Wrestling & MMA

There was another side to Kimbo Slice

Mixed martial arts fighter Kimbo Slice walks to the cage during the Strikefoce mixed martial arts event on Saturday, March 29, 2008, in San Jose, Calif.
Mixed martial arts fighter Kimbo Slice walks to the cage during the Strikefoce mixed martial arts event on Saturday, March 29, 2008, in San Jose, Calif. AP

This story was originally published in the Miami Herald on Oct. 2, 2008. Kimbo Slice died June 6, 2016.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The last time we saw Kimbo Slice he was punching the cauliflower ear of James “The Colossus” Thompson until it burst like a piñata — except that blood spurted out, not candy.

What kind of gore can we expect to see Saturday night when Miami’s Slice climbs into the Mixed Martial Arts cage against Ken “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Shamrock?

“I’m going to get in the ring and put a beating on him: Snap, crackle, pop,” Shamrock said. “I’m going to punch him in his ugly mug, knock him down and break his leg.”

Yikes. What Shamrock described could actually happen. He and Slice are not professional wrestlers or stunt men. There is nothing choreographed about the raw wounds in MMA, a competition so violent that even cable TV backed away in horror several years ago.

But the bloodlust of fans could not be denied, and Saturday’s card of Elite Xtreme Combat bouts at the BankAtlantic Center will be broadcast live, on CBS, in prime time.

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Poor boxing. The “sweet science” can’t command that kind of coverage. It’s just not graphic enough for a populace addicted to the carnage of video games. It’s too tame compared to Slice, the former bouncer, bodyguard and street brawler who looks like a figment of your scariest nightmare with that bushy black beard.

“This is no country for old men,” Slice, 34, said to Shamrock, 44. “Fighting with MMA gloves is like a pillow fight for me. I’m used to bare-knuckle fighting.”

They sat on opposite sides of the stage for their pre-fight intimidation game, glaring, sneering and shrugging.

“It should be a war,” moderator Jeremy Lappen said.

Slice and Shamrock arose from their chairs, stood face to face, clenched their fists, did some more glaring. Slice’s entourage of burly men wearing black, sunglasses and unsubtle gold jewelry moved in. The audience tensed for a pre-fight fight.

And then…cut. The cameras stopped rolling.

Slice strolled away from his opponent and out onto a balcony. He was smiling. He wore flip flops, and his toenails were painted black. Yes, the world’s meanest, toughest, nastiest fighter uses nail polish.

And he has six kids: Kevin Jr., Kevin II, Kevlar, Kassandra, Kiara and Kevina.

“They are my world,” he said. “It’s all about my babies. My three-year-old, he’s a fighter. We get on the floor and he’s already throwing elbows and knees, and I’m the dummy.”

Kevin Ferguson – that’s his real name — played football at Palmetto High, hid in the bathroom as his family’s house in Perrine was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, and earned an academic scholarship to the University of Miami, where he was a criminal justice major.

Yes, the guy who commits sanctioned assault and battery wanted to be a cop.

He got a part-time job in security, which led to bouncer jobs in Miami Beach, which led to arranged street fights in alleys, backyards and parking lots for $300 a pop, then $500. Somebody got the idea to film them, and the grainy maulings were put on the Internet. By then, Ferguson had three kids to support. He dropped out of college. He worked as a bodyguard for an online pornography company called RK Netmedia. He kept fighting. He became a YouTube sensation, a cult hero. He starred in a reality show with blood, and Web surfers looking for a thrill at their fingertips found Kimbo Slice. MMA promoters lured him to their fringe sport and he’s 3-0 while still learning the wrestling part.

“At first it was to make a couple bucks – I’d rather fight than steal — but it came natural,” Ferguson said. “Today, I wouldn’t condone street fighting. There’s a little something going on in Perrine right now. I’m against that. I recommend the professional route. Go to a gym or a dojo or a camp and learn.”

Yes, the man with the famous guillotine slam wants to be a role model.

The entourage? It includes Ferguson’s little brother, Devon, nicknamed Blackie.

“Yep, that’s my posse,” Ferguson said, laughing and pointing to three women wearing Team Slice T-shirts. “My mom, my fiancée and her friend.”

Outside the cage, Kimbo Slice is a hugger, not a fighter. Beneath the bravado, tattoos and gold teeth he is soft-spoken and polite. He shows off his donut-sized ring, encrusted with diamonds in the shape of a fist, and allows complete strangers to try it on.

His mother, Rosemary Clarke, recalled the first time she found him participating in a backyard fight.

“I didn’t like it but I didn’t stop him,” she said. Now she attends all his fights, and never covers her eyes.

“It’s not too pretty to watch, but I got to see,” she said. “Now matter how grown they are, you want to hold your children and ease the pain.”

Yes, the 6-4, 275-pound raging bull is really a mama’s boy.

“People look at him as a big, bad beast, but he’s a gentle, kind, easy-going guy, always sharing with his friends,” Clarke said. “He’s just a lovable person.”

“That’s me,” Ferguson said, wrapping his biceps around his mother’s shoulders and kissing her on the cheek.

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