MMA lost a true icon of the sport this week, when Kimbo Slice sadly passed away.
The former UFC fighter and Bellator superstar, real name Kevin Ferguson) died due to heart failure, aged 42.
Although he was never the most technically gifted fighter, the former YouTube brawler is credited as being one of the main contributors to MMA exploding into mainstream popularity in the mid-noughties, especially after his appearance on season ten of The Ultimate Fighter.
One of his fellow contestants on the show, Brendan Schaub, has paid a touching tribute to the man he feels was misunderstood by media and fans. He gave a detailed description of the real Kimbo Slice that he knew, during a recent episode of his podcast the Fighter and the Kid.
“No one ever told his story, really. Remember he was a YouTube sensation. He’s exactly what you think a backyard fighter would look like – shaved head, big beard, shredded, gold chain, fucking everyone up. When you see that, you’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ Even me. When he came on Ultimate Fighter, I was like, ‘Look at this fucking meat-head.'”
“Within the first minute of meeting this guy I was like, ‘Holy fuck, I had this guy all wrong.’ Smart, charming, friendly, loving, good dude, family guy, six children – just wanted to stay at home. All he wanted to do was go home.”
It’s no secret that Kimbo lacked the certain skills to be considered a complete martial artist, but Schaub explained that he knew this and was always eager to learn more about the sport.
“This is the thing about Kimbo, in a room full of lions and him having the biggest celebrity in there, and him being this brawler, he came up to me and was like, ‘Hey Schaub, I need your help man in grappling. I don’t get it, I’m not going to pretend I know it. I probably have no business being here, but I’m here, I need to learn here. I’m not going to be world champ, I’m just here to do my thing and learn.'”
“Most people thought he’d be like, ‘Fuck that, I’m only standing up.’ No way, man. He wanted to learn every in and out of it. He realised his faults and tried to just always do better.”
Schaub closed off with a fitting tribute to Slice, saying that he managed to distinguish himself from the majority of MMA fighters because of his humble nature and selflessness.
“I’m telling you, man. We lost one of the good ones. In a sport full of egos and selfishness, you’re talking about a guy who couldn’t be more opposite of that. Yet the way we marketed him was gold chains, brawler – no way! You’re talking about a smart dude who knew his place, knew what he was good at, knew what he was bad at and he capitalised on that.”
Rest in piece, warrior.