Issue 202

February 2024

Kimbo Slice battled James Thompson in an MMA battle that was a beautiful mix of blood, sweat and torn ears that elated fans. 

Before Jake Paul, before CM Punk, before the terms ‘influencer’ or ‘crossover’ were ever uttered in the same breath as professional combat sports, a man called Kevin flipped the MMA world on its head. 

Were Kevin Fergusson attempting the leap from internet infamy to legitimate combat sports acceptance today, he’d likely encounter the same levels of resistance and accusations of queue-jumping faced by the Pauls, KSIs, and Tommy Furys of the world. 

In 2008, though, his alter-ego ‘Kimbo Slice’ was a bonafide piece of pre-YouTube internet proto-culture, unknowingly laying the groundwork for the transition from online geek notoriety to mainstream success enjoyed by everyone from Logan and Jake to MrBeast and beyond.

Kimbo was a phenomenon that shook MMA to its core, a slap in the face of the purists who’d campaigned to legitimize ‘cage fighting’ as something more than violent street-toughs brawling for quick cash and a stark reminder that style sells far better than substance.  

His promoters were in on the con from Day 1. As such, the question quickly shifted from “How far can Kimbo go?” to “How far can he look good going?” 

The answer – not far – was glaringly obvious to those in the know, but the key to grifting the public was maintaining the illusion for as long as possible.

That ultimately came down to the careful selection of opponents. Still, unlike boxing, where the first 10-15 bouts of a fighter’s career can be jerrymandered to engineer a perfect set of results, a lot more can go wrong in MMA.

As such, Kimbo’s early career would boil down to hand-picking a cadre of the lowest risk, highest reward adversaries on the free market. 

Enter James Thompson: A hulking, charismatic, but ultimately flawed heavyweight with an international pedigree in some of the world’s foremost MMA promotions. 

‘The Colossus’ had everything Kimbo’s handlers wanted in an opponent. Unfortunately, he also possessed something they hadn’t previously encountered: intentions of winning. 

The result was something nobody had expected. Elite XC’s biggest star dragged through the wringer, an exploding ear and the genesis of rumors that would later help sink one of America’s largest MMA promotions.


Ask James Thompson about his most formidable opponent; he might say it was himself.

If you search the internet for his Colossal Concerns blog, you’ll find a decade of reflection and remorse over a career not taken as seriously as it might have been. 

As big and brutal as he was, Thompson had been stopped with strikes eight times before he stepped into the cage with noted power puncher Kimbo. 

Those results had earned him a reputation for being ‘chinny’; hit the switch, and the lights would go out.

It was a characterization that Thompson himself took umbrage with, opining that his ‘chinny’ period was more likely a result of his preference for performance-enhancing and recreational use of GHB than any physical deficit. 

Still, on the surface, he looked the part. 6’5, mohawk, muscles in places that most of us don’t have places, and a cult following from his handful of appearances in Japan’s PRIDE FC. 

Slice’s handlers clearly saw him as the perfect glass cannon. 


May 31st, 2008: Kimbo Slice was set to be the main event for the first primetime MMA broadcast on US cable TV. 

How he’d got there was anyone’s guess. Hardcore MMA fans were disgusted; they’d spent years telling anyone who would listen that this was a legitimate sport, not just some sanctioned street fight that any grim-jawed tough guy could stroll into. 

Yet here was Slice, a former strip club bouncer and bodyguard for a group of low-rent Miami pornographers, about to eclipse the likes of Ken Shamrock, George St Pierre, and BJ Penn in viewing figures. 

Kimbo had only a pair of MMA fights to his name. There was a very suspicious-looking 19-second demolition of no-hoper Bo Cantrell and a slightly longer shellacking of his long-since-checked-out 1990s counterpart, Tank Abbott. 

Before that, his only real opponent had been a then-serving Boston police officer called Sean Gannon, who’d beat the brakes off Fergusson in a Rhode Island gym.     

The bloody, bare-knuckle scrap drew attention to a handful of videos of Kimbo brutalizing fellow street toughs in Miami boat yards, cementing his notoriety and eventually leading to his sojourn into the MMA world. 

Fast forward a couple of years, and Kimbo had swapped those backyard fistfights for sanctioned MMA on CBS.


After the first bell rang at New Jersey’s Prudential Centre, few would have foreseen that a clash between the 2-0 brawler and the 14-8 MMA veteran would last longer than the opening exchanges. 

Fewer still would have predicted that the highlights of the opening round would have been a series of sweeps and reversals on the ground. Thompson’s better technique and ‘enhanced’ physique versus Kimbo’s superior natural athleticism somehow provided one of the most nail-biting frames of the year.     

The second round was equally as dramatic. Slice opened his account with a left hook, followed by a shovel of a right hand that stiffened the Brit’s legs. 

Thompson flailed for takedowns, hanging on for dear life when he finally got close to his man. 

The crowd roared when Kimbo fell back into a guillotine as ‘The Colossus’ drove forward, but in truth, it was never in, and with his massive opponent now in side control, he was about to pay the price.  

Ironically, one of the first elite MMA fighters to profess the benefits of side control over full mount in MMA was former ‘King of Pancrase’ and UFC Heavyweight champion Bas Rutten; the self-same man currently stood in Kimbo’s corner, barking instructions on how to escape it.

His words were all for naught, as referee Dan Miragliotta initiated a ludicrously early stand–up for inactivity in what would ultimately be his least controversial call of the night. 

Seizing the moment, the Florida Man battered Thompson with a series of shots that sent his eyes spinning. 

It wasn’t enough. 

With two minutes on the clock, Slice was taken down for the second time, and Thompson unleashed hell. 

It wasn’t the kind of stomach-churning, Mark Kerr-esque ‘crush your skull like that scene from Irreversible’ kind of ground ‘n’ pound, but the footage could be used today as a tutorial on what ‘intelligent defense’ is not. 

“There’s nothing going on guys!” hollered Miragliotta, inexplicably, as Thompson bounced elbow after elbow off his opponent’s skull. 

The clock eventually ran out, but Slice was exhausted. 


Surely, it was just a matter of time. 

Or was it? 

Seconds into the round, a thunderous, looping right hand landed with an audible splat on the side of Thompson’s head. The camera didn’t immediately catch it, but his cauliflower ear had exploded.  

Slice followed up, every punch violently jerking ‘The Colossus’ head this way and that, glazing his eyes. 

Much to Thompson's chagrin, the referee interjected less than 40 seconds into the final frame. 

“Get your hands off my face. Your ear’s f**kin’ falling off!” growled Big Tan Dan as the incredulous Englishman attempted to shove him out of the way. 

The ending of the bout left fans with more questions than answers. 

Clearly, there was more to Kimbo Slice than coffin-nailing has-beens; the man could compete with a certain level of MMA heavyweight.  

But it was also the first time he’d looked vulnerable, exhausted in the home stretch, and a clear novice when it came to the more ‘mixed’ elements of mixed martial arts.

Despite calls for a rematch, the pair embarked on drastically differing career paths in subsequent years. 

Thompson floundered, going 1-5 (1NC) before putting together a career-best 6-fight unbeaten run from 2011 to 2014. 

His career ultimately ended after a 2017 submission loss to Phil De Fries, after which he tested positive for Drostanolone. 

Slice’s fortunes were equally mixed, but in the words of The Reverand W. Awdry, “That’s another story”. 

The pair were set to meet again in a long-awaited rematch at London’s O2 Arena on July 16th, 2016. 

Kevin Fergusson passed away on June 6th.