Kevin Randleman: ‘I was a $#!**y fighter’
This is number seventy-seven in Jack’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re honored to feature former UFC champion and Pride great, Kevin Randleman. Randleman was a legendary collegiate wrestler before becoming a legendary MMA fighter in the early days of the sport. He was also one of the first MMA fighters who became notable for his interviews. Retired for the past couple years, Randleman certainly hasn’t lost his knack for stirring things up. He had a late-night phone conversation with Jack last week, and the normal ten-question format could not withstand “The Monster’s” force. Please enjoy the conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
Kevin Randleman: I grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, which is a really small area between Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio. We always fought.
JB: You had a lot of success in high school and as a collegiate wrestler. What do you think suited you so well with the sport of wrestling?
KR: When I was in the fifth grade, the guys I wrestled with then all ended up going to state and doing really well and then going to college and stuff. I think being surrounded by successful, thinking people makes it so much easier to accomplish goals. Wrestling is literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
It’s right up there with swimming. I’m a black guy that’s in shape, but I sink fast. Even when I’m swimming well, I’m still sinking. That’s why you don’t see this black man swimming laps in the pool. I take a break, come back, and take a break.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
KR: I was sitting at home in Sandusky, Ohio, and I had my oldest son, Calvin, with me and we were watching the WWF Summer Slam or something. Mark Coleman called me and asked me if I wanted to fight and I said, “Nah, not really.” And then he said,”30,000 dollars.” So I said, “Oh s–t! Who I got to kill?” He said, “No. You just got to win 3 fights in one night.” Well that’s what we used to do in college. We fought a lot. It’s not like we fought on campus, but we would go off campus and I literally fought every weekend.
Hands down, those Vale Tudos were the craziest f—ing things I’ve ever seen. Literally, Mark Coleman was in my corner fighting the crowd. We stopped fighting in the ring and just watched the f—ing fights outside of the ring. It was crazy.
JB: You started off your MMA career going 6-2 in those eight fights down in Brazil. Then you made your UFC debut at UFC 19 against Maurice Smith. What do you remember about your UFC debut and how do you think that sport was regarded in those days?
KR: It’s so mainstream now, and I know that everyone thinks that Dana White should pay more money and all that bulls–t, but half the boxers in this world get beat worse in one fight than I’ve ever gotten beat all together. I’ve never really taken a shot to the head ever. The one time I ever really took a shot, I don’t even remember the f—ing day. When I fought Quinton Jackson, he hit me with a knee and got me again with another one. I don’t remember s— about that day. I woke up around 3 o’clock in the morning. I must have been just walking around on autopilot. So I appreciate what we have now because those kids can make a lot of money and I love this sport.
I love wrestling too. I always knew that wrestling was one of the greatest sports ever. Even though now they’re trying to take it out of the Olympics. I wish I could talk to some of these dumb, f—ing old people who are trying to take it away. For me, I wrestled, and it was definitely a vehicle for getting me out of a bad situation which I would have been in. But you got some old, f—ing fuddy-duddies making rules because wrestling doesn’t make money. It’s not an X Game sport. It’s the oldest sport in the world, but they’ll keep all the X Games in and add a few more. I understand money, but they’re taking away a lot of kids’ dreams. If you take away wrestling, kids are just going to want to go to fighting.
JB: Have you been involved with any of the organizations trying to save wrestling?
KR: Hell no. No way. I think wrestling doesn’t want to be associated with MMA just because it’s an art. That’s why wrestlers are so successful. You grind for twenty years wrestling. My body is ready to take a beating. It’s just that simple for me.
JB: Even though your UFC career spanned only seven fights, you were champion and had some legendary battles. Why was UFC 35 the last time that you fought for the promotion?
KR: Short and sweet, I was in jail. It was baby mama drama. She wasn’t a very good mother and I loved my boy. I was in jail because I told the judge off. I was never known for my patience. I think Dana White would have understood, but cell-phones weren’t like they are now. When I got arrested, I had like two seconds. And then I was in jail for 35 days. I didn’t have any numbers whatsoever and none of my people had any numbers. When I got back, I called Mark, and Mark said that I got released.
JB: After the UFC, you went on to have some big fights in Pride. Is there anybody from your time in the UFC, Pride, or elsewhere that you wish you had gotten the opportunity to fight?
