MMA star Kevin Ferguson, aka ‘Kimbo Slice’ has died at 42 years of age, with multiple reports suggest that he had suffered heart failure.
The Bellator fighter was rushed to hospital in Coral Spring, Florida on Monday evening in critical condition and passed away later in the night.
Kimbo had been set to rematch James Thompson in the main event of Bellator 158 in London on July 16th, and the promotion issued a statement expressing their grief at the news of his death.
“We are all shocked and saddened by the devastating untimely loss of Kimbo Slice, a beloved member of the Bellator family,” Bellator’s statement 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, and our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ferguson family and all of Kimbo’s friends, fans and teammates.”
Kimbo had also fought for the UFC in the past, and they too issued a statement paying tribute to him.
“UFC is saddened to learn of the passing of Kevin Ferguson, known to fans around the world as Kimbo Slice,” the UFC wrote on their official website.
“Slice will forever be a part of UFC history as a contestant on season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter in 2009, and for having fought twice inside the Octagon at The Ultimate Fighter Finale and UFC 113. He carried himself as a true professional during his time in our organization.
While he will never be forgotten for his fighting style and transcendent image, Slice will also be remembered for his warm personality and commitment to his family and friends.
UFC offers its sincere condolences to Slice’s family, friends and teammates at American Top Team.”
Kimbo originally became a star when videos of him winning backyard, bareknuckle fights went viral on YouTube in the early 2000’s.
His popularity and notoriety eventually led to him transitioning to MMA, initially signing for Elite XC in 2007, where he proved to be a ratings hit and produced a three fight winning streak fighting at heavyweight. However, The Elite XC organization folded after Kimbo’s first loss in the cage in just 14 seconds against last minute replacement Seth Petruzzeli in 2008.
People were still drawn to the brawler though, and that led to the UFC bringing him on-board for the 10th season of their ‘Ultimate Fighter’ reality show, and while he lost to the eventual winner, Roy Nelson, the fact that his presence had helped them draw record TV ratings meant that he was still offered a contract by the promotion afterwards.
Slice would go 1-1 in the UFC before being released in 2010, and that appeared to be the end for his MMA career, instead moving on to test himself in the boxing ring instead, compiling a perfect 7-0 professional record up until January of 2013.
Over the next couple of years Kimbo steered clear of fighting, but in 2015 he announced he was returning to the sport of mixed martial arts after signing a deal with the Bellator promotion.
That led to a first round victory against Ken Shamrock at Bellator 138, and set up a grudge match with his bareknuckle boxing rival ‘Dada 5000’ at Bellator 149 earlier this year.
That fight turned out to be somewhat of a disaster, with both men gassing out early in the contest, which resulted in a sloppy slugfest – though Kimbo did emerge victorious in the end by TKO in the third round.
Things went from bad to worse post-fight, with Kimbo’s 38 year-old opponent being rushed to hospital suffering from renal failure and two suspected heart attacks, while later Kimbo tested positive for steroids, resulting in the fight being declared a no-contest.
Overall, Kimbo produced a 5-2 (+1nc) MMA record, but truth be told it’s those early years of the bareknuckle brawler punching his way through a series of street fighters on YouTube that most people will remember him for above all else.