The highly anticipated bout between Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson and Houston “The Assassin” Alexander underwhelmed. What was thought to be a short, fireworks filled slugfest turned out to be a 15-minute bout with a couple of sparks. After the final bell sounded, Slice, 35, and Alexander, 37 were exhausted.
While the bout was a disappointment by the standards set in the run up, the victory for Slice shows his progression as a fighter—and more importantly, a mixed martial artist.
Slice burst onto the national scene during a series of back yard fight videos that made their way to the Internet. To put it simply, he was a marketers dream: a fully bearded big guy who could knock people out.
With the popularity of MMA rising right along with Slice’s notoriety, it seemed only a matter of time before brawls in the backyard turned into bouts in the cage. In 2007, Slice made his professional debut, beating former boxer Ray Mercer just 19 seconds into their three round fight. Those who followed Slice on the Internet were ecstatic. MMA purists were livid.
Victories over former UFC fighter Tank Abbott and James Thompson followed; Slice’s stock once again rose to casual and new fans of the sport. Diehard fans remained unconvinced—citing Slice’s lack of competition.
UFC President Dana White was one of those skeptics.
“They’re feeding him fucking bums,” White told Fight News back in 2008.
“The guy wouldn’t win the fucking Ultimate Fighter.”
And just like that, the proverbial gauntlet was thrown down. Slice saw his stock plummet after a 14-second TKO loss to Seth Petruzelli. After some time away from the spotlight, Slice reemerged on the UFC’s hit reality TV show.
Though season winner Roy Nelson booted Slice out of contention with a second round TKO, only a fool would believe that Slice would be watching the finale from the stands instead of mixing it up in the ring.
When the bout with Houston Alexander was confirmed, fans and commentators alike expected Slice to revert to his old ways. The truth of the matter is that Alexander—who gained notoriety in the UFC by knocking out Keith Jardine and Alessio Sakara—looked like a man who had never been in a professional fight in his life. The Nebraskan’s attempts to get Slice to engage failed, allowing Slice to get the better of the few exchanges taking place in that 15 minute time span. The victory says less about Alexander—who, more than likely has seen his last bout in the Octagon—and more about Slice’s evolution as a fighter.
“The goal was to come in and fight,” Slice said before adding, “but you’ve gotta be smart about it.
Slice then went on to break down his strategy, his opponent’s strategy, and his reactions to that strategy as though he’s been training and fighting MMA all his life.
“We trained and prepared for his attacks. I wasn’t prepared for the ring riding he did,” Slice said of Alexander’s unwillingness to engage.
Give Slice all the credit in the world for realizing that patience made the difference between having his hand raised and going down in bitter defeat. “If I would’ve run in there foolishly I would’ve gotten knocked out. A few times, I called him out; I had to call him out of his name, like ‘Let’s do this.’ He stuck to his plan so I wasn’t going to be foolish and run up on him.”
What did happen in the fight turned out to be just as much of a sight as the action that didn’t take place. Slice wowed the crowd, by taking down Alexander in the opening round. Two suplexes and a submission attempt later revealed a markedly different Kimbo Slice than the world had previously known—courtesy of training at American Top Team.
“When I took his back, I was going for the choke hold,” Slice revealed. “When I realized I didn’t have it and he turned into me, I went for something else.”
At this point, Kimbo is a hard man not to root for. Though he was arguably given too much, too fast, he fully understands that MMA is a serious sport. As a result, he’s gotten serious about training.
“I was really thinking street for a minute, but I had to bite down hard and fight smart,” Slice said about his thought process during the bout.
In a moment of candor similar to the many fans were treated to during this season of The Ultimate Fighter, Slice went a little deeper. “It’s hard, it’s not an easy thing,” he continued, discussing the transition from the streets to the pros. “I first was a street fighter. There was no training, I just went in there with my instincts, watched the guy’s movements and countered him. At this level, you have to be almost genius type smart because you have to bottle a lot of things all in one.”
One thing Kimbo hasn’t bottled up is his sense of humor. After openly discussing the difficulty in trimming some 20-pounds from his muscular frame, Slice says he was able to put a few pounds back on in a nontraditional way.
“I put some weight on last night. I ordered up room service—twice.”
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to “The Kimbo Slice Show” courtesy of the UFC.