KR: I’ve had a beef with Tito Ortiz for almost as long as I’ve known him. I would have loved to have gotten in a ring just once with him. I don’t even give a f— if it was a street fight. I would have loved to have just whooped his ass once.
There is only one mother—er on my list of f—ing people on this planet Earth that I want to f—ing put my hands on and that’s Tito. I doubt that you could find one motherf—er on this planet that wouldn’t say, “He’s a f—ing dickhead!” I guarantee that I could throw a rock out of my window and hit one person that will say that Tito is a dickhead. My wife always throws in my face, “You can’t get over nothing.” You are damn right I can’t. I should have whooped his ass in the street when I had the chance.
I’m not a hater. I love that motherf—er’s business-side. I know the behind-the-scenes s— so I know the ploy that he used to become the highest paid fighter ever at the time. So I like that he listened to the game-plan and that he listened to the people around him, his confidants. He does a great job there, but other than that, he’s a f—ing pussy!
There is not one other f—er on my list. There were two, but that other motherf—er got hit by a car. He’s gone. So Tito is the only one on the f—ing list. Karma is a bitch.
JB: How about the guys that you did fight or the ones that you’ve watched fight? Who are the ones that you respect or admire the most?
KR: Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to watching Ben Henderson fight Anthony Pettis. I still don’t f—ing remember who won their first fight. There are so many fights. But when he jumped off of that cage… Five years earlier, I had said, “Motherf—ers are going to be jumping off of these cages and getting f—ing leverage.” I had thought about it, but when he jumped off that cage, I couldn’t believe it. The evolution of the fight game is amazing and I see crazy s— happening ten years from now. People will be doing that Capoeira. That f—ing Capoeira s— is off the chain when they’re doing it right. I wouldn’t want to f— with one of them. I would have to straight double-leg him. I don’t care if the guy is upside down. He would get f—ed up.
JB: When I interviewed Dan Severn, he was really focused on the same thing, that kick off the cage and then when Jose Aldo did the punch off the cage. Is it your wrestling backgrounds that have you both fascinated with that leverage?
KR: Yeah, of course. For a wrestler, we know that you can be twenty pounds heavier than me and you’ll still feel like you’re twenty pounds lighter than me. For twenty frigging years, because you start at four or five in Ohio, they teach you how to hang on people’s heads. So when you see a wrestler fighting a stand-up guy, and that stand-up guy is dead tired in the middle of the second, that’s because that wrestler has been on his shoulders and his neck the whole first six minutes of the fight. He is tired. You’re going to have to dig down deep to beat that wrestler because that wrestler lives way out there where Jaws is. We get our butts kicked by everybody every day. You never win in practice. Someone is always there to beat your ass. If you’re that good, then there’s someone there that good with you because you didn’t get there by yourself.
JB: Who do you keep in touch with from your MMA days? Who do you regularly speak to? I saw that you were tweeting with Renzo earlier tonight.
KR: I speak to everybody. Believe it or not, I’ve known Renzo longer than I’ve known the game. I was lucky enough to meet him during my first trip to Brazil for my first fight. They have a beautiful family. There were so many people there. I didn’t know who was family and who wasn’t. There were thousands of people.
JB: How about you and Mark Coleman? How much do you keep in touch these days?
KR: I reach out to him all the time. We play phone tag a lot. Once in a while, we talk. But when he was in town, I was out of town. I live in Vegas.
JB: You retired in May, 2011, after a loss in Russia. How did you make the decision to retire at that point and how have you felt about being retired since then?
KR: I loved the sport of MMA. I was MMA when I was out my mama. I was going to be that kid. My ADD ass just had to do something. And then you’re going to tell me that you’re going to pay me to whoop this guy’s ass and I’m f—ing not going to jail? That’s real simple.
The sport used to be so raw, and I understand the changing of the rules to make it watchable for everyone in the family, but it’s just that sport that no matter what happens, it’s the thrill of a f—ing lifetime. I took retirement hard.
JB: Did you go into that fight thinking that if you lost that fight, you’d retire?
KR: S— no! I never think that far ahead. I fly by the seat of my pants. I might be dead in 2 hours. S—, I don’t plan that far ahead. I live for every second of the day. If I make it to tomorrow, it’s a better tomorrow because I worked my f—ing ass off today.
