We all heard the big news this week that legendary backyard fighting sensation Kimbo Slice would be entering the TUF household to live with 15 other Heavyweights to fight it out for a UFC contract. Slice has gone from making $500,000 a fight to sharing a room with 3 others and sleeping in a bunk bed. He will be without TV, internet, a phone and virtually any contact with the outside world for 6 + weeks. Does this sound like a good opportunity? Kimbo’s management thinks so and up this point they haven’t missed a step.
Slice is the first mainstream fighter to build his name strictly by fighting goons in backyards across America and putting them on Youtube. He was given a shot by EliteXC to carry their promotion and with almost zero actual MMA Training, became one of the most well known fighters in the world. After putting a few wins together by fighting over the hill former superstars, he faced Seth Petruzelli last October and was knocked out in 14 seconds. It was a ‘shock to the world.’ But the reality was it was a shock to no one who followed MMA closely and realized a guy with a year of training shouldn’t be carrying a show like EliteXc, let alone be fighting on their undercard.
Who was the brains behind this manufacturing of Kimbo? His management team and specifically a man named “Icey” Mike Ember who Dana White described Monday as “one of the sharpest guys he has met in the business.”
But as quickly as Ember had made Kimbo a star in EliteXC, Slice vanished from the MMA scene entirely and was thought to never be heard from again. Rumours were he wanted to box, some say he wanted to do more movies and others said he had made his money and he was done with fighting all together. As quickly as he had rose to stardom, he had fallen completely off the radar.
Fast forward to June 1, 2009. The UFC announces that Slice would be a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 10 and just as rapidly as he fell from grace, he was again the talk of the MMA town. The forums were cluttered with Kimbo threads, there were articles on every major MMA site and Slice had Zuffa licking their chops, since he will be a ratings hit, whether he is knocking guys out or asking for someone to pass him his bread at the dinner table.
Slice seems like an easy guy to sell to the fans. He is a big scary looking guy with no hair and a massive beard who knocks guys out in their backyards. But make no mistake. His management has created a larger than life Kimbo that is extremely popular, has his own line of figurines and his own game of “Kimbo Punch Out.” Slice has made more money from fighting than all the other TUF contestants combined and has a fraction of their experience.
His management should get a bulk of the credit for how they have handled his career. To be as popular as Kimbo has become with only 4 fights and little training is a testament to Icey Mike and his team. Without his current management, Kimbo would likely still be in a backyard somewhere, begging Bird for a rematch.