UFC 113: Kimbo Slice, Street Fighter Turned Mixed Martial Artist

Todd JacksonSenior Analyst IMay 8, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  MMA Heavyweight Sensation Kimbo Slice is seen during the Workout/Media Day with Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano at the Legends Mixed Martial Arts Training Center on September 17, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Long before his MMA debut against Ray Mercer, it is no mystery that Kimbo Slice was a well-known Internet phenomenon.  He had always been a talented athlete but found his calling as a dangerous and uber popular street fighter.  As a street fighter this man was not of this world. 
The viral spread of his devastating beat downs was nothing short of astonishing.  His imposing physique, devastating hands, and rough and tumble style, mixed with a classic one of a kind bob and weave, pulled in net surfers like a black hole. 
Kimbo seemed like more of an imaginary comic book bad guy than an actual human being.  Built like a brick out house, with his thick bushy beard, shiny bald head, and thick gold chain flashing a giant fist medallion, Kimbo reminded us of a real life B.A. Baracus.  That's Mr. T to the lay-person.
The thing is, he was a real life menacing bad man who people enjoyed watching being bad ass.  His knockouts were astonishing, his willingness to bang intriguing, his ability to intimidate legendary.  His legend in that forum would come to an end as he began his transformation from a top of the food chain accomplished street fighter to a bottom of the barrel up and coming mixed martial artist.
When Kimbo crossed over he got no respect what so ever.  Which in hind sight seems quite strange.  Brock Lesnar crossed over from a sport that had no practical value in MMA but his previous wrestling credentials were enough to earn him a degree of credibility.  Slice on the other hand, even with his proven success, practical experience, and first hand knowledge of fighting, was discredited from the start.
Perhaps that had more to do with their initial career paths and the way their transformations were handled by promoters, perhaps it was based more on fact due to their level of potential, or maybe it was as it usually is, a media driven band wagon for sheep to latch on to and have their minds made up for them. 
Either way, Slice had an uphill battle in front of him in the form of earning respect and credibility in the sport of MMA.  For the record, three years later, he is still deep in that struggle.
Kimbo, even though not given any credit as a mixed martial artist, was held to a higher standard throughout his transformation as a fighter.  His MMA career was examined under the scrutinizing microscope of not only main stream media, but the vicious and highly judgemental Internet community that once loved him for what they came to discredit him for as a mixed martial artist, his street fights.
As a journalist who regularly covers regional MMA events that always showcase up and coming fighters, it was hard to sit back and watch the double edged sword that was Kimbo's first steps as a mixed martial artist.  While no one expected much from him, every move he made, even in victory, was judged with a common negative tone.
The position of the experts were many: he will never amount to anything, he's just a street fighter, what will he do when it goes to the ground, he was fighting no-ones on the street, the list goes on and on. 
Even going 3-0, with less than two minutes total spent in the cage in his first three fights, was not enough to win over the MMA community.  Yours truly will be the first to admit I contributed to that negativity as much as anyone covering this sport but looking back it seems unfair and biased the way we all treated this man. 
We as a community put our own self righteous opinions and judgements higher than this man's potential and bravery for trying to make more of himself than just the raw street fighter we had all come to enjoy so much.  And to be quite honest, his MMA career thus far has been quite impressive if you remove his star power and the expectations that came along with it from the equation.
As stated before, I am a regular at regional MMA events, I've met, spoken with, and watched countless fighters try and make their mark on this sport.  Many try it, some like it, few are actually mixed martial artists.  Sometimes it is ugly, sometimes it is gruesome, rarely is it as pretty as it is at the highest levels of the sport.  The game is fluid for all who embark on this journey.
With that in mind, and considering Kimbo Slice as he actually is, a baby in this game, his record thus far of 4-1 is actually a strong point.  Even if we can dissect and take away from how he won those fights or who they were against, the man has still gone 4-1 in this sport as a pro.  That's nothing to sneeze at.  Many up and coming fighters would die for that record to start their careers at a regional level.
Kimbo did it on the big stage, at a much more elite level than most mixed martial artists are given a chance to perform at right out of the gates.  That has to count for something.  In going 4-1 Slice has two T/KO victories, one submission win, and one decision win.  Before his flash knockout loss to Seth Petruzelli, Slice had finished all his opponents. 
