Where Have You Gone Kimbo Slice? The Rise and Fall of an Internet Sensation.
In this so-called information age it is getting increasingly harder to fool people. Yes, we can still be victims to the occasional creation of the media hype machine, but for the most part there are no charlatans traveling from town to town selling miracle elixirs.
This leads me to the long and strange journey of one Kevin Ferguson, better known to the world as Kimbo Slice. Nearly a decade ago, this large, mysterious man became one of the first internet sensations. Slice developed a cult following by showing a prowess for street fighting in a series of videos released on the internet.
The release of these videos coincided with the meteoric rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the United States. Even MMA giant Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) had toiled in obscurity for the better part of their first decade of existance. Guys like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Tito Ortiz had helped to elevate the sport, but MMA was still looking for an icon of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Hulk Hogan, or Muhammad Ali proportions.
Surely internet sensation Kimbo Slice could be that guy. He had the look, and was enigmatic enough to be the international superstar the MMA world had long sought. Slice looked like he was hand picked by a casting agent. There was just one little problem.
Overlooked in the hype surrounding Slice’s ‘homemade’ videos was the fact that these were nothing more than bar brawls. Sure, this guy could destroy loud mouthed drunks with liquid courage, but how would he fare against the professional who had been training his entire life?
All these red flags were overlooked in the haste to create a superstar whose back story couldn’t have been written by even the most talented of Hollywood screen writers. Slice’s professional career got off to a strong start. He scored a first round victory over former boxing champ Ray Mercer while competing for the now defunct CFFC.
After CFFC folded, Slice was signed by upstart company EliteXC. EliteXC was backed by Showtime and wanted to be a real rival for the UFC. Slice’s first match for EliteXC was against Bo Cantrell. Slice took care of Bo Cantrell with a first round submission. Since the win over Mercer was deemed an exibition, Slice started his MMA career 1-0.
Next up for Kimbo in EliteXC was former pro wrestler Tank Abbott. Kimbo knocked out Abbott in 43 seconds and was now 2-0. After the win over Abbott, EliteXC was ready to make their prime time network debut. CBS owns Showtime, and Showtime essentially owned Elite. MMA was going to make its network television debut on May 31st, 2008. The world was going to be introduced to this microwave star known as Kimbo Slice.
The hype machine had begun. Kimbo was being dubbed as the toughest man on the planet, and he was going to headline the event known as EliteXC: Primetime. Kimbo didn’t disappoint, scoring a third round TKO over James Thompson.
The second installment of CBS’ Saturday Night Fights was set for Oct. 4th, 2008. Slice was scheduled to fight MMA and pro wrestling star Ken Shamrock. Moments before the fight, Shamrock suffered a cut above his left eye and was unable to fight. That left Frank Shamrock, Aaron Rosa, and Seth Petruzelli as suitable replacements. Slice’s team felt he wasn’t ready for Frank Shamrock, and Petruzelli was given the nod.
What happened next was Kimbo Slice’s ‘Bo Jackson running over Brian Bosworth’ moment. In the 14th second of the first round the last second replacement Petruzelli scored a TKO over the so-called ‘toughest man on the planet.’ It was the moment the world got to peek behind the curtain and see the Wizard of Oz for what he really was.
The aftermath was even more dramatic than the fight. Elite’s headliner was a fraud and the company soon folded. Petruzelli didn’t help Slice’s cause when he went an Orlando radio show and told the hosts,
‘The promoters kinda hinted to me and they gave me the money to stand and throw with him, they didn’t want me to take him down. Let’s just put it that way. It was worth my while to try and stand up punch him.’
Petruzelli later backtracked and tried to clarify his comments, but the damage was done. Those red flags that promoters had ignored were coming back to bite them.
Slice had a big enough name that Dana White and UFC gave him a chance, but he would have to earn his way on board. If Slice wanted to compete in the UFC he would have to start with the reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. Slice lost his first match on the show to eventual champion Roy Nelson.
Despite the loss, Slice was given two more chances by Dana White. In his first non exhibition bout, Slice won by decision over Houston Alexander. On May 8th, 2010 Slice made his UFC pay-per-view debut against Matt Mitrione. Slice lost in a 2nd round TKO and was released by the UFC. He has not fought a sanctioned MMA bout since.
The record books will show Kimbo Slice was 4-2 as a professional MMA fighter, but MMA and sports fans will know they were duped. In fairness to Kimbo, this really wasn’t his fault. He was in the right place at the right time. The internet combined with the hunger for an MMA megastar created a myth. Sure the media ran with most of the hype, but for one of the few times the hype was generated by the public.
As an epilogue to the Kimbo Slice story, he may have his Hollywood ending after all. After dabbling in boxing and pro wrestling, Kimbo may carve a niche for himself acting. He was cast as Zulu Kondo in the next installment of The Scorpion King series of movies. He may very well by more Mr. T than Randy Couture, but that will likely suit him just fine!