MARGATE, Fla. — Kimbo Slice, the internet street fighting sensation who used his pugilism expertise to become a mixed martial arts pioneer and legend, has died in South Florida. He was just 42 years old.
Born Kevin Ferguson, Slice was rushed to a hospital near his home Monday for an unspecified reason where he passed away, his longtime manager, Mike Imber, confirmed to the media.
“We lost our brother today,” Imber said in a text message to the Associated Press.
The cause of death has yet to be revealed, but the Coral Springs police says there is no active police investigation, and foul play is not suspected.
Born in the Bahamas, the ex-football player was the personification of rapper Drake’s phrase “from the bottom to the top.” After a hurricane destroyed his house he was temporarily homeless near Miami, sleeping in his car, and he literally and figuratively fought his way out of the streets and out of obscurity and into worldwide fame. He started off as a strip club bouncer and moved on to become a bodyguard for the Miami-area porn industry before beginning his life-changing competition in unsanctioned street fights in 2003. Uploaded videos of his violent knockout victories in those fights went viral and made him a national star before he even began competing in UFC.
He was the perfect composite of different stars that made him one of the sports most identifiable personalities: he had the distinctive beard of a the NBA’s James Harden, the intimidating presence of a Suge Knight and the devastating punching power of a younger Manny Pacquiao.
Slice soon graduated from street fights into organized pugilism. He studied MMA and eventually competed in several promoted fights, including the UFC and Bellator.
“We are all shocked and saddened by the devastating and untimely loss of Kimbo Slice,” Scott Coker, the CEO of Bellator said. “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.”
Slice was actually going to be featured in the Bellator 158 show in London next month in a bout against James Thompson.
American Top Team, the gym where Slice trained for many years, paid homage to the fallen star.
“The ATT Family and South Florida community lost a legend today,” the team said in a post on its Twitter account.
Slice was the star of the first MMA show broadcast on network television when he destroyed Thompson with a third-round knockout in May 2008 on CBS. He helped to draw huge television ratings and introduced millions of viewers to burgeoning MMA.
The only snag on Slice’s pro career is that he never won a title and was 5-2. Nevertheless, Slice became one of MMA’s flagship personalities. Slice also had a promising pro boxing career, going 7-0 with six knockouts from 2011-13.
But it is with the street fights and the MMA where his light shined brightest and his humble nature was on display to the nation.
“The guys who are holding the titles, heavyweight and light heavyweight, these guys are awesome,” Slice told the AP six years ago. “I’m really just having happy days in the midst — being among them, fighting on the undercards, just contributing to the UFC and the sport. That’s really what I want to do. I’m not looking ahead to winning a title or anything like that. I’m just enjoying each fight as it comes.”