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MMA wouldn’t be what it is without Kimbo

Kimbo Slice was far from a technically sound fighter, but he was one of the biggest draws in the sports history and helped make it a viable sport for broadcast companies to televise.

Kimbo Slice was far from a technically sound fighter, but he was one of the biggest draws in the sports history and helped make it a viable sport for broadcast companies to televise.

May 31, 2008 – Mixed Martial Arts was still very much in the underground stage. It was an outlaw sports still illegal in four states and barely in the general public’s mind. But Kimbo Slice headlined an EliteXC event against James Thompson on CBS that peaked at 7.281 million viewers during his fight. By comparison, the most viewed MMA fight in 2015 was the UFC’s Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson vs. Alexander Gustafsson fight on Fox that peaked at 3.646.

Nobody will ever misremember Slice, real name Kevin Ferguson, as a great fighter, but he made MMA a viable option for broadcast television.

When internet video sharing website YouTube was created, Slice became the original internet star as his backyard street brawls became viral hits. And from those fights we saw an immigrant from the Bahamas, who once lived in his 1987 Nissan Pathfinder for a month, who got by as a bouncer for a strip club and occasionally as a limousine driver and bodyguard for a pornography production company, turn into one of the biggest draws in combat sports.

From those fights fights Slice got to become a professional athlete. He won his first MMA exhibition in 2007 when he choked out former Olympic gold medal boxer Ray Mercer and then made his official debut a few months later. With back-to-back victories inside the first minute because of his excessively hard punches, including a submission by punches in his first official fight, Slice became more and more a must-see star and led to CBS negotiating a television contract with EliteXC to televise their fights on Saturday night.

And still to this day, despite the continued growth of the sport and mainstream appeal of fighters like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, no fight has had ratings come close to approaching Kimbo’s first televised fight. And when he move to the UFC it was a huge deal. The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale he participated in drew 3.7 million viewers, but peaked when he fought Houston Alexander with 5.2 million viewers.

After a five-year absence from the cage, that still remained a huge draw. Scott Coker brought Slice back into MMA into professional fighting at a headliner for Bellator and when he made his promotional debut against, he set an all-time viewership record for Bellator 138 with a 24-percent increase and beat that in his last fight against Dada 5000, a complete unknown in the world of MMA, at Bellator 149. His fight against Dada 5000 is the most viewed fight in Bellator history.

By no means was Slice a tremendous fighter; he was horribly flawed, but he had the ‘it’ factor, and the look. He is the image you get when you think of a professional fighter. He had a shredded physique and massive arms. He had a grizzled look with a big beard and gold teeth and had incredible strength in his punched. He looked threatening and looked violent. He equaled ratings and was one of the first truly mainstream professional fighters were was.

Our of the fighting scene, everybody has said how humble he actually was. Everybody has described him as a nice family man who had six kids he truly loved and looked after. He just found a very interesting way to turn street fighting into a career as a highly-paid professional fighter and along with it, helped lead MMA into something that could be a viable option for broadcast television companies to televise.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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