Emanuel Yarbrough Passes Away (1964-2015)

It’s hard to think of a fighter who made the impression Emanuel Yarbrough did in just one UFC bout, a testament to the charisma and larger than life aura of “The Gentle Giant,” who passed away on December 21 in Richmond, Virginia.

He was 51.

“Meet the proverbial immovable object,” said the voiceover on the pre-fight feature before Yarbrough’s lone Octagon bout against Keith Hackney at UFC 3 in September of 1994.

Standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing in at 616 pounds, New Jersey’s Yarbrough was an imposing sight, but with his background in sumo wrestling, it was clear that he was an athlete, the Guinness World Record holder for the largest in the world.

Against the 5-foot-11 1/2, 200-pound Hackney, Yarbrough was blitzed early and defeated at the 1:59 mark, but no one ever forgot the big man from New Jersey, who went 1-1 in his next two MMA bouts, defeating Tatsuo Nakano in Shooto before losing to Daiju Takase in PRIDE.

Once his fighting career was over, Yarbrough went on to become an ambassador for sumo wrestling in the United States while also having success as an actor, playing roles alongside the likes of Diane Keaton and Mickey Rourke.

“Emanuel’s passion was to travel,” Yarbrough’s longtime manager, Beatrice H. Davis, wrote in a statement. “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.”

Struggling throughout his life with obesity, Yarbrough often claimed “I am a prisoner in my body,” but it didn’t stop him from trying to lead others in a different direction.

“Emanuel constantly demonstrated the need to help the obese, particularly children,” Davis wrote. “And he traveled the world and to bring awareness to obesity.”

The UFC sends its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Emanuel Yarbrough.

About William Smith

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