Say what you will about the mega-success of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. Call Chuck Liddell or Ken Shamrock the first “mainstream” MMA stars if you want. Just remember that Kimbo Slice will always be the man who brought MMA to the masses. There’s a legend stating that Griffin/Bonnar was the fight that made people pay attention to cagefighting, but in reality, it was Kimbo Slice. Over 6.7 million households watched Kimbo blow open James Thompson’s ear live on CBS and millions more saw him on TUF 10. He was the first YouTube star besides that weird cat that played the piano. Every household is on a first-name basis with Kimbo.
After five years of boxing, an offer was made that he couldn’t refuse, and so Kimbo returned to the cage to fight Ken Shamrock at Bellator 138. Now, he’s tying up loose ends and looking to finish his career with gold around his waist. We spoke to Kimbo ahead of his Bellator 149 matchup against his long-time rival DaDa 5000, got some beard care tips, and tried to figure out who he’s voting for this November.
This fight with DaDa 5000 has been a long time coming, and you’ve been doing a lot of promotion for Bellator 149 for quite some time. Has it affected your focus?
I’m feeling good I’m just ready to get it over with now.
As far as DaDa 5000 is concerned, do you think any of his skills match up with yours?
Definitely not. I would like to say it’ll be a close fight, but it won’t be. I want to say it’ll be a good fight, and it will be, but close fight… no. I’ve been in the game longer. I’m more well-rounded. If it goes to the ground I’ll smash him. America loves a good knockout. A good old-fashioned, American knockout is what we’re looking for here.
This seems like the most fired up you’ve ever been before a fight. Is DaDa under your skin or do you just want to move past him?
Yeah. A little bit of both. I definitely don’t like him and I definitely want to pass it. I don’t like him, I think he’s ugly. I want to break his jaw and end it… just shut him up and end it.
You say he’s ugly. Does his beard game offend you?
No, the beard doesn’t make him ugly. I got a beard. The fact that he tries to mock my style is what makes him ugly. He should’ve come up with his own original look. But he tries to imitate to the fullest all the way around, he tries to be me. That makes him ugly, that makes his personality ugly and that makes his spirit ugly.
That’s interesting what you say about his spirit. You’re quite introspective and there’s almost a Gentle Kimbo that we’ve seen more and more over these last few years compared to Kimbo Slice, punching a man’s eye out of his skull.
Everyone has split personalities, you know? Fighting is one thing, raising your family is another. You can’t let the two of the cross — ever. When it comes down to discipline and dedication and loyalty, that’s when fighting and raising a family can correspond with each other. They can coexist, but not always in the same manner.
You’ve been in fights in front of millions on national TV, to fighting two dudes in a boatyard. What does this upcoming Bellator fight feel like to you? Is this a street fight with DaDa 5000?
I consider myself a professional. I’m no longer a “street fighter,” but I came from fighting in the streets. I came from respect. There’s no ref, there’s no official there to stop the fight. It’s literally the respect of the man. That mentality is always there. That’s always there — the respect for the man. Except in this fight, because I’m really going to try to hurt this guy rather than just beat a guy to win a fight. I’m going to try to hurt him.
Are you thinking about your next opponent? There’s always people who want to fight Kimbo Slice, and Kurt Angle has mentioned your name…
Kurt. Kurt. Kurt. Don’t do this to yourself, Kurt. I like you, Kurt. But if you want a slice you can get a Slice.
Would you ever be interested in getting even with Seth Petruzelli?
He’s not gonna use my name to come out of retirement to try to make some money. I do not want to fight him and I have no interest in fighting him.
Is the possibility of fighting Roy Jones still out there?
That’s on Roy. It’d be a big money fight. However he wants to do it, I’m always game. I’m always down.
How do you feel about CM Punk fighting in the UFC?
It’s a career move. I think CM Punk has awesome talent and a great character. He speaks well. If he transitions to this sport, which is a sport and no longer entertainment, I hope his camp tells him that he needs to be ready for a rude awakening. Then — go for it. These guys are going to hit him for real. Someone is going to get their ass whooped for real. He needs to know that.
