Kimbo Slice, a street-fighting sensation from Miami whose fisticuffs went viral on YouTube, has died, according to the president of Bellator, his mixed martial arts fighting organization.
Slice, whose real name was Kevin Ferguson, was hospitalized Monday for undisclosed causes near his home in Coral Springs, Fla., according to reports. He 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.
A member of Slice’s family confirmed the death to Bellator, a spokesman for the company said.
Slice’s unique look - a bald head and long, scraggly black beard, enhanced his legend as a destructive backyard brawler, and he advanced to professional mixed martial arts in 2007, when he defeated former pro boxer Ray Mercer in Atlantic City, N.J.
He was a main-event fighter for boxing promoter Gary Shaw’s short-lived EliteXC circuit, winning the first MMA event on prime-time television.
Later in the year, Slice became embroiled in a scandal when he was knocked out by replacement fighter Seth Petruzelli, who claimed on a radio show that promoters offered him money to keep the fight standing - more favorable for the heavy-punching Slice. A Florida investigation unearthed no wrongdoing.
After that, Slice was invited to participate in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s “The Ultimate Fighter” heavyweight competition, but he was defeated in the first round by the competition’s ultimate winner, big-bellied Roy Nelson.
His colorful, rough but charming personality was seen in a video interview with the Los Angeles Times, when Slice was asked not to swear since his interview was going to appear on a family newspaper website and the video could not be edited to cut out bad words.
He agreed and provided more than four clean minutes of entertaining talk about his “The Ultimate Fighter” experience before he became intense about a subject and dropped in three expletives, smiling and lamenting sheepishly, “Sorry.”
Slice was out of the UFC by 2010.
He returned to fighting last year for Coker’s Bellator, and defeated veteran Ken Shamrock by first-round technical knockout, setting up a Feb. 19 showdown with another South Florida street fighter, Dhaffir Harris, known as “DaDa 5000.”
Their bout was ridiculed by many as the worst MMA fight ever as both men showed fatigue, and an ill DaDa 5000 collapsed instead of getting punched in what was scored a third-round knockout.
Afterward, Slice tested positive for the steroid nandrolone.
“One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport,” Coker said. “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.”