Kimbo Slice, who brought his popularity from street fighting videos on YouTube to mixed martial arts, died Monday night in south Florida. Slice was 42.
“We are all shocked and saddened by the devastating and untimely loss of Kimbo Slice, a beloved member of the Bellator family,” Bellator president Scott Coker said in a statement released just after 11:30 p.m. Monday. “One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport.”
American Top Team tweeted this message a few minutes before 11 p.m.: “The ATT Family and South Florida community lost a legend today. RIP Kimbo.”
ESPN and MMAFighting.com and other outlets had reported earlier in the night that Slice had been taken to a hospital.
Slice, who had six children, was scheduled to fight at Bellator 158 next month in London.
Slice, who’s real name was Kevin Ferguson, became an Internet sensation when videos of him in bare-knuckle street fights regularly appeared and gained popularity in the early 2000s.
He later would parlay that fame into an MMA and boxing career, with stints in EliteXC, the UFC and Bellator.
In 2009, Slice was on “The Ultimate Fighter” and lost in the first round to Roy Nelson. The debut episode that season drew more than four million viewers, the show’s best ratings to that point.
That was the thing about Slice. He brought ratings. His presence on an EliteXC card helped get it on CBS. He was supposed to fight Ken Shamrock that night in 2008, but a last-minute cut caused Shamrock to withdraw. Seth Petruzelli stepped in and knocked out Slice in 14 seconds.
After being on “TUF,” Slice later competed on the Ultimate Finale and beat Houston Alexander by unanimous decision.
Slice was 5-2 with one no contest in his MMA career. He left MMA in 2011 for professional boxing where he posted a 7-0 record with six knockouts.
Slice and Shamrock finally fought in the summer of 2015 at a Bellator event. Shamrock won in the first round.
Slice last fought in February 2016 against Dada 5000 in Bellator. Slice won the fight by decision, which later was overturned after Slice tested positive for a banned substance.