How does someone as marketable as you feel about the UFC’s deal with Reebok?
With a sponsor like that, who does it benefit? It doesn’t benefit the fighters because they’re limited now. Maybe if Reebok just worked with Ronda Rousey or the Conor McGregor guy. That one main top dog who they could show love to. But all the other fighters they may not be getting love shown their way. But what do I know, I’m just a fighter. Maybe it benefited the organization? With me, I’m not saying I want to be a billboard or anything, I don’t want to fight with a lot of extra shit on my shorts. But some guys need to make money.
I’ve been watching you since before YouTube, and I feel that you’ve always been consistent in how you approach fights professionally. But, is there any joy in fighting for you?
No, Jason. I really enjoy it. I really enjoy the science. I enjoy trying to hit, not be hit, or be hit and not let them phase you. I’ve grown to love it but I’ve always liked fighting. I guess it started with my mom trying to beat me and hit me with a belt, and I’d move out of the way and she’d swing at air and swing at air. I grew up in a battlefield.
You didn’t start with the typical training most MMA fighters do, and yet you’re surprisingly hard to submit. James Thompson had you in trouble multiple times, Mitrione did as well, and the Ken Shamrock choke looked like it was in. Why wasn’t he able to submit you?
I wouldn’t let him. I train for these things, but I went into MMA kinda quick. I was popular in my early thirties, but I got in the game later, you know? A lot of guys now have been training for ten or twenty years. From young to now. I didn’t have the time to develop into a well-rounded fighter and I’m still learning things right now, but what works for me is my heart. Knowing that submission can and will come. Knowing that these guys have a submission gameplan for you, Kimbo. Knowing that I often tell myself: don’t tap. Let them break the arm, let them break the leg or if they have a choke, go to sleep. But don’t give up. Not now. You’ve come so far. Fight your way out of it. No matter what happens or what you go through, fight your way out because when you get out you make your way to your feet. When you are there you have the opportunity to get a knockout. I have to live by that.
What were your influences to make you this way?
Life. Going through life. Knowing how hard it can be and having an opportunity to get a house, to buy a house with a gate around it like I always wanted. A dog. Have my kids play in a yard with a swimming pool. Everything I always wanted as a kid I can provide to my family. That’s my drive and my motivation. What more does a man need other than to take care of himself and his family? You are whatever you are, but you can’t call yourself a man if you don’t have that drive about yourself.
I’m also a bearded man. I’ve lived with one for many years.
Can you share any beard care tips with me?
Listen, I like Pantene Pro-V. I’ve tried a little bit of everything and I’ll tell you — you don’t want to use Head & Shoulders on your beard. Pantene Pro-V is the one. It’s perfect for hair and they have whatever you need. Long and silky, whatever you want. I have a mother and I want to hug and kiss her. You need your face to be right for when you kiss your wife.
Have you ever tried beard oils?
No, I’ve heard about it but I’ve never picked any up. If you’ve got a recommendation let me know. I’ll pick some up.
The Presidential elections are coming up.
Now that they’ve got me in a whole other tax bracket, a lot of black people will be mad when I say I want a Republican in office, but I gotta make a living. You know? A Republican being in office will be good for my taxes, but what do I know?
But you also understand the counterpoint.
Yes, yes. That’s why I say a lot of minorities will be upset, but when I voted Democrat, and I have, I didn’t see myself making any more money. Things were so hard. I still couldn’t get a job. Now that I’m a fighter and I’m in that other tax bracket, a Republican in office will save me a lot of money taxes-wise.
You’re always honest. I appreciate that.
You have a birthday next week and you’ll be turning 42. How much longer can Kimbo Slice fight for?
Another year or two. I’m going to ride out 2016. Two more fights. Maybe one in June or July and then one in November/December. Then in 2017 I’ll have one or two more, but I want to win and get a shot at the title. I want to get a shot and then going into the fight swinging for the fences.
One thing I’ve always wanted to know about you: how many times have you broken your hands on some dude’s skull?
Not once. Not once.
Really! Your knuckles are so huge and gnarly.
Yeah I’ve got some big-ass knuckles.