Headed into his Bellator 138 main event against Ken Shamrock tomorrow night (Fri., June 19, 2015) from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, former street fighter, EliteXC and UFC veteran, and professional boxer Kimbo Slice knows that his mixed martial arts (MMA) career could have potentially gone down a much more fruitful path had he taken his training more seriously when he was supposedly one of the sport’s best up-and-coming prospect during his hype-filled rise of 2008.
But Slice, real name Kevin Ferguson, is the first to admit that he didn’t even look to become a complete mixed martial artist, instead believing his explosive knockout power standing to be enough to end any fighter’s night before they were able to wrestle him to the ground and submit him. He soon found out that wasn’t the case, however, describing how he found out what it meant to be complete as a fighter during the recent Bellator 138 media day (via MMA Fighting):
“Before we can even get on the ground to do any jiu-jitsu, before you can even grab me to wrestle me down, we gotta start off standing up first,” Slice said. “So if I got this down pat, you’re not gonna even get to me to take me down. I wont let you. When you come in, I’m gonna catch you with something. That was my mentality then. But then you got these fighters now who can dodge a punch or two to get close to you and they got a f*cking good wrestling game and they can get you down now. Then you’re a fish out of water. I didn’t understand that then. It took a little age, a little time. You know what? I need to know this sh*t. What if I’m in a worst-case situation?”
After a win over Houston Alexander at the end of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10, he lost to Matt Mitrione and was done with the UFC. Slice moved on to boxing, where he’s since gone undefeated at 7-0 against a host of fighters some would deem as tomato cans. Yet Slice says he still feels the instinct to use his MMA skills in the boxing ring:
“There was a time when I wanted to throw a kick. I was gonna kick the guy in the head. His hands were down and I was like, ‘Damn, there go a kick.’ And then the movement was different. I wanted a couple takedowns. Some elbows. I was there.”
Slice also detailed his host of ‘trainers’ during his first MMA stint, especially legendary fighter Bas Rutten, a UFC Hall of Famer who made his mark as one of the most dangerous and well rounded fighters in the sport before injuries cut his career short. Slice called him a ‘celebrity coach,’ stating that he didn’t actually help him prepare for the things he really needed inside the cage:
“Of course they didn’t do a good job,” Slice said. “What did I know? I didn’t know that I would need to know this. I was just ready to fight whoever you go set up with me to fight.”
Slice now knows he needs to train for all aspects of MMA, especially against a noted submission specialist like Shamrock, even if he is 51 years old. For that reason, Slice says his time at American Top Team (ATT) has made him more complete on the ground, and he’s also gotten smarter with age:
“I’m always willing to put the work in, because here I am today. If I was that way then, I would be this way now. Just knowing that I needed to evolve. Now being at ATT there’s no choice but to learn.
“I had no intentions of knowing the ground a couple years ago. I didn’t even want to train working on the ground, because I didn’t feel like I would need it. And that’s just how I was back then. With the years, I’ve gotten smarter, gotten wiser.”
Absent from MMA for five years, we’ll just have to see if Slice has evolved in terms of being a complete fighter tomorrow night. Will his newfound wisdom propel him to a win over the seemingly ageless Shamrock?