I don’t think we’ll have any idea how to properly mourn him.
When the news of Kimbo Slice’s death spread the way these things do now – speculated on social media for an hour before actual confirmation – the 10YS team followed it on Twitter for hours hoping it was a hoax, hoping the language used was a bit premature.
Then TMZ confirmed, and it was real.
For the Bahamas, a country full of xenophobes that love to claim family and people that may or may not be “ours” (as an old world print media member I’m a major cause of this. I once wrote a “Geno Smith has Bahamian roots” story because I needed to fill space), I never thought we as a people fully capitalized on the Kimbo Slice phenomenon the way we should have.
We had a legit marquee name in his sport that was proud of his Bahamian heritage, so much so that put the flag on full display anytime he entered an octagon, cage or ring. Have we ever seen another Bahamian athlete in an individual sport do that at this level? Unless you’re a member of a national team, it wasn’t something we were accustomed to seeing.
For the most part people were still pretty indifferent about it.
Kimbo Slice is never mentioned when our gasbag politicians stand atop their soapbox to pontificate about the greatness of Bahamian sport. There has never been a gym, building, road or even an single event named in his honor. There’s never been the standard House of Assembly recognition, not even the time honored Bahamian tradition – use his popularity and international recognition as a springboard to gain traction with voters through lies of building a gym or developing a programme to show their commitment to the sport.
Maybe its because its MMA.
MMA is about 25-years-old as a major sport. It rose out of the gutter and offered a product so unique, so groundbreaking (and bonebreaking for that matter) that it could not be ignored.
For the massive following its garnered over those few years, MMA is still considered a barbaric contest of modern day gladiators in some circles.
Even within that realm, Kimbo was seen as an outsider. In a fringe sport, where literally beating up another human is the ultimate goal placed against the backdrop of skill and mega- sized personalities, Kimbo still struggled for acceptance.
I’d even venture to say that the majority of the MMA community was void of this sudden love and admiration for Kimbo up until the point when they heard of his sudden hospitalization.
Purists hated Kimbo because of his meteoric rise in this microwaved age of instant gratification.
A crude brawler with a very limited skillset was given opportunities ahead of other fighters who had “paid their dues.”
Could be that…then again, maybe we just didn’t pay enough attention because its MMA.
Yves Edwards had a distinguished career in the sport which spanned over two decades. The average Bahamian still has virtually no clue who he is either.
We tend to sterilize a person’s character once they’ve passed away. It’s one of the natural progressions in the process of being a public figure. I’m not going to do that in this column because I recognize that Kimbo Slice was a flawed individual for several reasons. None of it underscores his impact.
He took a controversial hardline stance in favor of PEDs, admitted to being a great puncher and not a great fighter on the level of many of his compatriots and he was always vocal about any of his ventures being aimed at a single goal – providing a future for his family.
Slice is survived by six children, and he credited his MMA career for allowing him to send them to college. One of his three sons, Kevin Ferguson Jr, made his MMA debut in March.
To say his death was untimely would be an understatement. Slice had arrived at the third act in his career. His last two fights brought an unprecedented level of success to the Bellator MMA promotion
Until his death, he continued to be the top draw for Bellator and despite testing positive for PEDs recently, he was scheduled to headline another major event this summer.
Slice was scheduled to take on James Thompson at Bellator 150 at the 02 Arena in London, England, next month in a fight televised live on Spike TV.
Because of him, Bellator 149 set new records. The card averaged 1,964,000 viewers over the three hours to beat the company’s all-time record by 24 per cent.
His final match, a win against Dada 5000, drew 2.5 million viewers for its 14-minute duration. The prior record was set on June 19 when Slice defeated Shammrock in his Bellator debut. That card averaged 1,580,000 viewers, and peaked with 2.3 million viewers live for the main event.
Bellator 149 was also the third-most watched MMA programme on cable television in nearly five years.
Even at what some perceived to be his professional worst, he still had the ability to captivate the MMA world like few athletes in the sport could.
In 2009 he rolled into the offices of the Tribune nonchalantly, with no fanfare, not to promote anything, not looking for a story, simply to let people know he was Bahamian and proud and he thought it was a good opportunity to let as many people know that while he had this platform.
Slice became an Internet sensation in the early 2000s when his series of street fights became popular on Youtube. He converted a career as a backyard street fighter into becoming one of the most sought after fighters in mixed martial arts history.
His career as an MMA fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship was short lived however, limited to just two fights. After the brief but much-hyped stint in the world of MMA, Slice looked to capitalize again on his notoriety, with an attempt at professional wrestling. He then ventured in professional boxing in 2010 and he posted a 7-0 win-loss record up to 2013 before it was
announced that he had returned to MMA and signed to Bellator.
Kimbo Slice’s appeal will always be the nature of his rise to stardom. He could have been any one of us. He was one of us. He was born here in Nassau and much of his family is still here. We all have that segment of the family that had the ability to move to America for better opportunities at whatever they wanted to pursue. Well, Kimbo made the most of that opportunity at every turn.
He’s no different than Sidney Poitier, Bert Williams or Mychal Thompson moving to America to to pursue acting or pro basketball.
Kimbo’s football prowess led him to athletic scholarships to Bethune Cookman and the University of Miami and even earned him a spot on the practice squad for the Miami Dolphins in 1997.
He’s been everything from an aspiring football player, to homeless guy, to bouncer, to bodyguard, to MMA fighter, to boxer, to pro wrestler back to an MMA fighter. His name, his image, his persona outgrew all of these professions.
He’ll be remembered as one of the icons of the digital age. Prior to his rise, it was unprecedented that a sports superstar was completely created through social media and used that to build a career. Kimbo introduced millions to YouTube and even more to MMA. He’s not just “our guy” as a Bahamian, he’s “our guy” to this generation of sports fans – the very same microwaved age of instant gratification. His path resonated with us the way the path of Muhammad Ali resonated with generations before us.
His story would forever change the way sports and social media intersect – all the while looking menacing, being authentic and being Bahamian.
If we don’t know how to mourn properly, it’s because it feels as if we never truly grasped what he was.