Volumetric muscle loss (VML) is a traumatic and functionally debilitating muscle injury with limited treatment options. Developmental regenerative therapies for the repair of VML typically comprise an ECM scaffold. In this study, we tested if the complete reliance on host cell migration to a devitalized muscle scaffold without myogenic cells is sufficient for de novo muscle fiber regeneration. Devitalized (muscle ECM with no living cells) and, as a positive control, vital minced muscle grafts were transplanted to a VML defect in the tibialis anterior muscle of Lewis rats. Eight weeks post-injury, devitalized grafts did not appreciably promote de novo muscle fiber regeneration within the defect area, and instead remodeled into a fibrotic tissue mass. In contrast, transplantation of vital minced muscle grafts promoted de novo muscle fiber regeneration. Notably, pax7+ cells were absent in remote regions of the defect site repaired with devitalized scaffolds. At 2 weeks post-injury, the devitalized grafts were unable to promote an anti-inflammatory phenotype, while vital grafts appeared to progress to a pro-regenerative inflammatory response. The putative macrophage phenotypes observed in vivo were supported in vitro, in which soluble factors released from vital grafts promoted an M2-like macrophage polarization, whereas devitalized grafts failed to do so. These observations indicate that although the remaining muscle mass serves as a source of myogenic cells in close proximity to the defect site, a devitalized scaffold without myogenic cells is inadequate to appreciably promote de novo muscle fiber regeneration throughout the VML defect.