What is remembered though, is that 14 seconds he spent in the cage with Seth, a last-minute replacement opponent for Slice after his original opponent Ken Shamrock pulled out of their match.  All fighters not named Lyoto Machida struggle in this game.  All fighters will lose, many will lose frequently.  It is part of the package of being a fighter, or just an athlete in general. 
It is how they fight and how they turn those losses into experience that really makes a fighter.  Kimbo has done nothing but improve and that is what is most impressive about him.  Not unlike the before mentioned Brock Lesnar, Slice has evolved on the fly before our very eyes and turned that once negative perception around to an extent.  The doubts are still strong, but the counter points to those doubts are starting to mount.
Slice rebounded from his loss to Petruzelli by becoming a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter last year.  While his performance against the imposing Roy "Big Country" Nelson wasn't anything to write home about, Kimbo showed the ability to learn from and absorb the experience.  He lost his only fight on the TUF show but it was his opportunity, as it is for many fighters, to share his style with the fans.
The Ultimate Fighter was an open door for fans to learn about Kimbo as a man, not just as a fighter.  What the people learned was this was not the terrifying monster that mowed men down with ease, Slice was a soft spoken, well spoken, highly intelligent individual.  To be honest, Slice as it turns out, is quite a likable guy and a family man.  Personality will only get a fighter so far with the fans though.
So even in defeat the TUF show was the catalyst for the Slice's next steps to becoming not only a mixed martial artist, but an accepted member of that community he fought so hard to earn the respect of.
It was what happened next that took everyone by surprise.  Slice left the scope of vision on the big stage after the TUF show and disappeared into a holding pattern awaiting his official UFC debut.  During that time a metamorphosis was taking place. 
If one had to guess, the best guess would be to say it began down in Coconut Creek Florida with the world renowned American Top Team.  This team harbors some of the most talented MMA vessels the sport knows today.  The level of talent Slice had surrounded himself with in that capacity obviously brought with it an elite level of leadership and guidance to mold this man into what he has become today. 
What he has become is a mixed martial artist.
Look no further than his UFC debut against the vicious striker Houston Alexander.  Of course the Alexander fight was catered to the fan and the fighter's strengths.  This was no contention fight, nor did it have any more implications other than expected war.  Well Slice had some very surprising tricks up his sleeve for both Alexander and the people who had been mis-judging him for so long.
Enter the new version of Kimbo Slice.  What he did in that decision win over a devastating striker like Alexander was show the world that the days of bobbing and weaving and laying men to waste through bombing runs of weapons of mass destruction were over.  Slice picked Alexander apart on the feet, out grappled him, and repeatedly slammed him to the ground with powerful throws.
The flash knockout that everyone on this planet knew was coming never happened.  What did happen was the world saw Kimbo Slice go deep into the waters with a man who had made a reputation for win, lose, or draw putting up devastating finishes.  Slice avoided all that Alexander had to offer and brought more than the UFC veteran could handle.  Slice officially sent Houston packing from the UFC by beating him.
So the detractors will still tell you Houston was never a force in the UFC, he was a gatekeeper at best, and that he was no true test for Slice.  Sure people, tell that to Kieth Jardine.  The points are noted though and of course beating Alexander doesn't prove anything more than any other up and comer might have in that fight.
What it does tell us though is this man is changed.  As the sport demands of any fighter, he is evolving with every fight.  If Kimbo Slice were named John Smith and we had never heard of him, he would still be competing at a regional level somewhere down in Florida, maybe Shine Fights or something similar.  He would probably be 8-0 by now and eventually might get a shot at a bigger promotion.
But this is a famous fighter, with a huge following.  He is cutting his teeth as a mixed martial artist on THE biggest stage in the game.  And for the record, the man is finding success.
So the time has come for him to make his second appearance for fight fans around the globe at UFC 113 against "Meathead" Matt Mitrione.  The time has come to see how far he has evolved since his win over Alexander.  This fight against an inexperienced fighter such as Mitrione might not tell us much, but regardless his next steps in this game will be taken.
With all that said, the time has also come for us to give this man the due he has earned.  Let's dispense with the preconceived notions that he doesn't have what it takes, or isn't worthy of our attention or our respect.  He has earned it and proven his willingness to learn and change for the better through MMA.  Isn't it about time we pay this man some credit?