Professional mixed martial artist Kimbo Slice died Monday at age 42, Bellator MMA announced.
"We are all shocked and saddened by the devastating and untimely loss of Kimbo Slice, a beloved member of the Bellator family," Bellator president Scott Coker said in a statement, calling Slice "a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport."
"Outside of the cage he was a friendly, gentle giant and a devoted family man," Coker said. "His loss leaves us all with extremely heavy hearts, and our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ferguson family and all of Kimbo's friends, fans, and teammates."
There was no word on the cause of Slice's death.
Slice had been hospitalized earlier Monday for undisclosed reasons near his home in South Florida, according to Coral Springs police, who had been dispatched to his residence to prevent a potential gathering outside. They said no foul play was suspected.
Slice, birth name Kevin Ferguson, was a former backyard brawler and Internet sensation. A heavyweight at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he had a 5-2 professional record with four TKOs.
He was signed to Bellator MMA and scheduled to headline Bellator 158 on July 16 in London against James Thompson.
He last fought at Bellator 149 on Feb. 19 in Houston. He defeated Dhafir Harris, aka Dada5000, in a three-round decision. The result was later changed to a no-contest by the Texas commission, after Slice tested positive for anabolic steroids and an elevated testosterone ratio.
Slice also previously fought for the UFC.
"He carried himself as a true professional during his time in our organization," the promotion said in a statement Monday night. "While he will never be forgotten for his fighting style and transcendent image, Slice will also be remembered for his warm personality and commitment to his family and friends."
Slice was born in the Bahamas on Feb. 8, 1974, but grew up in South Florida. He played middle linebacker at Miami's Palmetto High and showed the potential to play in college before Hurricane Andrew caused Palmetto High's season to be cut short and his scholarship offers vanished. He flunked out of college at Bethune-Cookman University and was homeless for a brief time. He worked as a limo driver, bouncer and bodyguard before rising to fame through his viral street-fighting videos.
He was not embraced by much of the MMA world as it attempted to go mainstream, with UFC president Dana White famously saying Slice would not last two minutes in the Octagon. However, due in part to his immense popularity, Slice's third professional fight, a fourth-round TKO against James Thompson in May 2008, aired on CBS, making it the first MMA fight on prime-time network television.
In 2009, the UFC booked Slice as a contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series. He ultimately fought for the UFC twice, compiling a 1-1 record, before taking a leave of absence from MMA to compete in professional wrestling.
In 2015, Bellator signed Slice and promoted him in a main event against MMA pioneer Ken Shamrock. Slice won the fight via TKO in the first round, after nearly being submitted by Shamrock in the opening minutes. The two Bellator events Slice competed in, Bellator 138 and Bellator 149, set new ratings records on Spike TV.
Slice made his professional MMA debut on Nov. 10, 2007, for the now-defunct promotion EliteXC, knocking out Bo Cantrell in just 19 seconds.
He trained out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida.
BRISTOL, Conn. -- Brock Lesnar isn't in his element right now. He's wearing a suit as he sits in a green room on ESPN's campus in between SportsCenter interviews, and he's trying to find a microwave to heat up a cup of vegetable soup. If he had it his way, he would be sitting on his tractor in his farm in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, but that would be too easy and Lesnar doesn't like doing things easily -- well, at least not yet anyway.
"I didn't want to be sitting on my tractor 20 years from now wondering, 'God, I wonder if I would have just fought one more time?'" Lesnar said. "So I'm going to take care of that speculation right now and when I'm sitting on my tractor 20 years and I can say, 'Now that was fun.' It takes some balls man. It takes some balls to live life to the fullest. Who in the hell would do this? I'm fortunate. I really am. It takes big balls to do this, but I've always stuck my neck out there. You just lay it on the line."
Lesnar had originally retired from mixed martial arts in March 2015 when he was contemplating a return to the UFC before eventually re-signing with the WWE. He had previously retired from the sport after losing to Alistair Overeem on Dec. 30, 2011, which was his last UFC fight. But Lesnar realized fairly quickly that he had closed the door too soon.
"When I made the decision I wasn't sure it was the right decision, but I was making the decision based upon a number of different evaluations at the time," Lesnar said. "Really, it was either fight in the UFC or fight in the WWE. There wasn't the option of both. That was a key factor. What am I going to do? I didn't want to juggle two careers anyway. It just felt right in this moment in my life to be involved in this one."
Lesnar, who is still under contract to WWE for another year and a half, didn't want to get into the specifics of his UFC deal and how he worked with WWE to allow him to fight Mark Hunt at UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas. He did say, however, that his return has been in the works for months and he is happy with the resolution. After UFC 200, Lesnar will return to WWE and wrestle at SummerSlam on Aug. 21 in Brooklyn, New York.
