One day, possibly in the near future, there will almost certainly be a movie made about Kimbo Slice’s life. He lived the American Dream. The only thing he couldn’t achieve was gold around his waist, but Kimbo would probably also admit that a mouth full of gold wasn’t so bad, either.
He was a star football player at the local level, but disaster would strike, an injury would occur, and Kimbo would never be able to truly achieve that next level on the gridiron. He would have to live out of his car and do what he had to do to survive, but eventually, the man born with the name Kevin Ferguson would put his natural abilities to use through organizing street fights. This is where his star was born and he would become Kimbo Slice, Superstar.
If you’re of a certain age (or possibly any age at this point), you’ll remember seeing Kimbo fight in backyards, boat yards, or really any variation of yard you could think of (even the back of restaurants). He was an incomprehensible figure. He looked like a bad guy out of a gritty, Rocky remake. Everyone watching the fights knew Kimbo wasn’t fighting professional talent, but he was fighting guys who would qualify as henchman from Streets of Rage, so it worked out.
This was typically the first fight you saw — and possibly one of the first things you ever saw on YouTube — mostly because Kimbo went full superhero on a guy before popping the dude’s eye out. (Obviously graphic warning.)
And the infamous boatyard brawl in which Kimbo defeats two large men in a boatyard. Did I mention they were in a boatyard? I find that fascinating. Boatyards very rarely tend to be violent.
Some fighters from those backyards and boatyards went on to be professional fighters, like the UFC’s Jorge Masvidal.
Kimbo started to evolve, using dirty boxing and elbows more and more effectively.
And of course, his only filmed street fight loss came against Sean Gannon, who would be signed to the UFC for a single fight off the strength of THIS win. When the UFC signs you because you defeated a guy who could only be found on the internet, you know there’s true star power involved.
Kimbo began his MMA career against boxing and Olympic champion Ray Mercer, defeating him by submission of all things. It was an exhibition, but it still did big business, and the legend of Kimbo Slice, the monster street fighter going from fighting random dudes on YouTube to pros inside the cage and ring was shaping his arc. You couldn’t say he was only fighting scrubs because he wasn’t. He moved up to the big leagues.
EliteXC, the fledgling MMA promotion that would eventually morph into Showtime’s Strikeforce (which was run by Bellator’s Scott Coker) signed Kimbo and used him at or near the main event instantly. Kimbo would go on to set ratings records, with knockouts like this over former UFC star Tank Abbott.
His fight against James Thompson is notorious for its gory ending.
Kimbo was set to fight former UFC champion Ken Shamrock at EliteXC: Heat in 2008, but Shamrock backed out of the national broadcast just hours before after suffering a cut. The show had to go on, and Seth Petruzelli was called. Kimbo lost in just 14 seconds, the world was shocked, ratings went through the roof, and EliteXC collapsed shortly thereafter.
Dana White and the UFC were always seemingly at odds with Kimbo, but an agreement was made, and Kimbo would “fight his way into the UFC” by joining the first all-heavyweight The Ultimate Fighter cast. It was arguably the last great season of the show, and once again a huge ratings hit. But the most important and shocking takeaway from the show was not the expected levels of Kimbo violence, but the thoughtful and gentle side of Kimbo that was presented to massive audiences.
Kimbo went on to lose to eventual show winner and UFC fan-favorite Roy Nelson in the first round. At the time and during the show, many hoped he would come back to replace any injured fighter, but he’d back out due to an injury, citing not wanting to fight at less than 100 percent. Few blamed him. Like most TUF fighters at that point, Kimbo got signed to a UFC contract, and while his fight with Houston Alexander at the TUF 10 finale was an awful affair, his loss to Matt Mitrione was a fun and exciting fight. Kimbo lost to the up-and-comer (who is currently with Bellator) and then would be cut by the UFC.
Fulfilling what seemed to be a lifelong passion, Kimbo went on to box for the next two years, going 6-1 with six knockouts. They weren’t all beautiful fights, but they were fun. Pretty much everything Kimbo touched was fun.
Then, he came back to MMA at the age of 40 for one final run. When he spoke to us, he said he was going for gold, but it was clear he was also tying up loose ends at the end of his career. He finally fought Ken Shamrock in a fight some simply couldn’t believe. It certainly looked unbelievable. Ken Shamrock had a perfect choke in until Kimbo somehow overpowered him and knocked him out.
What would turn out to be Kimbo’s final fight was an unfortunate one. Kimbo and Dada 5000, another street fighter and former member of Kimbo’s crew, would settle a long-standing feud in the Bellator cage. It was sloppy, and frankly a joke. It was funny how bad it was until we learned that Dada 5000’s kidneys and heart failed him and Kimbo nearly keeled over from exhaustion. Those men fought until nearly their last breath. Kimbo tested positive for steroids in a pre-fight drug test, served a suspension, then signed a rematch against James Thompson for July 16, 2016 in England. Kimbo was going international.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Kimbo gained fame and fortune, but through it all, Kimbo remained Kimbo. And that’s why fight fans loved him. He was fun. He was the epitome of the sport. He’ll never be replaced.