Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson died last week at the age of 42. He may not have been the best fighter of all-time, but he was one of the biggest draws in MMA history. It all started when he was featured in street fighting videos on YouTube. This lead to him getting a fight deal with EliteXC, where he headlined the first ever network MMA show. Eventually landing in the UFC, Slice was the featured name on The Ultimate Fighter 10, which was the most popular season of TUF ever.
Kimbo went 1-1 in the UFC, taking a decision win over Houston Alexander and suffering a second round TKO loss to Matt Mitrione. After he was released by the UFC he dabbled in boxing before returning to MMA several years later with Bellator. He beat Ken Shamrock by first round TKO and then beat Dhafir “Dada 5000” Harris by third round TKO, which was later overturned to a No Contest after Kimbo tested positive for PEDs. Kimbo’s fight with Dada is the most watched fight in Bellator history, while his fight with Shamrock was the second most watched. This despite Kimbo being years removed from his peak of popularity and the trainwreck nature of these fights. We can discuss the quality of those fights separately (both were terrible but at least the Shamrock fight ended quickly), but the fact remains that Kimbo was a huge draw. He had 2.5 million people watching his fight with Dada 5000, which beats many of the UFC on Fox cards in viewership numbers. Considering that UFC on Fox airs on network television while Bellator is on cable, that’s pretty damn good.
So, Kimbo was a big draw, but did he actually produce memorable moments? I would answer yes, but I’ve always been a Kimbo fan. I remember when he blew up James Thompson’s cauliflower ear at “EliteXC: Primetime” on May 31, 2008. The fight up until that moment, the opening of the third round, wasn’t good by any means, but that was a gross-out moment that only seemed to further Kimbo’s popularity. This was followed by Kimbo’s 14-second defeat at the hands of Seth Petruzelli at “EliteXC: Heat” on October 4, 2008. Kimbo was originally scheduled to fight Ken Shamrock, but Shamrock hurt himself the day of the fight and was replaced. Petruzelli’s knockout of Kimbo could have destroyed his popularity, but it was hard to notice any difference as he went on to be among the cast for the highest rated season of The Ultimate Fighter ever. Kimbo would lose his first fight on the show, a TKO loss to Roy Nelson in the second round. Not exactly a memorable moment, but it drew big ratings.
Neither of Kimbo’s UFC fights were memorable, but when he returned with Bellator in 2015 it brought him back to the eyes of MMA fans at large. His two fights in Bellator weren’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but people certainly tuned in. It’d be easy to dismiss Kimbo as nothing but marketing hype, but that’s being too harsh in my eyes. I think his story resonated with a lot of people because he was a guy who was just doing what he could to survive. He was a guy who lost his home in Hurricane Andrew and had to live in his vehicle for a while. He was a guy who jumped feet first into the world of MMA without the best of backgrounds to utilize. He seemed like an everyman. By all accounts, he seemed like a good guy. That’s what I’ll remember most about him.
UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping has a lot of possible challengers for his first title defense. He says he doesn’t want to fight Luke Rockhold and it’s hard to argue with that. Rockhold wasn’t a long term champ who defended the belt for years, he had just won it himself. Bisping also says that Chris Weidman doesn’t deserve a title shot because he’s coming off a loss. Again, I agree. It’s not that I think Rockhold and Weidman are bad fighters, but it’s hard to make a case as for why they should get the title shot.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is the proper pick going by strictly sporting standards. He’s won several fights in a row, with his only loss coming to a guy who tested positive for PED use. He’s the guy who is the most deserving of the title shot. However, if the UFC decided to go more with the entertainment aspect of things, there are a couple of good matchups waiting there.
The first would be Anderson Silva, who lost a hotly contested fight to Bisping back in February. You could argue that the fight should have been stopped after Silva connected with a knee that dropped Bisping, but the fight wasn’t stopped and Bisping went on to win the decision and then beat Rockhold for the title. A rematch would certainly be very interesting. You could build it as Silva trying to reclaim his former glory, Bisping defending his belt for the first time, etc. Silva, of course, isn’t deserving of the title shot, but it would draw plenty of eyeballs.
The second choice for opponent going strictly by entertainment would be Dan Henderson. Hendo is a shell of his former self, but he has won two of his last three fights. Granted, they weren’t against high level competition, but still. Anyway, booking this fight would be purely for the entertainment value. The UFC could give Hendo this title shot if he says he’s retiring immediately afterwards. You then build the fight around a legend like Henderson fighting one more time, and fighting for something he’s never won before, a UFC title. Then you add in Bisping making his first title defense and wanting to prove that his win over Rockhold wasn’t a fluke, and you really got something. And as if you needed anymore hype to be added to the mix, this would be a rematch of their fight at UFC 100, with a brutal and memorable explosive knockout of Bisping at the hands of Henderson. You also have the wholly unnecessary punch that Hendo threw down on an unconscious Bisping at the end of that fight, and you’ve got the revenge factor coming out in spades.
Bisping would want to ruin Hendo’s retirement fight by kicking his ass, as well as avenge that loss, and perhaps even retaliating for the cheap and dirty shot Hendo put on him in their last fight. Henderson would want to end Bisping’s title reign before it even starts to prove that it was a fluke. Plus, going out on top and retiring as champion is a rare thing in sports.
I think what I would be as armchair booker is make Hendo-Bisping 2 for the title and book Weidman-Rockhold 2 for the same card or sooner. If Bisping wins, he fights Jacare and the Weidman-Rockhold 2 winner gets the next title shot after that. If Hendo wins and retires, Jacare fights the Weidman-Rockhold 2 winner to crown the new UFC Middleweight Champion. This would be a bit unconventional, but I do think it would be quite exciting.
Comments and suggestions can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow me on Twitter at @hydenfrank
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