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6/7/16: Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson’s Five Most-Watched MMA Fights
Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson tragically passed away on Monday at the age of 42. Despite having just seven professional fights, the man was a phenomenon due to the underground attention and exposure he received out of Florida as a “street fighter,” and he became one of the most-watched MMA fighters in the history of the sport with just a handful of fights. His cable and network television bouts brought some of the highest ratings in the sport’s history, so today we look at which fights brought in the most.
5. Bellator 149 (vs. Dhafir “DaDa 5000” Harris) – 2.5 million viewers: Bellator MMA has lost their biggest star this week, as Slice’s two appearances in their cage blew away just about every other previous event in terms of viewership. That includes what was now his final fight against Dhafir “DaDa 5000” Harris. A ridiculously memorable fight for all the wrong reasons, the matchup nevertheless got attention – due in large part to Slice’s history in that regard – at a level Bellator can’t possibly hope to match without him.
4. EliteXC “Heat” (vs. Seth Petruzelli) – 4.84 million viewers*: This is the one fight of his for which we don’t have a readily available peak number, but the final half hour of the broadcast featuring his fight with Seth Petruzelli brought in an average of nearly five million viewers. That puts it on this list, and an accurate peak may have possibly bumped it higher. This card in October of 2008 was supposed to see Slice face Ken Shamrock; instead, Shamrock suffered a cut while rolling the day of the event and got pulled, leading to a last minute main event change and essentially dooming the organization, as they went under later that fall, selling off their assets. Slice’s shocking – at the time – loss to replacement Petruzelli was one of the most talked about fights of that year.
3. The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale (vs. Houston Alexander) – 5.2 million viewers: Slice’s appearance on The Ultimate Fighter’s first ever heavyweight season drove the long-running reality show to record viewership throughout the fall of 2009, and Slice attempted to gain a bit more respect from the hardcore MMA fanbase after the Petruzelli loss the year before. His TUF 10 Finale bout with Houston Alexander was at times entertaining, with Slice pulling off a great looking suplex at one point, though the lasting image was of both men putting their hands on their knees in exhaustion in the final round. Still, it was the most watched fight on the Finale card despite it not being a TUF finals bout or main event, keeping Slice as the driving force for the season’s success.
2. The Ultimate Fighter 10 Episode Three (vs. Roy Nelson) – 6.1 million viewers: Nowhere was that made more readily apparent than in the third episode, featuring Slice’s fight with then-already-longtime-vet Roy Nelson. Slice lost the bout by TKO when Nelson smothered him on the ground and trapped him in a crucifix, but regardless of the outcome his fame (perhaps infamy by that point) was undeniable. The episode peaked with just over six million viewers in a high-water mark for a reality show which eight years later is drawing just six percent of that number.
1. EliteXC “Primetime” (vs. James Thompson) – 7.3 million viewers: The sport of mixed martial arts hit network television for the first time in May of 2008, not with the UFC or with the most elite competition in the world, but with a street fighter who had already built up a high level of curiosity among fans both old and, largely, new. It was a smash success for CBS and EliteXC, and Slice’s third round win over Thompson is still the second most watched MMA fight ever, behind only the Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos Heavyweight Title fight in the UFC’s debut event on Fox. No matter what anyone thought of Slice or his skills in the cage, he was a presence who made people tune in for better or worse.
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