Why do so many people still denigrate Kimbo Slice? Does the resentment exist because he only has a 3-1 pro record, has glaring holes in his ground game, yet enjoys superstar status? Personality cannot be the root of the disdain because let’s face it, never once has Kimbo Slice hyped himself as some kind of elite fighter or suggested he is God’s gift to MMA. Never has Kimbo Slice “called out” Brock Lesnar or Randy Couture or any other top heavyweight. Never has Kimbo Slice asked millions of people to watch Internet videos of his past street fights, nor did he ask prominent magazine and newspaper reporters to write their in-depth stories chronicling his life and unlikely rise to fame.
Behind that gruff, scary monster exterior, Kimbo Slice has been revealed as a sympathetic figure, a low-key fighter trying to grind out an honest living. Which is why former WEC featherweight champion Mike Thomas Brown, like many others, has come to admire the controversial heavyweight whom millions of people can’t resist watching.
“You get an image of this guy on TV, like he’s a bad guy or he’s a thug, but he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Brown, who trains alongside Slice at the vaunted American Top Team academy in Coconut Creek, Fla. “What’s amazing is how humble he is and how much people talk s--- about him, but he never says anything bad about anybody. Think of how many people have said, ‘Ah, Kimbo Slice sucks, he’s nothing.’ They all rag on him. But he never talks bad about anyone. He’s a tough guy and he’s humble and he’s not afraid to fight anybody. He just trains hard and loves to fight.”
While Brown will be cheering hard for Kimbo when he clashes with Houston Alexander on Saturday, WEC warrior extraordinaire Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will be glued to the TUF 10 finale pitting former NFL player Brendan Schaub against Roy “Big Country” Nelson. Cerrone and Schaub, both raised in Colorado, have known each other for years and train together with Greg Jackson in New Mexico. Schaub even stayed at Cerrone’s house for weeks before departing for Las Vegas to be part of the cast on The Ultimate Fighter season 10 reality show.
“I knew he (Schaub) had a good chance to win the show because his main training partner at Jackson’s is Shane Carwin and he gives Shane a good run for his money, so I knew he was going to do big things,” said Cerrone, who will battle dangerous striker Ed “9mm” Ratcliff in WEC 45 main event on Dec. 19 (which will be broadcast live on Versus).
Known for epic bouts against Jamie Varner, Benson Henderson and “Razor” Rob McCullough, Cerrone predicted the Schaub-Nelson bout will be entertaining but he has no doubt Schaub will get his hand raised afterward and be awarded a six-figure contract with the UFC.
“Brendan’s just a big, tough S.O.B. He moves like a lightweight,” Cerrone said. “I think Brendan will knock him out. His jiu-jitsu is good, he’s got really good positioning, but his boxing is better than everything. I think he will outbox Big Country and I don’t think Big Country will be able to take him down. Brendan is in way better shape, he doesn’t have a big beer belly on the front of him.” .”
Ah, that enormous sack of blarb that adorns what used to be Big Country’s abdomen. Makes him so lovable, doesn’t it? But the robust BJJ black belt is just the latest in a steady stream of big guys who are exceptional pro athletes (guys like Charles Barkley, John Kruk, David Wells and boxer James Toney, to name a few). Chris Horodecki is another one of those fighters who doesn’t always look the part. With the face of a high school junior, the 22-year-old Canadian – who fights at 155 pounds – sometimes swells to 190 pounds between fights and packs quite a bit of girth himself. So Horodecki – who knows Nelson from their days in the now-defunct International Fight League – has witnessed Nelson dominate too many heavyweights with that portly physique to question the 263-pounder’s capabilities.
“It’s not a bodybuilding show, it’s not an appearance contest – it’s a fight,” said Horodecki, a gifted striker who will make his WEC debut against Anthony Njokuani on Dec. 19. “So you have to respect Big Country because he has skills in other areas. He’s still a well-conditioned fighter and has endurance, and he’s strong, he’s just got a deceiving look. He’s really skilled on the mat, his mat skills are top-notch. People don’t know that. He’s a fighter and I think that’s why people like him and can relate to him – because he does have a big belly.”
Many favor the wily veteran Nelson to beat Schaub, and the winner of their clash likely has a bright future ahead of him. But on Saturday, the two main event finalists just might have to take a backseat to the Slice-Alexander tussle when it comes to the matchup fans are most jazzed to see.
“Somebody’s going down for sure,” Brown predicted. “It’s exciting. The best thing about Kimbo is you want to see him fight. … Is he the best guy in the world? No, he’s probably not. But I definitely want to see him fight every time he goes out there.”