Mixed martial arts star Kimbo Slice, who died Monday night at the age of 42, was diagnosed with heart failure and informed he needed a heart transplant, according to a report by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Citing a medical report made by the Northwest Medical Center in Margate, the Sun Sentinel reported that Slice, birth name Kevin Ferguson, was admitted to the hospital on June 3, complaining of “severe abdominal pain, shortness of breath and nausea.”
The report states Ferguson was placed on a ventilator in intensive care and was scheduled to be transported to Cleveland, where he would be placed on a donors list. Trauma and foul play are not suspected in the fighter’s death.
Mike Imber, Slice’s longtime manager and childhood friend, confirmed to ESPN.com that Slice entered the medical facility on June 3. According to Imber, Slice appeared to be doing well until Monday, when the situation turned.
“He went to Germany around March and got really sick while he was there,” Imber said. “I don’t know what he thought it was, but he just felt sick. On Friday (June 3), he had bad chest pains and went to the hospital. I went and visited him on Friday and he seemed OK. I didn’t feel like I was going to lose my friend in two days, by any means. He seemed concerned, but he seemed all right.
“I talked to him that Saturday and Sunday, and he was still in the hospital. I said, ‘something’s not right.’ On Monday, his wife called and told me he had stopped breathing.”
Slice (5-2) was scheduled to fight James Thompson at Bellator 158 on July 16 in London, but according to Mike Brown, his head coach at American Top Team, Slice had intended to withdraw from the event.
“He had a few things going on,” Brown said. “He had a crazy hiccup problem and he had high blood pressure. He also had a problem that had something to do with his gallbladder. We had talked about him pulling out of the fight. That’s what he was going to do. I don’t know if he had done that officially yet, but a decision had already been made not to fight.”
Slice fought once already this year in February, knocking out longtime rival Dada5000, birth name Dhafir Harris, in Houston. The bout was later changed to a no contest after Slice tested positive for anabolic steroids and an elevated testosterone ratio.
Slice was born in the Bahamas but grew up in the Miami area. He came to prominence through participating in backyard brawls, which generated millions of views. He transitioned to professional mixed martial arts in 2007 and delivered massive television ratings throughout the extent of his career. In 2009, he participated on “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s long-running reality show. He also compiled a 7-0 professional boxing record.
“There’s no question he lived life to the fullest,” Imber said. “That’s what his mother told me today. She said, ‘Michael, when he was a baby growing up, he told me he was going to be famous someday. Then he met you and it happened. I was so proud of him when he went on to do what he did. I knew he loved to fight and I was just so proud of him.’
“Unless you met him, you didn’t know how touching of a person he really was. The absolute epitome of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ I think everyone will remember him that way.”
Slice leaves behind six children. His oldest son, Kevin Ferguson Jr., whose nickname is ‘Baby Slice,’ made his professional MMA debut earlier this year.
“Any time I was around Kimbo, he was very humble,” said UFC lightweightDustin Poirier, Slice’s teammate at American Top Team. “He wasn’t the person who I thought he would be. He’s a family guy. Every time I saw him, he had his kids with him. He was just a really nice guy.”
A decade later, following a meteoric rise as a professional fighter (running the gamut from sideshow to legit, and back again),Slice died on Monday in South Florida at the age of 42. Details of his death remain unclear.
Given his backstory, Slice’s MMA run is nothing short of remarkable, progressing from backyards to the UFC in record time despite the fact that he didn’t pick up the sport until his mid-30s. It’s a testament to the reason why we couldn’t take our eyes off him from the beginning: Slice was a legit tough guy who was born to be a fighter, and despite some of the bizarre moments that followed, he never stopped being true to that identity.
Born in the Bahamas in 1974, Slice battled poverty in Miami and was later homeless in his adult life after an injury brought an end to his college football dreams. He found work in strip clubs and eventually as a bodyguard in the adult film industry.
Everything about him felt alarmingly real. Slice’s backyard fights brought a certain element of fear through the screen that’s hard to explain and hasn’t been seen since the days of Mike Tyson. While no one would mistake comparing the abilities of the two, they shared that unavoidable element of raw transparency as to who they really were.
It’s hard to imagine Slice’s trademark look — or his combination of bald head, braided hair on the sides and mini ponytail in the back — would have worked for anyone else. But he pulled it off (complete with his pioneering chest-hair designs) in part because we wanted so badly to believe it.
With his thick beard, gold teeth and chains, Slice was a comic book and action movie villain put together, yet it seemed he was never really trying to play that character. While other fighters have borrowed elements from pro wrestling in an attempt to add legitimacy to their toughness, Slice never filled the silence with unnecessary trash talk. In fact, it was because of his quiet demeanor that his tough aura felt so authentic.
Slice’s legacy as a fighter, however, is complicated, if not unique. Many fans never looked at him as anything more than a joke — or ratings bait — who received headlining bouts simply because of his marketability. Yet it would be unfair to discredit the importance of his run — particularly in prime time on CBS with Elite XC — in terms of bringing MMA into the living rooms of the casual fan. It would also be unfair to suggest he was never promoted as anything more than an “attraction.”
He rebounded from a potentially disastrous 14-second loss to late replacement by Social Menace sponsored fighter Seth Petruzelli in 2008 and won back the respect of the MMA community by quickly transitioning into a real fighter, joining the UFC through “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series. His blue-collar work ethic endeared him to fans who could relate to the underdog element of his “everyman” run from the backyard to the UFC’s Octagon.
But Slice’s UFC career proved to be short-lived. So was his forgettable seven-fight run as a pro boxer, which prompted similar whispers of improper matchmaking that followed him at each stop of his MMA career.
Which brings up an interesting dynamic: For as celebrated as Slice was for how real his persona came off, he constantly fought off rumors that his actual fights were the opposite (despite nothing ever being proved). His final victory in February, over former backyard rival Dhafir “Dada 5000″ Harris, was also overturned when he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
But Slice’s true legacy surrounds his unrivaled ability to attract viewers. He fought James Thompson on CBS in 2008 in front of 6.51 million viewers. One year later, his UFC debut, an exhibition fight against Roy Nelson on “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike TV, peaked at 6.1 million. In 2015, he made a return to MMA with Bellator, twice setting company ratings records on Spike TV.
Slice will never be confused with an elite or title-contending fighter, but he made us care about his journey in a way that’s remarkable for a guy whose public identity was carved in gritty bare-knuckled combat.
As his recent ratings might suggest, we never stopped caring, and considering his indelible mark on both pop culture and MMA in general, I doubt we ever will.
Report by ESPN.COM