During Saturday’s UFC Fight Night on ESPN, it was announced that the late Kevin Randleman will become the newest addition to the UFC Hall of Fame. He becomes the 17th member of the Pioneer Wing, a category for athletes who went pro in the sport prior to Nov. 17, 2000.
“Kevin Randleman was one of the first real athletes in the early days of UFC,” UFC president Dana White said. “He was a two-time NCAA Division-I national champion and All-American wrestler at The Ohio State University. He was the fifth heavyweight champion in UFC history and one of the first athletes to successfully compete at both heavyweight and light heavyweight. He was a pioneer of the sport and it’s an honor to induct him into the UFC Hall of Fame Class of 2020.”
As White touched on in his press release, Randleman started his career as a wrestler at Ohio State. Competing at 177 pounds, he won the NCAA championship in both 1992 and 1993 — the first ever two-time champ in program history. A three-time All-American, Randleman posted a 42-0-3 record in 1992, becoming the first Ohio State wrestler to go undefeated in a season. He followed it up in 1993 with a 24-1 record, and finished his career in Columbus with 108 total wins — good for 17th-most in school history.
Randleman went on to have an incredibly successful career in Mixed Martial Arts, making his Octagon debut at UFC 19 in March 1999, where he defeated former champion Maurice Smith. A short while later, he defeated Pete Williams to win the vacant heavyweight title, and would successfully defend that title against Pedro Rizzo before falling to Randy Couture a few months later.
After moving down to the light heavyweight division, Randleman left the UFC to fight in Japan’s popular PRIDE organization. Here, Randleman was able to revive his fighting career, knocking out one of the sport’s most feared strikers in Mirko Cro Cop in 2004. He would win just two more fights in 11 future bouts, but had already solidified himself as one of the sport’s greats in the early goings of professional fighting.
Following his pro career, Randleman founded the non-profit Monster Wrestling Academy at Coronado High School in California, where he taught wrestling to kids. Randleman passed away from a heart attack in February 2016 after being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. He was 44 years old.
The Sandusky, Ohio native’s legacy will now live on forever, as he enters the UFC Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Royce Gracie, and others legends of the combat sport.