I’m not the big 235-pounder no more, but I know I can still fight. I haven’t lifted a f—ing weight or done nothing in two years. I’m still ripped to f—ing shreds though. I’ve been teaching and I’ve been coaching. I’m opening up gyms. I’m not a cocky person. I’m a very f—ing humble person, but I’m a f—ing phenomenal coach. I was a s—-y fighter.
JB: You think so? What was your shortcoming as a fighter?
KR: I was an ADD motherf—er. It’s funny how s— is. I fought all the time. I was a wild child. I was always in an argument. I’d rather fight you than have four or five minutes of dialogue with you. It’s like a tedious joust to me.
I was fighting Randy Couture and the fight was awesome. I was in there and I thought I was going to coast to a f—ing win. I remember walking to my corner and he said, “Just take him down, Randleman. Just take him down! Close his eyes! He’s hurt! You got it, Randleman!” I was like, “F— that. I’m going to wrestle.” So I went out there and tried to wrestle him in the third for a little bit and he got me to the f—ing ground. I still didn’t know anything about Jiu-Jitsu.
Renzo Gracie would beg me to come train. “Sleep in my house. I’ll cook breakfast for you and everything. You’ll be like my f—ing kid. I’ll f—ing show you everything. You just need to learn the ground,” he’d say.
I love every motherf—er I met on this journey in my life, and believe me, I’ve met some bad people that were good-hearted people. They were just put in positions to do bad things. They accepted that as their roles in life, to avenge and protect and s—. I was always that person. I don’t like bullies. I don’t care how big you are. F— around with somebody or smack a woman in front of me, I will f—ing rip your arm off and scratch my own as with it. I don’t like f—ing bullies. Big motherf—ers walk around all the f—ing time. There’s a difference between an MMA fighter and a f—ing f—ing f—.
JB: You haven’t been in a street fight in a long time though, right?
KR: Are you f—ing kidding me? If you talk s–t to me in the street, I’m not walking away from you.
JB: When was your most recent street fight?
KR: No. Listen, man. I go out to a lot of bars here in Vegas. The only thing I hate about Vegas is that there are a lot of f—ing transient, f—ing scumbag people. Men, women, whatever, they’re just all a lot of scumbags. I would love to slit a lot of… clothes!
JB: So how do you restrain yourself? Though I’d think that nobody would want to mess with you.
KR: I weigh 205 pounds and I haven’t lifted a weight in two years. I am not imposing whatsoever. I look like a mild-mannered, good-looking, motherf—ing man. Bas Rutten was the best-looking white man in MMA history and I must say that I was the best-looking black man.
Bas is one of those guys that kept in touch. My wife and I love looking at the video from our wedding. It was a fantastic shindig that lasted four f—ing days. It ran together. It was just one long day for me. Bas was there. He f—ing choked my brother-in-law out. It was awesome.
But you know, people f— with you. People f— with you because they’re like, “There is no way in the world that is Kevin Randleman.” So I’ll be like, “Why!” And then they’re like, “Oh s—,” and they’re like a deer in headlights. “Oh f—! Can you put that motherf—er back in the box? We can put it back, right?”
JB: Living in Vegas, do you feel like you get recognized a lot?
KR: No. I’m incognegro out here in Vegas. I put hats on. Even with my hair blonde, I got hats on. I’m deep into hats.
JB: Did you go to the UFC Fan Expo recently?
KR: No. I actually was doing a signing at the airport. It’s funny because when I walk away from something, I don’t walk back. It’s absolutely amazing that it’s over. That’s it for me.
JB: So after you retired in 2011, you really haven’t done any training?
KR: Believe it or not, it was the hardest two years of my life. I literally went insane. I went f—ing crazy. I never realized that for 25 years of my life all I did was train three times a day. Wrestling, training, training, that’s all I did. I played a little bit of football for a year and a half and then went straight into fighting. So all my f—ing life it’s been f—ing people up, sweating, everything. I’ve been seeing a therapist to talk me through this s— so I don’t go postal and f—ing…
So the worst thing I could have done was be a stay-at-home dad and stop it all. It drove me crazy.
JB: So you mentioned therapy. What else is getting you through this time? What is your focus right now?
