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UFC:

Kimbo Slice out to prove he’s legit fighter, continues to share values as a father

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Illustration by Chris Morris

Kimbo Slice gets first shot at UFC legitimacy tonight on Spike TV.

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Kimbo Slice, aka Kevin Ferguson, poses for a portrait at "The Ultimate Fighter" media day in June.

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Roy Nelson may not look the part, but the Las Vegas native is an accomplished fighter and former IFL champ.

The Ultimate Fighter

  • What: Kimbo Slice's first fight in the UFC against Roy Nelson
  • When: Wednesday 10 p.m. ET/PT
  • On TV: Spike TV (Cox Cable Ch. 29/HD 729)

Kevin Ferguson’s life is quite the conundrum.

On the one hand, the famous underground fighter known by his alter ego of Kimbo Slice, plays the part of a street thug with his grizzled beard, gold teeth and menacing muscles.

But Ferguson the family man is quite the opposite. The 35-year-old native of Nassau, Bahamas is reflective of his own struggles — which included him being homeless for a stint and living out of his car — and tries to pass these life lessons along to his six children.

Ferguson embraces both roles; each has helped him reach his financial and personal goals.

Tonight America will witness Slice trying to win on mixed martial arts’ biggest stage when he takes on Roy Nelson in the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter reality show on Spike TV.

Slice likely wouldn’t have ever been invited to the popular TUF series if it wasn’t for the notoriety he gained from his early backyard brawls that were broadcast on YouTube, but he also knows if his life imitated the art of thuggery too much his mother, Rosemary Clarke, would have never put up with it.

“When I did my first fight for a couple hundred dollars. Okay, this is my thing, you know. It’s another way. Either that or like I said earlier, you either start robbing or start becoming a — you know, what I’m saying, start selling dope, you know what I’m saying or some (expletive) like that, which I didn’t want to do,” Ferguson said.

“My mother wasn’t with that, you know what I’m saying? I couldn’t get caught, you know what I’m saying, for selling drugs or stealing something from somebody or breaking in someone’s house. I couldn’t get caught for that, not with a mother like mine. Because if I would have got caught man, my mother — it would have killed me.”

It’s this message, the one mixed with morals and responsibility that Ferguson emphasizes is the structural backbone of his household.

"Everything I do, it's a life lesson for myself — and for them,” said Ferguson of his six children whorange in age from 3 to 17.

“Everything about me and the way I am and the way I became who I am started from when I was a kid. So knowing that, it's about me paying attention to my kids and raising my kids the right way so they could either do better than I did or won't make the same mistakes that I did growing up."

That’s not to say that the once-aspiring collegiate football player is limiting them from following his own athletic career path.

“I push education. I push schoolwork. I push arithmetic. I push getting those grades together. That’s what I really encourage and push. Now, to me, the sports is extracurricular,” Ferguson said.

“They may want to do that for fun. And they find themselves excelling and doing extremely well then I support them to the fullest.”

Finding support in the world of MMA hasn’t been easy for Slice, who despite his success in selling big fights (the Miami-based fighter’s bouts with James Thompson and Seth Petruzelli are two of the most-watched matches in U.S. MMA history), hasn’t gained legitimacy among hardcore fight fans.

Or promoters.

UFC President Dana White ridiculed Slice when he was fighting in the Elite XC, saying he wouldn’t even be able to hang with UFC lightweight champ B.J. Penn.

“Other than get 10 million hits on YouTube, what's he done to deserve to be in the UFC? Nothing," White said at a press conference last October.

"I don't consider him a real athlete. He won't win The Ultimate Fighter. The offer's out there if he wants to take it, but he won't win it. I might (put a heavyweight show together just for him)."

Even though White’s tune may have changed quite considerably, Slice was comfortable coming on the 10th season of the reality show knowing once again he would have to prove himself.

“It was just all about proving myself to Dana, that’s just pretty much how it is growing up in the world,” Slice said. “I was to a crossroad where I had to again prove myself, you know. And that’s just something I was just kind of used to it.”

Slice, who helped Spike set a record with 4.1 million viewers for the debut episode of “TUF Heavyweights,” admits he and White have been able to reconcile their relationship into a business partnership.

"It's not like we sit down and drink tea and east toast," Slice said. "He's a businessman and I do what I do. He's a promoter and I'm a fighter."

But White has credited the man he once condemned as a joke for stepping up to the ultimate challenge.

“This is the true test for Kimbo Slice. We’re gonna find out right now what he’s got,” White said of Slice’s bout against the former IFL champ Nelson.

White admitted to falling into the trapping of judging Slice by the image he portrayed and said he's been surprised to find out his true character.

“He is not who I expected him to be. When I first met him, I was thinking thug, and he's anything but,” White said an interview with AOL Fanhouse this week.

“Yeah, I like him very much.”

Demico Rogers, one of the TUF housemates, says fight fans are getting to see the real Slice.

“I think that this show is going to help him a lot, because everyone has their own idea about Kimbo Slice, but this show is going to show that he’s a real person, that he has feelings, he has children, he has the fiancée, he loves life, he loves kids,” Rogers told Sherdog.com. “He does charity. He’s just a really good guy.”

A guy who has embraced his new increasing role with the media (like his clowning around with Jimmy Fallon on Monday night), but one who still is out to prove he is a legitimate fighter.

“There’s a drive for something and I guess I’m still searching for that inner me. I’m still searching for something, so until I find it, until my fight is done, I’m gonna fight. It’s my passion,” Slice told reporters over the summer.

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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