Kimbo Slice: Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Jordan KatzCorrespondent IJune 3, 2009

STUDIO CITY, CA - MAY 19:  MMA fighter Kimbo Slice attends CBS's 'Elite XC Saturday Night Fights' Press Conference at CBS Radford Studios on May 19, 2008 in Studio City, California.  (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)

Not all of Miami consists of sunny beaches, fast cars, hot women and long island iced teas. There is a dark side to the city where drugs, violence and degradation are common place.

Growing up in an area like that, one learns fast what type of person they are at their core. For Internet sensation turned mixed martial arts fighter Kimbo Slice, he is and always has been, a fighter.

No stranger to danger, Kimbo was immersed in violence at an early age, finding himself forced to defend his childhood friend at only 13. For better or for worse, Kimbo has not stopped fighting since. And it was his ability to win fights that propelled the street fighter to national recognition.

After his taped street fights earned him an overnight like celebrity status, fledgling promotional company Elite XC packaged Kimbo as their biggest star. Hoping to cash in on his popularity, the organization gave him their headlining positions and marketed him as an elite fighter.

In spite of Elite XC’s attempts to legitimize Kimbo as an MMA phenom, the truth was, he was incredibly new to the sport and a very raw prospect. Kimbo himself never claimed to the best, he conceded his lack of experience and the need to get acclimated.

But the hype machine was in full throttle and due to his notoriety he was becoming the face of MMA and one of the biggest stars in the industry.

Yet his fall from grace was just as swift as his rise to the top. After facing poor opposition, winning by controversial stoppage and finally losing to an opponent in a lower weight class, the Kimbo hype had been dramatically altered.

Although his credibility as a fighter was destroyed, there was still interest in this bizarre, gangster talking, bling wearing, giant, beard rocking hard ass who also had an endearing and intriguing appeal. He is humble yet ferocious, gangster however still eloquent and mean but funny. And love him or hate him, people were still talking about him—wanting more.

After months of speculation, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, broke the news that Kimbo would be appearing on the next season of UFC’s reality television show, The Ultimate Fighter.  Immediately the news drew massive media attention and the message boards were buzzing. The intrigue was back, but this time, without the hype.

Kimbo Slice never said he was the best; he was just promoted and marketed that way. But, regardless of the perceptions we were asked to believe, what we are going to get is a healthy dose of reality.

This situation is far different than Kimbo’s previous one. He understands his inexperience in the sport and the novice level that he is currently at. Kimbo is accepting that by entering the UFC’s equivalent to an MLB farm system, The Ultimate Fighter.

There will be no star treatment for Kimbo, who will be dealt with as just another cast member and expected to earn his keep. That takes strength for an individual to acknowledge his weakness and take action to improve it.

Even at the peak of Kimbo’s popularity there were always haters. A lot of haters. Certain people didn’t buy into the marketing ploy and felt it cheapened the sport. Now Kimbo will have the opportunity to gain the respect of some of those haters. Kimbo is on a level playing field and will be forced to endure the hardships of obtaining success just like his peers.

If he is able to find that success on the show, it will be because of his own due diligence and hard work.

Like he has done his entire life, Kimbo is relying on his skills as a fighter to help him prosper. The difference is, not only will he be fighting actual opponents, but he is fighting to remain relevant in the sport itself.

Whether you are ready for him or not, Kimbo Slice is coming to the UFC and this time, the hype is his to make or break.