KR: Are you f—ing kidding? I got a kid that is over 3 foot, 3 inches, tall and his second birthday was last month. And guess what his nickname is? The “little monster.” And he’ll be the little monster when he is six f—ing eight. Can you imagine this motherf—er? I’m a mean father. I mean, I’m a very loving father, but this motherf—er don’t get away with s—. No, not at all. He does push-ups, sit-ups, all the same s–t I do. He’s ripped to shreds.
JB: Is that him I hear in the background?
KR: Man, he’s f—ing talking s— right now! You know he’ll punch you in the face.
JB: What sport do you think he’s destined for? 6’8″, he’s got to be a defensive end in football or a basketball player.
KR: S–t! F— you! If I ever shake your hand, it’s going to be followed with a f—ing left. F—ing wrestler. No. My heart is breaking every day because I don’t think he’s going to be a wrestler. His f—ing foot is almost as big as mine. He’s f—ing two with a size ten. He is the biggest baby that his doctor has ever seen. He was a preemie at nine something pounds. The f—ing nurses in there were fighting over his ass.
My wife is 6’3″. It’s funny because she’s so tall that a lot of my friends will notice her. We’ve been together for ten years, and we’d be at fights with Fedor or Cro Cop fighting. They’d see her and know that my short black ass is somewhere in that vicinity around her ass. I hug her like a planet around the sun. F—ing Fedor pushed his way through the crowd and gave her a hug and gave me a big hug and then talked to us through a translator and s—.
JB: Fedor, greatest of all time? What do you think?
KR: No. Anderson will forever go down, for me, as the greatest. He’s part of that old f—ing school of fighters. He was fighting in Japan in the Pride. I’m sorry, but he gives so much away in a fight, and everyone is mad at him for the way that he fights. But can you imagine being so f—ing good at something that it f—ing sucks that you’re no longer having fun with it? So you do everything in your power to make it some kind of challenge for yourself. Sometimes you f— up and get knocked down.
Now I don’t know this young kid. I’m friends with Anderson Silva so I’m a little biased. Now the next time this fight happens, don’t f—ing blink! Anderson Silva is so f—ing mad at himself. Every day that he doesn’t get to see his belt, he’s getting f—ing pissed at himself. He loves the kid he’s fighting. He don’t hate nobody. But if you talk s— about his family, he’s going to f— you up worse. He has no animosity towards this kid. He looks in the mirror every day and wants to whoop his own ass. So he’s going to give that kid an ass whooping.
No disrespect. You’re a f—ing champion and you’re going to hold that belt a long time. I think that Anderson’s going to get it back, but you’re going to get it back too. He did what I thought could not be done for at least another three f—ing years.
JB: So Anderson is #1. Fedor is #2. Who is next on the list of the greatest of all time?
KR: Honestly, I have more admiration looking at the f—ing young motherf—ers. I like that Team Alpha Male with Urijah. That Urijah is a little monster, and that Joseph Benavidez too. They’re all f—ing feeding off of each other so it’s like a frenzy.
JB: So you like the idea of a team? Does it remind you of the teams that you were on in the past?
KR: I’m going to let you in on the biggest f—ing shocker. I have a book coming out and you’re going to f—ing love it because of all the f—ing s–t I’ve done in my life. I wrote all the worst in my book. I swear to God. I changed the names for everybody else, but not for me.
JB: Sounds great! When’s it coming out?
KR: I’m just writing it now.
JB: Well I’m sure people are going to want to read your book, and I’m grateful for this interview. Thank you!
KR: After they hear me this time, I’m sure that people are going to want me to fight Tito. I will f—ing train rings around Tito Ortiz. As an old f—ing grumpy man, I run rings around that motherf—er. I wanted that fight twelve years ago, but Dana White is that motherf—er’s angel.
Visit JackJohnBrownMMA on Facebook for links to all of Jack’s past interviews. Previous interviews include: Dan Hardy, Rose Namajunas, Joe Lauzon, War Machine, Tom Lawlor, Bas Rutten, Chris Leben, Phil Baroni, Julie Kedzie, Michael Bisping, Duane Ludwig, Sara McMann, Matt Lindland, Duke Roufus, Pat Miletich, Jens Pulver, Dan Severn, Nate Quarry, Ken Shamrock, Matt Serra, Jeremy Horn, Ray Longo, and dozens more.