September 29, 2009

by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
“I’m not a mixed martial artist, I’m a fighter. I’m gonna fight him, win or lose.”

Such were the words of Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson when his fight against Roy Nelson was announced for this week’s episode of “The Ultimate Fighter: The Heavyweights.” And perhaps this simplicity is the appeal of the man who built his initial reputation in backyard brawls on YouTube.

Nelson is a former International Fight League champion. His professional record is 13-4. He enters the bout with Kimbo coming off of back-to-back losses for the first time in his lengthy career, but those losses were to former UFC heavyweight title challenger Jeff Monson and former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. Nelson has four times the mixed martial arts experience of Kimbo.

The majority of his fight experience being the aforementioned backyard punch-outs that highlight him on YouTube, Kimbo has a record of 3-1 in MMA. Most of those bouts were little more than his backyard experiences, save for a tough test against British brawler James Thompson.

In Nelson, Kimbo easily faces the most difficult test of his career. He must fight a true, well-rounded mixed martial artist.

“I wouldn’t want it no other way,” he said during a conference call with the media on Monday to promote Wednesday night’s TUF episode.

And he’s not fazed by the attention the fight has drawn.

“It’s just the first fight for me after my last fight,” he said, of course knowing full well what the result is with the episode being filmed months ago. “This fight is very exciting. This fight is probably, pound for pound, one of my best fights.”

Regardless of how the fight turned out, Kimbo will be fighting again in December’s finale. It’s now just a matter of finding out if he made it to the finals of the series, or whether he’ll be part of the supporting cast elsewhere on the card. But either way, he knows he has work to do and has already begun to shoulder the load.

“I’m still there… a puncher working on my ground game. Mixed martial arts, it’s that type of training where you learn life. The more you roll, the more you learn. That’s something you have to continue to do,” said Kimbo, adding that he has signed on to train with American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla.

“I need a camp now. I need to be involved in a camp; I need a home. That’s why I made this move that I’ve made.”

But he knows now the focus is on his TUF experience and whether or not this fighter can run the gauntlet to become a mixed martial artist.

It doesn’t come easy. Every athlete at this level pays his dues.

“That’s just pretty much how it is in the world; you have to prove yourself.”

And visual evidence of that proof comes Wednesday night.