Kimbo Slice, born Kevin Ferguson, passed away on Monday in Florida, according to American Top Team, who tweeted that the 42-year-old fighter had died after an earlier report from TMZ that he had been admitted to a hospital in "dire condition." TMZ has since confirmed with Scott Coker, the CEO of Bellator, the mixed martial arts company to whom Slice was under contract, that he has died.
"We are all shocked and saddened by the devastating untimely loss of Kimbo Slice, a beloved member of the Bellator family. One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport. Outside of the cage he was a friendly, gentle giant and a devoted family man. HIs loss leaves us all with extremely heavy hearts, and our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ferguson family and all of Kimbo's friends, fans and teammates."
Slice became a YouTube sensation with a series of streetfight videos, which generally featured him knocking out fellow local brawlers, sometimes two or three in succession. In 2005, he began training in mixed martial arts at age 31, and in June 2007 had his first sanctioned fight, facing former boxing champion Ray Mercer, and submitting Mercer in just over a minute at a Cage Fury Fighting Championships event in New Jersey.
That fight was technically an exhibition, however, and he wouldn't make his actual pro MMA debut until November 2007, when he beat Bo Cantrell in 19 seconds in an EliteXC fight, which was televised. Because of his notoriety and charisma, Kimbo became a legitimate star, if not a technically great pro fighter. He was featured in four main event fights for EliteXC events on Showtime and CBS. Over 4.5 million tuned in to see his fight with Seth Petruzelli, a late replacement for Ken Shamrock, which resulted in Kimbo's first professional loss in October 2008.
Kimbo was then a participant on UFC's reality competition series The Ultimate Fighter, where he lost his first fight to Roy Nelson, the eventual winner. He would go on to fight in UFC, anyway, going 1-1 with a win over Houston Alexander and a loss to Matt Mitrione.
In 2011, Kimbo gave pro boxing a try, fighting three times that year and three times in 2012, plus one more bout in 2013. He went 7-0 (6 KO) against very low level opposition, and despite the hopes of his promoters, he never really kicked up much dust in boxing circles. Promoter Gary Shaw echoed some of Coker's sentiments about the man:
We lost a great dear friend.As mean as he was inside the ropes and inside the cage, that is how nice and great he was, as a friend. Miss you— gary shaw (@boxing1111) June 7, 2016
He then was out of sanctioned action for over two years before returning to MMA with Bellator to face Ken Shamrock last June, winning in two minutes and 22 seconds, and then facing fellow streetfighter Dhafir "Dada 5000" Harris in February of this year. He failed a drug test after winning that fight, changing it to a no-contest.
Kimbo was set to rematch James Thompson, a fighter he had somewhat controversially beaten in EliteXC in 2008, in London on July 16.
He was often described as a gentle giant sort, a man who fought to escape poverty, to support his family. By all accounts, Kevin Ferguson wasn't much like the character of "Kimbo Slice," the menacing streetfighter with the brick fists.
He leaves behind six children as well as his longtime girlfriend, Antoinette Ray.