NEW YORK - Kevin Randleman is ready to seize the moment. After four years in and out of the ring because of a variety of ailments, the ex-UFC belt-holder and two-time NCAA Division I national wrestling champion says he's more focused and eager than ever to step in the cage for his much-anticipated Strikeforce debut against Mike Whitehead.
The two will battle in a light heavyweight matchup that will take place Saturday, June 6, during an incredible five-fight Strikeforce "Lawler vs. Shields" show to be televised on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast) from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
World-ranked fighters "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler (middleweight) and Jake Shields (welterweight) will square off at a catch weight of 182 pounds in the main event and Andrei "Pitbull" Arlovski and Brett "The Grim" Rogers will meet in another exciting undercard matchup. Also, Scott "Hands Of Steel" Smith takes on Cesar Gracie black belt Nick Diaz and knockout artist Phil Baroni will meet Joe Riggs.
Randleman, 37, answered six quick questions regarding Saturday night's fight.
Showtime: Your outlook on life and fighting has really changed over the last several years and you were recently married. How are things going for you overall?
Randleman: "Well, I finally realized what being a star and being famous does to people. This fight is different for me because I've trained like I never have in the past—exactly the way you're supposed to. I'm just focused. Before when I was a UFC champion and I was with PRIDE I would be out two weeks before a fight having fun and partying. I still trained but I didn't train diligently like I did for this one."
Showtime: You have had a problem in the past with keeping bad influences away from you. How have you been able to do that at this point in your life?
Randleman: "Oh, man. I was crazy. You know, I did have a lot of bad influences in my life. I've had to change my phone number three times in four years just so people would stop calling me. You have friends who say they are your friends but they're really not. They just want to go out with you. My friends were takers, they weren't givers. So they wanted to go out with me so they could pick up girls like I could or they wanted to go out with me because they could get into clubs free or they always had a good time. And it always ended up being late nights … 5, 6, 7 o'clock in the morning. Stuff like that. Since I moved from Ohio to Las Vegas, everything in my life has changed. The mentality of my life has changed. I realized that everything I was doing in my life was wrong but I was so used to being chaotic and having chaos in my world and always being angry that it was easy to just go into fights being mad at the world. All that has changed for me."
Showtime: You have had some serious medical issues over the past several years, including a severe fungal lung infection. Did you ever have doubts that you would be able to get back in the cage?
Randleman: "The injuries have slowed me down and I've been on some very strong pain killers. I would always just pray that if I ever had chance to do this again I would cut everything out. I don't go to the bars anymore, I don't go to the clubs. I have one woman in my life and she's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. We've been married just six weeks. Now when I look in the mirror I can truly say I am a champion. I've always been a champion because I've overcome so much over and over again.
"This is my third time around and the thing I've done differently this time is I've stopped everything I had done before. Its easy to associate fun with going out with the boys and staying out all night but to me that's not the life of a champion. I've taken the left when I should've gone right. Now I look at champions like Jake Shields and I see how they've done it right."
Showtime: This is truly a comeback for you. What can we expect to see Saturday?
Randleman: "LL Cool J has a great song: 'Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years.' Don't call it a comeback. Sometimes you have to take small steps back. You get knocked down and you have to get back up and stand strong. I don't think of it as a comeback. I look at it like I needed to go back to school and learn a lot more. I think I'm very lucky. I'm not a religious man but I'm a very spiritual man and I believe in good and evil and I believe that I was a good person all my life who did a lot of bad things. This time I appreciate the guy across from me because I know how hard it is to get in this cage. I'm just going to give it my all Saturday night. I don't anticipate anybody at 205 being able to knock me out or take me out."
Showtime: If this isn't a comeback then what should we call it?
Randleman: "Think of it as the 'Rebirth of the Monster.' But I'm not a monster anymore. I'm not running around in the streets like a crazy man. I just want to fight. I just want to be the guy I always was but was too scared to be. The best thing that ever happened to me was the UFC firing me because I was just too crazy and too out of control. And it's taken a lot of time for me to understand where I went wrong but I've finally realized it was all my fault. I can't blame anyone in the world for the mistakes I've made. I look in the mirror every day and say, 'You're the reason why you failed.' "
Showtime: What are your major motivations for getting back in the cage?
Randleman: "There has always been so much chaos in my life that now that it's calm I feel nervous. But not because I'm fighting Mike Whitehead or whoever on June 6. I'm not nervous because I'm angry. I'm nervous because I know for one year I've trained for this fight. I've been training because I knew I had to be ready to fight once I got that contract. And my last three fights I've gotten better and better and better. Right now I feel like I'm in the sewers. People don't know my name and that's exactly what I like. I'm not fighting again for the fame. I'm fighting for the money and for the wins. And I know that the wins will take care of the money."