Strikeforce Light-Heavyweight fighter and MMA veteran Kevin “The Monster” Randleman (17-13) is set, after a brief scare caused by a minor Staph infection, to take on Roger Gracie (2-0) this Saturday night at Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Randleman took the time to speak with Mark Wayne of Fightline.com about that upcoming bout, his renewed motivation for fighting and a whole host of other topics. This is the first part of our two-part interview.
Fightline: Hi Kevin, thanks a lot for taking the time to talk today. I know that you’re busy so I’ll try to make this quick.
Kevin Randleman: That’s what I tell my wife, “I’ll try to make this quick!”
Fightline: [Laughs] Fair enough. First of all I was hoping you could shed some light on your current condition? It was reported at one point that you were close to having to pull out of the bout with Roger because of a staph infection, now it seems as though you are cleared to fight. Can you tell us what happened there?
Randleman: Sure. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Staph infections there are several different kinds. The kind that I had that put me in the hospital before was MRSA. With that they have to dig inside you and pull all of the infected stuff out. This time I had a less severe Staph infection in the form of a rash and it basically feels like you’ve got pneumonia. I was feeling sick and for about two days I didn’t know what was wrong with me and then the bumps came out. The bumps look just like a rash. But the rash got in my ears, got in eyes, and got all on my back and my legs. So, I couldn’t train because I couldn’t get on the mats. If I got on the mats I could infect everyone else in the gym and it would actually cause a plague. Does that make sense? So when I got that I was like, “If I can’t train the last week and half, two weeks, I’m not fighting.”
And that’s where that stood, that’s how that was. It got a little blown out of proportion because when people hear Staph they remember the Staph I had where they had to cut out my right pec and my right lat. So everyone automatically thinks that I was in the hospital, but I wasn’t. I just had a very high fever and I had a rash all over my face, my back and my eyes and stuff so I just wasn’t feeling good. The first thing I said was that I’ve got to put off this fight because if I can’t train and I’m light, I’m dehydrated–I’m already weak. I’m not gonna go into a fight with someone with Roger’s Gracie’s caliber–matter of fact, I’m not going to go into a fight [less than 100 percent] ever again because I don’t fight slouches. Everyone I fight is a champion in some respect. So, I went to the doctor, they gave me some medicine and literally in three days–the beautiful thing about it was, when the bumps and stuff broke out I was kind of already coming out of the Staph infection. Then they gave me a lot of antibiotics and pumped my body full of antibiotics and it kicked in like two or three days. So, I was able to go back to training for the last week, the last eight days of training and I just called and said, “I’m in.”
I’ll be alright. I’ve fought under worse circumstances. Everyone likes to make things bigger than they are. No. There’s no big story there it was just that I was sick. If I had pneumonia, If I would have had the flu I would’ve pulled out of the fight too because I’m not going to fight when I’m not 100 percent.
Fightline: So then, how are you feeling now? Do you feel well?
Randleman: Yeah, I feel great. I feel great.
Fightline: That’s good to hear. Sherdog.com reported that if you did indeed have to pull out of your fight with Roger that you would consider retirement. Was that said out of frustration or do you still stand by that?
Randleman: No, no. Look, I’m 38, 39 and I think I was saying that because I just didn’t train good before and before I just didn’t have good training partners. Nothing against–well, f*** it, the bottom line is this: the guys that I’ve got in my corner and the guys that you see in my corner when I fight Saturday night, they gave me a rejuvenation; in my life, in my career, in my world. It’s fun to train now. I literally love fighting. But, if I don’t go out and perform–I mean, I haven’t really performed in any of my last fights. I hold my punches, I’m not doing what I know I can do–it’s like I’m apprehensive of being “The Monster.”
So, if I don’t start performing then what else–I mean, there’s no need for me to keep going out there and taking losses when I’m not performing. I’m not fighting up to my standards… I fight for money but I also fight for the victories and my own respect. I’ve got to look myself in the mirror. So I take it on a fight-to-fight basis. But I know that my hands are dangerous. I’ve never had hands this great. When I say that I mean I know that if I hit anybody in the liver, the kidney, or the leg they’re gonna feel it. Let alone hitting a man in the face. I’ve got heavy hands. So from all the injuries and everything you can’t help but think of things like that.
I mean, I’m an athlete and I haven’t lived up to my potential since I’ve been fighting. Since I left the UFC actually. So, it’s always gonna be one of those questions you know? After every fight I’ve got to assess my situation with my people. I do get frustrated a little bit because you know, my biggest–I’m not worried about losing a fight because it’s not like I’m on Death Row or and I’m getting ready to get an injection or something. It’s not like someone’s holding a gun to my head. But I don’t go into fights thinking that I’m gonna lose but if I don’t perform it’s worse than losing. I’m letting guys stay in the fight when I should already have dispatched their a** in the first two minutes.
Well, can you elaborate a little bit? You said that the guys you’re working with now have rejuvenated your career. Who are they and in what ways have you changed your approach to training?
Randleman: I live my life predicated on being a positive person and I was around a lot of negative people, a lot in my life. I was partying and having sex with chicks, one night stands and not training because the people in my camps, the people I was around just didn’t care about training. They cared more about what we were gonna do later that night or the girl we talked to the night before. The guys I’m with right now–family, man. Great guys, positive; they want to fight, they want to bang, and when we go into practice it’s hard work, dedication and never quit.
