Report: UFC Original Emanuel Yarbrough Dies at Age 51

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterDecember 22, 2015

Closeup of a glove and the UFC logo at Ultimate Fighting Championship 73 on Saturday, July 7, 2007, in Sacramento, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Emanuel Yarbrough, the American sumo wrestler who fought in the UFC 3 tournament and gained fame for his massive size and cheery disposition, has died at age 51.

Eric Kowal of My MMA News was the first to report the news, which was later confirmed by Dave Meltzer of MMA Fighting, among others. 

Yarbrough competed in the UFC in 1994, before the implementation of weight classes. He is easily the largest competitor in the promotion's history, tipping the scales at well over 600 pounds.

A sumo champion born in Rahway, N.J., Yarbrough faced karate master Keith Hackney in UFC 3. Yarbrough tossed Hackney out of the cage at one point but lost by TKO after Hackney pounded him with scores of unanswered strikes.

Yarbrough never fought in the UFC again, but in 1998, he fought in Japan for the Shooto promotion. It was there that Yarbrough scored the only victory of his pro career with an unusual submission that came by way of "smother."

He competed once more in Japan, tapping out to strikes to Daiju Takase two months later as part of the Pride 3 event in Tokyo. His MMA career ended with a professional record of 1-2.

Known as a fan-friendly personality, the 6'8" Yarbrough was the subject of awe, amusement and ridicule because of his incredible frame. He had a few acting roles over the years, perhaps most notably as Clarence Seroy in the HBO series Oz

In a statement posted on UFC.com, Yarbrough's manager, Beatrice H. Davis, said there were plans in the works for a reality show at the time of Yarbrough's death.

Emanuel's passion was to travel. Even though it was not an easy task for him, it never stopped him from following his dreams, and bringing smiles to the faces of all he would meet. He was to be the subject of a new reality show, and would have continued to bring smiles to all those who had the opportunity to be blessed by his infectious, compassionate, loving presence. He will be missed by his millions of fans around the world, friends and family.

Scott Harris covers MMA for Bleacher Report. For more, follow Scott on Twitter.