Since the untimely passing of Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson, MMA fans and writers have attempted to put Kimbo’s career in perspective. It’s a no easy feat, considering the roller-coaster journey Slice has been through. Perhaps then, it’s the fact nobody can seem to define his career in a singular term which is all we need to know about this man.
Slice became a viral sensation due to a series of backyard fights he participated in. Some of these became legendary clips that have been replayed millions of times. Slice, the street fighter from Dade County, became a superstar in the combat-sports world without stepping foot in a boxing ring or climbing into a cage. However, it wouldn’t take long for the MMA world to come calling.
Slice, who competed in his first professional MMA bout in 2007, began his career with three straight wins under the EliteXC banner. After a stunning loss to Seth Petruzelli in 2008, Slice attempted to enter the UFC the hard way, through The Ultimate Fighter. That season would record some of the highest ratings in the reality show’s history, with Slice becoming a weekly focal point despite a loss in his first fight against Roy Nelson.
Once his UFC career came to an end following a loss to Matt Mitrione at UFC 113, Slice went back to the world of boxing. This time, however, he’d wear boxing gloves inside a ring rather than fighting with bare knuckles in someone’s backyard. Compiling a 7-0 record, Slice managed to rebuild his brand from a MMA perspective. This led Bellator MMA, under new leadership from Scott Coker, to sign the superstar brawler to its roster. Despite the critics, Slice continued to show that his drawing power was at an all-time high by delivering a massive ratings boost in his Bellator debut. Slice’s second fight in Bellator would set the bar even higher.
Part of the reason for the surge in ratings was due to the special aura surrounding Slice throughout his career. No, he wasn’t a jiu-jitsu world champion or an NCAA Division I wrestler. His career arc was incredibly special. His popularity took him well beyond his humble roots, skyrocketing his name to a new level of superstardom. When Slice stepped into a cage, it had a special feel to it. We were witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
A menacing fighter once the bell rung, Slice seemingly couldn’t have hurt a fly outside it. Although he always maintained a fearsome presence, I found Slice to be one of the most intriguing people I’ve spoken to. He comes from an upbringing that sounds straight from a Hollywood script, yet when I spoke with him following his victory over Ken Shamrock, Slice shattered all preconceived notions. Despite the tough-guy image Slice presented, you could tell there was much more to the man.
After already doing a number of interviews with major media outlets, Slice attempted to skirt around any remaining media members near the stage. I could hear him tell a Bellator rep, “Man, I just want to get out of here.” Who could blame him? It was late and the wide range of emotions on fight day can wear on anyone.
As I introduced myself and began the standard interview, Slice not only answered the questions, but he answered them with full and complete thoughts. It wasn’t your typical “fighter talk.” It was insight from a man who was well aware of his presence in the MMA world and could put his thoughts into eloquent replies. There was no “street talk” or slang within his responses. For a man that became famous for backyard brawls, it was a pleasant surprise to see him respond in detail.
It was a brief experience, but it was still telling of the man behind the “Kimbo Slice” moniker. I’m no Ariel Helwani or Luke Thomas. However, when it came time to answer some mundane questions from a simple MMA reporter, one of the biggest superstars of our generation took a few minutes of his time when he wanted to be anywhere but in that media room. It’s a small act of kindness, but one that extends well beyond our short discussion. Slice could have big-leagued the small-time guy and nobody would’ve batted an eye. But he didn’t.
In the days following his sudden passing, MMA media, fighters and fans have all come out in support of Slice. Even people who don’t follow MMA knew of Slice and followed his career. A transcendent star, Slice is someone whose career will likely never be duplicated. He was never an MMA champion, but nobody can dispute the fact that he’ll forever be a people’s champion.