“Every time Kimbo Slice fights, it sets (mixed martial arts) back” – UFC heavyweight Frank Mir sums up the feeling many in the MMA world have towards the street-brawler turned MMA fighter. “Guys like (Slice) just reinforce the idea in the public’s eye that we are all blood thirsty barbarians who just want to pummel each other and that there is no skill required.”
For most of his career, Kimbo Slice, born Kevin Ferguson in 1974, has been considered a side-show in the fight world. Born in the Bahamas, Ferguson moved to Florida with his family as a child. He grew up in the Florida area, becoming a star linebacker for his high school in American Football. He attended University, and had a try-out for the NFL side Miami Dolphins, but was surplus to requirements.
He found work as a doorman at a strip club; then landed in the employ of Miami-based pornographic outfit, Reality Kings, as security. Reality Kings are known for their candid camera approach – women supposedly shopping, sunbathing or waiting for their husbands/ boyfriends are picked up off the street. Slice himself appeared in a few Reality Kings productions, as a bystander. He soon began to build his own online profile, competing in backyard brawls, racking up wins against lowly opponents in scraps taped and uploaded on grainy footage to YouTube.
His only loss, to Boston cop Sean Gannon, did little to quell the enthusiasm of Slice’s online fan base. The Slice enigma grew, with many willing him into the world of organised MMA. The dissenting view questioned how well Slice could be expected to do against a trained fighter, so there was much scepticism. But Slice has one major thing in his favour. He has the look of a tough guy – big and muscled, with a scowling face framed by a thick beard; juxtaposed against his shiny bald head. His fightwear was often a do-rag and string vest.
His online fame had him squarely in the spotlight, so work came through for him. He appeared in an exhibition fight for Cage Fury Fighting Championships 5, defeating his first opponent, boxer Ray Mercer, by guillotine choke in the first round. He then fought David ‘Tank’ Abbott for EliteXC. Abbott honed his craft brawling in the bars and back alleys of Huntington Beach, but Slice defeated him by TKO in the first round. So far so good, but at this point Slice was yet to face top level opposition. His fight against big Brit James Thompson was little better. After getting dominated by Thompson’s takedown ability, Slice managed to land a clean shot on his ear, rupturing a cauliflower and causing a dazed Thompson to concede three unanswered blows. The fight was called in controversial circumstances. Slice had won, but won over few new fans in the process. He was then brutally exposed by Seth Petruzelli, who knocked Slice down in a matter of seconds, and finished the fight through strikes after about 14 seconds into Round 1.
Slice’s residual fame from his YouTube days continued to propel him further, and the scent of hard cash lured Dana White into signing him for the UFC. He competed in knockout TV show The Ultimate Fighter, where he was defeated in his first fight by eventual winner, Roy “Big Country” Nelson – the chubby fan favourite who looks more like a well-fed truck-driver than a hardened heavyweight warrior. He defeated relative unknown Houston Alexander in The Ultimate Fighter finale and then continued onto the UFC where he faced, and lost to, Matt Mitrione. White saw sense, and Slice was off the UFC roster.
Slice has always tried to tread the gap between circus-act bad-boy, snarling and scowling, and a real attempt at being a legitimate fighter. He has recently found some success as a boxer, with a fight record of 7-0. It comes as no surprise to say that he much prefers to stand and bang. His last opponent was Australian Shane Tilyard, who rocked him early in the first. Slice survived, and after an innocuous looking left to the body, Tilyard was down, and out, early in the second.
Slice is an conundrum, he is still a very popular fighter and cuts enough of an intimidating figure to keep the attention on him. He’s kept winning while a boxer, and makes people money, yet is known as more big-show than real skills. He may not have the respect of the best in the business, but he’s still out there taking on all-comers; building his brand and making money.