"I think both companies see that it's not going to hurt," Lesnar said. "We're not going to devalue either one. It's actually win-win for everybody as long as I do win, and I have all intentions of doing so. I'm going to train to win. There are lots of risks, but without risks, there's no reward. I think the reward is bigger than the risk."
Of course it could easily turn into a lose-lose proposition if Hunt, who knocked out two-time UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir last March in the first round, knocks out Lesnar in the first round as well. It would effectively end any long-term comeback attempt and make it slightly harder to rebuild his "beast incarnate" persona before he headlines SummerSlam one month later. But Lesnar doesn't anticipate that being a problem.
"Is there going to be some ring rust? Are you out of your f---ing mind? Of course there is," Lesnar said. "But maybe Mark Hunt can knock it out of me in the first 10 seconds and then he's going to get his ass whooped."
If Lesnar does what he intends to do and takes care of Hunt impressively, it's hard to imagine his UFC return being a "one-off opportunity" as WWE described it in its news release. Lesnar didn't close the door on fighting another fight or going back to the UFC on a more regular basis after his WWE contract is up.
"It boils down to me -- if I want it or not," Lesnar said. "But let's worry about one thing at a time and knock on wood everything comes together and I get into the Octagon and I'm healthy and Mark's healthy and we can put on a good performance."
With this newfound partnership between WWE and UFC for at least one night, there is some growing optimism that this could be a sign of things to come in the future. Perhaps UFC stars such as Conor McGregor, who has hinted at joining WWE in the past, or Ronda Rousey, who got in the ring at WrestleMania 31 last year, could have their own "one-off" matches in WWE. Former WWE champion CM Punk, who left the company and signed with the UFC in 2014, is expected to make his debut in the Octagon later this year. Lesnar, however, scoffed at the idea of opening doors for others.
"There will never be another Brock Lesnar," he said. "You can make all the correlations you want to the people you just stated, but none of them have ever main-evented and sold pay-per-views and put asses in the seats like Brock Lesnar. There is nobody. That's why this is happening."
This, of course, is UFC 200, arguably the company's biggest pay-per-view event since UFC 100, which was headlined by Lesnar beating Mir to unify the UFC heavyweight championship seven years ago. Lesnar's return on a night as big as this for the UFC is no coincidence.
"It's a big event. I wouldn't want to return at UFC 192," Lesnar said. "What's the meaning in that? It's UFC 200. It's a milestone for the company and a milestone for the athletes, so why not be on that card? Life's all about timing. The timing for this is working out perfect. I don't know why or how, but somehow I always find a way where the timing is right and I land on my feet."
As much as Lesnar enjoys being in WWE and looks forward to putting on a show against whomever he faces at SummerSlam, there was something he said was missing when not being able to step into the Octagon. He missed training and competing for a fight that didn't have a scripted outcome.
"I missed the competition," said Lesnar, who lost his last two fights after multiple bouts with diverticulitis, an intestinal disorder. "That's the hardest thing for guys -- every athlete will tell you that after they leave sports. ... I had the surgery and it was removed and I don't have any diverticulitis in me. It's gone It has taken a number of years to feel good again. For Christ's sake it's been how many years since I've been in the Octagon? It's been a long time, but I'm back now."
Lesnar turns 39 next month, and his contract with WWE will expire not long after he turns 40 next year. He and his wife, Rena, who WWE fans will remember as Sable, have two sons. Turk turned 7 last week, and Duke turns 6 next month. Lesnar also has 14-year old twins, a son Luke and a daughter Mya, from a previous relationship. He has occasionally thought about retiring to his Canadian farm after his contract is up and enjoying more time with his wife, kids and tractors but concedes that's a decision he has not made yet and might not truly make even after he makes it.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Lesnar said. "I have a year and half left on my contract with WWE. My kids are getting older, and I've had a hell of a run. We'll see what happens. I'll never say never. Even when I retired I said, 'Man, I hope I'm not going to have to eat my words on that.' I don't really want it to be over and so here we are again."
Brock Lesnar to face Mark Hunt, calls self 'modern-day Bo Jackson'
Brock Lesnar will face veteran mixed martial artist and former professional kickboxer Mark Hunt at UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas.
Lesnar, 38, announced the fight during a SportsCenter appearance on Monday. It will mark his first fight in the Octagon since December 2011.
