Just days after Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74, Kimbo Slice, one of the most popular MMA fighters in the world, died Monday at the age of 42.
No cause of death has been released.
“What is going on in 2016?” Bellator on Spike TV voice Sean Grande said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “All of us, in almost ever facet of our life, in sports and pop culture, have been somehow affected over and over again over the last couple of months. So many young icons are dying now in this world. I was one of these people that’s still fairly new to MMA, and obviously four or five years ago, Kimbo Slice was one of the names that you knew. It was really fascinating because he wasn’t this classic mixed martial artist in terms of all the skills, but he was so beloved by everybody, and not just fans. He’s participated in some of the most highly rated, most watched MMA fights in history. It’s not even close. But to be around other fighters who were just drawn to him anyway because he loved the sport and was such a charismatic guy, this is just a stunning loss and a fascinating weekend for this still-emerging sport.”
Slice, whose real name was Kevin Ferguson, rose to prominence via street-fighting videos on YouTube. At 6-2, 225 pounds, Slice, a menacing fighter, had a 5-2 professional record with four TKOs. He had signed to fight James Thompson at Bellator 158 on July 16 in London.
“Loved this family, just a cool dude, fun to talk to, had a great attitude,” Grande said of Slice. “A lot of the greats in this sport know how to put on a show when the camera is on and how to sell a fight and do the things that are part of this business, and he loved being a part of that. But the last extended time I spent talking with him was two days before what is now his final fight. We do a series of fighter interviews in the days leading up to the fight, and generally we have the fighters from the main card in one at a time. But on this night, we had Royce Gracie, who is the monarch of the sport, the winner of three of the first four UFCs and the legendary name – probably the first name on the Mt. Rushmore of the sport, which is not even a quarter of a century old. And he and Kimbo Slice – two completely divergent athletes in this sport as you can possibly imagine in their background and personalities, their history, where they are from, where they came from and their approach to this sport – we had them in there together. They had formed this bond just as two guys that loved the sport and just connected, despite the fact they had come from different places.
“It ended up being one of the most enjoyable half hours I’ve had in this year of this new adventure of mine, just being in the same room talking to Royce Gracie and Kimbo Slice at the same time,” Grande continued. “It was amazing to me how much reverence Kimbo had for Gracie and his legend in the sport and the history of it. That’s when you realized that Kimbo Slice appealed to so many different people with his personality. And yeah, (there was) the fighting and the YouTube stuff and people followed him because of that, but there has to be a lot more than that. There’s a lot of guys that just fight. There are very few that bring eye balls and just connect with people through a TV screen the way he did.”