So, for the last fourteen to fifteen weeks of my life–well, actually, the last year–I’ve been training my hands with a guy by the name of Ramon Montano. He’s a 27-year old kid from Mexico, he’s got great hands–he spars and trains with Floyd Mayweather. He’s probably Floyd Mayweather’s number one sparring partner, for the Mosley fight and all those good fights. So, he’s been working my hands and, literally, my footwork is amazing. I have better footwork than I’ve ever had in my life. I can dance around and rope-a-dope for fifteen minutes and not even get tired. The other guy, his name is Maurice Jackson. He’s a 6’8, 280-lbs., 28-year-old kid, again. … And they’re positive. So, before I was around guys that felt old, they acted old and all they wanted to worry about was when we could go drink or have some fun or whatever. They were worrying about girls and everything else; everything but worrying about fighting.
So, my thing is, if you’re not around positive people, you’re around negative people and that’s counter-productive to the wins. And that’s all I care about, wins. Because if I keep winning I’m gonna make more money and I’m gonna solidify my name, forever, in the annals of MMA.
You sound positive and confident and that’s good to hear. I would like to ask–you mentioned earlier that you are drawing close to forty years of age–what keeps you motivated to fight? What keeps you pushing forward?
Randleman: I love it. My fans and my family in Sandusky, Ohio, they know me. They’ll call me a p***y in a minute, because I am. But I love fighting. I love fighting. I love what I do. It doesn’t matter if I was in the street and someone was messing with one of my people, I’d fight you. Someone might say, “Oh, that’s stupid.” Well, you don’t live my life, you don’t know me. So, if you’re gonna mess with someone that I care about, believe me, you’re gonna have to deal with me because I’m not just gonna let you walk over me or my people because you think you’re better than us.
So I live my life everyday living my life for the warrior in me. I live every day to die. This might sound off-the-wall but I’ve almost died a lot. I’ve almost lost my life many times. By people shooting at me, from car accidents that ripped my head off, Staph infection that stopped my organs from functioning, lungs, broken neck, bicep tear; I’ve been through it all and this is just in 2000. What kind of man do you think I have to be in order to go through all that in the year 2000 and I’m still ready to bang? I don’t know anyone with a stronger mentality than me. I don’t.
When I say I’m ready to die–I’m not ready to die in the ring because that’s not how fighting goes but I would run into a burning building to save someone. I would run into a burning car that was gonna blow up just to save someone. I’m gonna live my life exactly how I’ve always thought about living my life: I’m gonna die for something otherwise I’m living for nothing, everyday of my life. I did that for a long time. I was living for other people’s lives; doing stupid stuff because they had no drive and no integrity in themselves.
So now, the beautiful woman that married me–I mean, she stood by me. I don’t know a woman on this planet, not my mother, maybe my sisters… I married a woman like my sisters; driven, strong women that will not let you fail. That’s what got me back in the game. My girl saw me in the hospital for two months in pain–my side is all cut up and there’s a big hole in it and she just said, “Baby, you’re gonna be alright and you’re gonna fight again, I know it. You’re a warrior.” And that’s all she kept saying to me, whispering in my ear when I was laying in the bed and didn’t wake up for a couple days. I remember hearing her. You can’t help but be a fighter, I’m a fighter.
I come from Sandusky, Ohio, one of the strongest cities in the world. If you can make it in Ohio you can make it anywhere in the world. This fight, I’m fighting for me. I fight every one of my fights for me from now on. I don’t fight for my wife, I don’t fight for my kids, I don’t fight for my team. But when I win, we all win. When I lose, we all lose. And I’m tired of fighting fights and not performing to the 100 percent that I can. So, right now I’m not worried about losing to Roger Gracie, I’m just worried about keeping my guns in my holsters and not using all the attributes I’ve got. I used to train with guys who didn’t want me to throw kicks. But I can throw a kick and hit a 6 foot 5 guy in the face. Why wouldn’t you want that guy to kick? I got guys around me now that want me to do stuff. “Man if you don’t do that Superman punch…Do it! It’s there, you’re fast.”
So, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything. I finally have a respect for the art of Mixed Martial Arts and I’m evolving. I’m learning the Jiu-jitsu, I’m training and training and training. I’m working with Robert Drysdale, I’m working with Sergio Pena, I’m working with some of the best guys in the business. I’m training my hands with one of the world’s best boxers. People are scared to fight him and anybody out there–you boxing promoters out there–if you’ve got some guys out there that you think are tough at 135, my guy will knock your dude out. Just like I plan on doing to everybody that I fight. Doesn’t matter, I’m good. I’m mentally strong again. I’ve always been strong but when you don’t have strong guys around you, how can you be strong yourself? You’re only as good as your crew and my crew is a bunch of monsters. I left my past behind. There are still some things in my past that I have to deal with today in the present, and it’s always gonna be part of my future, but right now my present is bright and my future is even brighter.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of this interview and to hear “The Monster” weigh in on everything from his favorite MMA fighters to Paul Daley’s sucker-punch heard ’round the world.