In March 2015, Lesnar (5-3) announced he was "closing the door" on a career in MMA, but he admitted on Monday that he was never comfortable with that decision.
"I'm a crossover athlete. I'm the modern-day Bo Jackson, people."
"It was the hardest decision for me to make," Lesnar told ESPN's Hannah Storm. "That decision has haunted me for the last 15 months. I figured I couldn't live like that for the rest of my life. I'm a big believer in living out your dreams and facing your fears."
The longtime professional wrestling star and former UFC heavyweight champion remains under contract with the WWE, but was "granted a one-off opportunity" to compete at UFC 200, according to a statement from the company. He is scheduled to appear in WWE's SummerSlam on Aug. 21.
Lesnar touted his credentials in both UFC and WWE. "I'm a crossover athlete. I'm the modern-day Bo Jackson, people," he said, referring to the professional football and baseball player. "I'm excited about it. I'm enthusiastic. I couldn't be more excited and honored to have the opportunity that both companies have faith in Brock Lesnar to allow him to step back into the Octagon," he said.
He faces a legitimate challenge in Hunt (12-10-1), who is coming off a first-round knockout over Frank Mir in March and is known as one of the UFC's hardest hitters. A New Zealand native, Hunt has nine knockout wins in his MMA career and fought for the interim championship in November 2014.
Lesnar, a former NCAA Division I wrestling champion, said he had no input in who his opponent would be.
"I've never turned down a fight in the UFC," Lesnar said. "Even when I was champ, I never turned down a fight. When I was fighting to be a champ, I never turned down a fight. If [UFC president] Dana White called me and said, 'You have opponent X, Y or Z, which do you want?' -- he never gave me those options.
"I'm a grappler at heart. [Hunt] is a heavy hitter. I think that's what the people want to see. The UFC ultimately culminated because we're going to put guys with opposing disciplines against each other. I think I match up very well. If Mark ends up on the ground, the fight's over."
Asked why White was willing to allow his return, Lesnar answered, "big business."
"I'm a prize fighter. Titles don't pay bills. I fight for money. I'm making money. They're making money. Everybody's making money. That's what this is all about," he said.
Lesnar won the UFC championship by knocking out Randy Couture in November 2008. He defended against Mir and Shane Carwin, but missed a year of competition in that time due to a bout with diverticulitis, an intestinal disorder. He's said the issue continued to plague him in his last three fights, in which he went 1-2.
"At the top of my career, I wasn't at the top of my game," Lesnar said. "I felt like I was cheated out of my career in the UFC. In my mind and in my heart, I never lost to a foe. I never lost to an opponent. I lost to diverticulitis. That was my opponent that beat me. A lot of other people might have other thoughts about that.
"I'm sitting here today and I feel 1,000 percent."
Lesnar said he didn't know if a successful return at UFC 200 would encourage him to fight again. Around March 2015, when he announced he was stepping away from MMA for good, he had been in contact with the UFC regarding a contract and was training at that time.
He jokingly said on Monday he only started training for the July 9 bout over the weekend.
"It may just be a tease, I don't know the answer to that question right now," said Lesnar on whether he'll continue to fight past UFC 200. "We'll cross that road when we get there. I've got a big [WWE] event after that event, SummerSlam."
A reporter who had his credentials revoked during UFC 199 on Saturday night has been reinstated by the promotion.
In a statement, the UFC said it spoke with the editorial team at SB Nation and decided to continue credentialing MMAFighting.com to cover live events.
"We respect the role the media plays in our sport and beyond, including MMAFighting's ability to report news," the UFC said in a statement Monday. "However, in our opinion, we believe the recurring tactics used by its lead reporter extended beyond the purpose of journalism. We feel confident our position has now been adequately communicated to the SB Nation editorial team.
"UFC's goal as the world's leading mixed martial arts promotion is to cultivate interest in its world-class athletes and events, and deliver for the fans. We will continue to introduce this sport and its athletes to new fans across the world, and we will do so by working alongside media across all platforms."
MMAFighting.com reporter Ariel Helwani said Saturday on Twitter that he was escorted out of the UFC 199 show in Inglewood, California, before the main event, along with photographer Esther Lin and video director E. Casey Leydon.
Helwani had reported exclusively earlier that night that Brock Lesnar would return to mixed martial arts for UFC 200 in July. He posted on Twitter that he only reported news, didn't do anything unethical and then was "told we're banned for life."
Later Saturday, the UFC made the Lesnar news official.
Helwani was recently removed from his role as a reporter for Fox Sports, the UFC's corporate broadcast partner. He is among the most prominent journalists covering the sport, with more than 375,000 Twitter followers.