Former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman has died at 44 years old.
The news came from his family on Friday in a statement on Randleman's Facebook page: "With saddened hearts, the Randleman family confirms the passing of Kevin 'The Monster' Randleman. Behind the name was a gentle soul & loyal friend whom will be missed by many who loved him beyond the cage."
UFC President Dana White also confirmed the news on his Twitter feed, posting the following clip:
I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of the legend Kevin Randleman. RIP Kevin “The Monster" Randleman pic.twitter.com/MTC4nFAF29— Dana White (@danawhite) February 12, 2016
According to Damon Martin of Fox Sports, Randleman was admitted to a San Diego hospital with pneumonia and eventually died as a result of heart failure.
Former UFC fighter Jake Shields paid tribute to the impact The Monster had on his own MMA career, hailing Randleman as an inspirational figure:
Randleman's maiden appearance in the UFC came in 1999, and he made his mark on the company almost instantly. After just three fights, he was the heavyweight champion, beating Pete Williams to take the vacant belt. He would go on to defend the crown against Pedro Rizzo before relinquishing it to the great Randy Couture at UFC 28.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden remembers Randleman performing superbly in that fight despite eventually falling short:
He didn't win the fight, but I'll never forget Kevin Randleman outwrestling Randy Couture at UFC 28. A wrestler of limitless potential.— Jonathan Snowden (@JESnowden) February 12, 2016
Randleman went on to fight for a number of different brands, including Pride and Strikeforce. His professional MMA record reads 17 wins and 16 defeats, with nine of his victories coming by knockout or submission. The last fight of his professional career, which was a loss to Baga Agaev, came in 2011.
As fellow ex-fighter Jens Pulver noted, Randleman's involvement in MMA and the UFC helped the brand become what it is today:
Sad news about my fellow veteran fighter....we saw this thing through when it wasn't the popular thing to do. May you RIP Randleman— Jens Pulver (@jens_pulver) February 12, 2016
Prior to his days in the professional game, Randleman excelled in NCAA wrestling, winning two championships and being named an All-American three times.