of all, Coleman simply remembers Randleman as a loving and caring friend who went out of his way to support those around him and deeply appreciated MMA fans.
“He was the most charismatic, energetic, outgoing, kind, generous, giving person,” Coleman said. “Loyal. He was so loyal to me. He was so loyal to so many people. He would help anybody out no matter how busy he was. There’s stories about him saving a few guys from wanting to commit suicide. The guy just — he was so great, but he stayed humble. Kevin always stayed humble. He was greatness but he was able to stay humble and he just always boosted my confidence. When we were together, when me and Kevin were together hanging out, we didn’t think anybody could beat us in anything. He just made me feel great and hopefully I made him feel great. And there was just nobody like him, man. As far as athletics go, he could do anything. He couldn’t beat me in tennis though, I’ll tell you that. But he could do anything in athletics, and we competed in everything we did.
“He just lifted people up,” Coleman continued. “And I don’t judge the wealth of a man by how much money he has in the bank; I judge him by how he affected other people. And I honestly don’t anybody — I don’t know any man or any person in this world — who has affected people in a more positive way than Kevin ‘The Monster’ Randleman. I just loved the guy. We were brothers. We were definitely brothers.”
As for his favorite memory with “The Monster,” even Coleman can’t help but default to the legendary night Randleman shocked the world with his upset of Cro Cop.
“How can you top that?” Coleman said.