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Former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman passes away at 44

Kevin Randleman

In somewhat of a surprising story, news broke Thursday night that former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman has passed away at just 44 years old. Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter tweeted that he had confirmed the news, adding that Randleman went to the hospital with pneumonia and had heart failure.

An outstanding college wrestler at Ohio State, Randleman was a presence in the UFC's pre-Zuffa years, fighting seven times in the promotion (4-3), defeating Pete Williams to win the vacant heavyweight title at UFC 23 in November 1999. He defended it against Pedro Rizzo before dropping it to Randy Couture in November 2000. He spent the majority of the 2000s for Japan's PRIDE, but found his way stateside to end his career, dropping four straight in Strikeforce and regional promotions.

While his 17-16 record is a bit lackluster on paper, Randleman fought a who's who of major MMA names like the aforementioned Couture, Rizzo, Chuck Liddell, Shogun Rua, Mirko Cro Cop, Rampage Jackson, Sakuraba, and Fedor Emelianenko in a 15-year-career.

Randleman did have a daliance with pro wrestling, working for AJPW's Wrestle-1 promotion, Pro Wrestling Zero-One and Hustle.