The Great Kimbo Debate
Quickly becoming one of the most recognizable names in mixed martial arts today, EliteXC’s Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson rose to fame as a tough-as-nails underground street fi ghter based primarily on Internet-based video exposure.
Even with nearly four years of MMA training and two wins under his belt, the notoriety surrounding Kimbo Slice has some in the MMA community shaking their heads, while others are toting him as the next big thing.
Does Kimbo’s past as a streetfi ghter reinforce people’s beliefs that mixed martial artists are thugs and barbarians – a belief that has taken years to change – or does he represent the true spirit of the mixed martial artist, that anyone with a past can overcome obstacles and rise to the top of his chosen profession?
We talked to fi ghters, fans, trainers, and promoters, and asked the question, “Is Kimbo Slice good or bad for the sport?” You might be surprised at what some had to say.
“Kimbo Slice is bad for the sport because of the streetfighter image he portrays. It’s something MMA has worked hard to get past – the image in the early 90s that we were thugs and that there was no sportsmanship in our craft – and I think it sets the sport back. I think Showtime is hurting the sport to make a quick dollar. -Frank Mir, Former UFC Heavyweight Champion and WEC commentator
“I am proud of his motivation and progress, and am proud of the way he handles himself with the fans. He deserves it all because he works hard for it. He trains just as hard, if not harder than many other fi ghters that I know and have trained, and I trained a lot of guys. Be happy that he’s so big right now, because it gives attention to the sport that we all love so much. –Bas Rutten, former UFC Champion, three-time King of Pancrase Champion, MMA trainer and color commentator
“I think he’s good for the sport…he’s got a lot of potential. He’s drawing people’s attention and at this point, that’s a real good thing. His coaches say he’s working hard and he sounds dedicated to becoming a great mixed martial arts fi ghter, so we’ll see what the future holds for him, but I think he’s in there in the mix like everybody else and I think that’s a good thing for the sport.” -Greg Jackson, trainer and owner of Jackson’s Submission Fighting
“I think that while the image of a streetfi ghter stepping onto the main stage can be a negative image on the surface, Kimbo is doing what it takes to become a true top-level fi ghter. He has the draw with his persona, and promoters are going to have him high on cards because of this. But, while not a top fi ghter yet, Kimbo does teach an important lesson: be larger than life and give something no one else can.” -Josh Barnett, former UFC and King of Pancrase Champion
“My opinion is that he’s bad for the sport – absolutely. He was a streetfi ghter and his friends made all these videos of him beating people up on the street, and that’s just not cool. All of a sudden, an organization wants to give him money to do it…I mean he’s not even a professional fi ghter. Maybe a couple of years down the road…he seems to be taking training seriously from what we see from the videos, but he hasn’t even fought anybody yet – they’re kind of protecting him still. He’s a good athlete – I can see that – he’s a big strong guy, but I just don’t agree with what he did to get to where he is. They’re all saying he’s an Internet legend and now you’re going to have kids fi lming each other and getting in street fi ghts, causing street fi ghts and putting them on YouTube and trying get themselves into an organization the easy way, instead of the old fashioned way by training your ass off, taking small fi ghts, doing a bunch of amateur stuff and then being recognized. I think it makes us look like thugs and barbarians.” -Tim Sylvia, former UFC Heavyweight Champion
“Everybody out there who thinks Kimbo Slice is not good for the sport can kiss my ass, because Kimbo Slice is a man who’s fi ghting for his family just like every body else who’s fi ghting in this sport…he’s great for the sport. He is a streetfi ghter right now, but I’ve trained with Kimbo Slice and I know that he’s very intelligent and he wants to learn. It might be a different way that he got here…but let’s make him part of the family and let’s not judge him.” -Kevin Randleman, former UFC Heavyweight Champion
“I think Kimbo is great for the sport…he’s gone from being a thug to a professional athlete. It really illustrates the ability of mixed martial arts as a sport to transform angry kids (or adults) into disciplined individuals with a legitimate entertainment career and outlet for their aggression.” -Cole Ferrell, Owner of www.MaverickMMA.biz
“We believe that training seriously and turning your life around because of the sport is a positive thing…what’s bad about that? Whether he is the next great thing is a whole other topic.” -Critical Fight Team, Richmond VA (www. CriticalFightGear.com)
“Any press is good press, as they say. Overall, I think MMA should try to steer clear from associating with the streetfi ghting scene. You’re going to get people from all walks of life enjoying the fi ghts within MMA, but in the end, that is not the type of image the sport needs in order to keep gaining legitimacy. But new fans bring new money, so legitimacy may end up taking a back seat for a while.” – Matt Burosh, BJJ practitioner/MMA fan