In the fight game, image is important.
Nothing illustrates this more than Kimbo Slice. However, is there more to him than just an image? That remains to be seen.
Kimbo Slice has been the product of incredible media hype and intrigue as of late—being the "baddest man on the block" by youtube fanatics to "just another thug" from die hard MMA fans.
The allure of Kimbo cannot be denied. Having taught in an inner-city school I've talked at great length with my students who identify with Kimbo's image. He personifies toughness forged in the dangerous underbelly of street life and urban culture.
To my students he was a hero—to others he was exact image people feared in black culture.
All the hype aside, I have no doubts that Kimbo has good intentions. Do I think he is a true "thug?" No.
He is just a guy who is one scary looking dude and is now using that to his economic advantage.
He is also working earnestly to improve his schools, acknowledging that the king of the streets is not necessarily the king of the cage.
Bas Rutten has heavily defended Kimbo as a hard worker and family man.
But what does this image mean once Kimbo enters the cage?
James Thompson, a journeyman known more for his own image than substance, showed Kimbo's meteoric rise will soon have to get around defeat.
Now while Thompson did lose in the third round, he showed us something very important—Kimbo's ground-game is terribly lacking.
For all the new MMA fans who tuned in just to see Kimbo, they probably didn't notice; but for fans versed in the ground-game, we saw a man who didn't know what he was doing once it hit the mat.
With Kimbo's rise being so great and so fast there will be added pressure to put him against legitimate opponents. Gary Shaw cannot afford to non-headline cards without Kimbo, and yet this allows little time for Kimbo to improve on his vast deficiencies.
Kimbo will have to face a legitimate opponent before the year is up and, mark my words, he will lose.
But does this have to be a bad thing? I believe Shaw can use this to his advantage by using Kimbo to prop up legitimate heavyweight talent in the eyes of those who only tuned in to see Kimbo.
There are thousands of these fans who think Kimbo is the baddest man on the block. Will they tune off when he loses? Not as long as he loses to someone somewhat exciting.
This offers Shaw the opportunity to groom a new generation of fights fans who will tune in for the spectacle but come out more knowledgeable about the fight game.