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On Kimbo Slice: Bas Rutten For The Defense

(“El Guapo” reminds you: don’t hate the player, hate the game.)

by Ben Fowlkes

Arguing over Kimbo Slice has been a favorite pastime of MMA fans, journalists, and even fighters, ever since the big man entered sanctioned competition. Well, Bas Rutten has heard all the criticism, and he has something to say.

In the latest episode of HDNet’s “Inside MMA”(Props: MMA Junkie), Rutten took aim at those who would attempt to disparage his protégé.

“He’s good to the fans, and he treats the people good. He talks good about the other fighters. He never talks bad. They talk bad about him, but not the other way around.

“He trains hard. He’s a role model. The guy’s never been in jail, and (yet) they say he’s a thug. The guy is doing a really good job, but everyone is just asking about him all the time, and it drives the other fighters nuts.”

Now, far be it from me to disagree with “El Guapo”, but there might be more to it than that. Rutten has some good points, namely that jealousy could be playing a part in the acrimony that comes from other fighters. Not only are they probably sick of being asked about him, but the guy is making six figures a fight with Elite XC. Other guys who have been paying their dues since the nineties consider themselves lucky to make that in a year, so you can understand why that might irk them.

But something about the assertion that since Kimbo has never been to jail we shouldn’t call him a thug rings false to me. First of all, do we really want to start giving people credit for staying out of jail? And second, maybe the reason people accuse him of being a thug is because he used to participate in illegal underground fights for the pornographers that he did security for.

While I don’t begrudge Kimbo the opportunity to make a living (we all sell what we have, whether it’s business acumen or the ability to hurt people), I do tend to think that it’s this semi-public background that draws the thug criticism.

Then again, I think there’s another issue that we’re all reluctant to bring up: race. If Kimbo wasn’t black, if he was a white guy who went from being an internet bad-ass to being a pro fighter, would the attitude toward him be different?

I tend to think yes, but only somewhat.

Consider the example of Igor Zinoviev. He was a Russian fighter in the early days of MMA. He beat Mario Sperry and had his collarbone broken by Frank Shamrock. But before he fought in sanctioned MMA bouts he fought in illegal, underground fights in Brooklyn warehouses. Sure, they didn’t have sanctioned MMA at the time (or viral video), but that doesn’t make those fights any less illegal or the clientele any less likely to be sketchy gangsters.

The point is, their stories are similar, or as similar as they can be considering their different backgrounds (Zinoviev was a Soviet Army commando before the fall of communism, and afterwards did some “security” for the people who filled that power vacuum in St. Petersburg).

And yet, with Zinoviev people seem to think it’s cool. Like something out of ‘Street Fighter II’ or a Van Damme movie. With Kimbo they call it thuggish. Maybe it’s because of the cultural differences more than the racial ones, but it’s still worth thinking about.

In any regard, some wonder whether Elite XC’s decision to anchor their first ever network show with a card headlined by a former street brawler is the best way to help legitimize the sport. To the extent that the criticism stems from that concern, it’s mostly valid. To the extent that it stems from jealousy or racism, it’s not.

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Tavi- January 9, 2009 at 2:51 pm
Obviously you don't understand a thing about this sport, and it's because of people like you that Dana White decided to make that cheap show (U.Fighter) the way it is. U need idiots too, in order to build a solid fan base. But there is a lot more to this sport that a two big people beating the shit out of each other. Keep watching, maybe you will understand one day...
Once again, it's because of idiots like you that I find myself defending this sport every day.
BruceLeroy- August 22, 2008 at 4:16 pm
Travesty is a freakin travesty! Kimbo will never be able to beat Fedor, and I'm a Kimbo fan. You freakin idiot, like Breaton says, you must not know very much about MMA. Please watch the sport for a few more years before you get on a site like this and make a total fool out of yourself. Why do you think they don't put Kimbo up against anyone with any real talent yet? He's not ready. Give Bas another year or two with him, and get him off those damn cigaretes, and he'll be a good heavyweight contender in anyones organization. They won't even let him fight Bret Rogers right now because they don't know "for sure" he can win. He barely beat Thompson in his last the way who the hell is Bret Rogers???
rhys- May 27, 2008 at 10:59 pm
guys who think kimbos got better hands then chuck.

i wanna hear your reasoning behind this.

cmon, dont just come out and say, kimbos got way better stand up then chuck, say WHY hes got better stand up then Chuck.

i can say right now that fedor sucks. untill i say WHY ppl will diss me as a hater or an idiot.

honestly chuck will eat kimbo for breakfast, he like aggresive guys like kimbo who wade in and vtry and ko you in the first few minutes, and plus the fact chuck will literally be able to take him down whenever he wants.
Kamander- April 27, 2008 at 8:18 pm
Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson is a good fight for EliteXC. Thompson is a big intimidating fighter that fought a bunch in Pride. He can knock you out and he will probably try unsuccessfully to take Kimbo down. This is exactly what EXC wants, and understandably so; a fight the looks challanging but is ultimately winnable for Slice. From a marketing to casual fan perspective it doesn't matter how many times he's been knocked out, or the quality of opponents he's beat.

I don't think EliteXC should make this the main event, but I can certainly understand their decision. Kimbo is their claim to fame among casual fans, but I think they can accomplish their goal by focusing their pre-fight marketing on this fight, but making Lawler vs. Smith the main event. This is just like what they did with Silva vs. Rodriguez.

EliteXC has to make sure that they have an exciting main event for their network television debut. Remember that as intriguing as Noguiera/Sylvia was, Mir/Lesnar was ultimately the more exciting fight. However, Lawler vs. Smith certainly has all the potential to be just as exciting as Kimbo vs. Thompson, if not more so. Also EliteXC should be looking past Kimbo as their lone star. After all it's practically inevitable that he will eventually be beat, and there is always a chance he could switch promotions. I don't think viewers will stop watching after the Kimbo fight, especially if there is a title fight afterwards. Also making Lawler vs. Smith the main event says to viewers that they have more to offer then just one star and demonstrates an appreciation for mixed martial arts as a sport, which sounds very respectable.

As for the idea that Kimbo vs. Thompson shouldn't be the main event because it's not a proper depiction of MMA as a sport, I could not disagree with this more. Consider Jackson vs. Liddell II. That fight wound up about as skilled as Kimbo vs. Tank.

Kimbo's past does set a bad precedent, but you can't blame Kimbo or EliteXC. On one hand you don't want to set the example that criminal activity is a lucrative course. On the other hand it's Kimbo's turning himself into a legit mixed martial artist that leads to success. Ultimately he deserves a chance like everyone else.
Vrax- April 24, 2008 at 4:44 pm
Yes, Ben I do think race is a factor. I think that a lot of the appeal of watching fights for many people is the idea that they could do it themselves, "be that guy" who is smashing face and snappin' elbows.

As you've noted before (BET show anyone?) most MMA fans are white males. While there may be a subset of said populace that does envision themselves black men, it's got to be a small percentage.

So instead of that type of fan envisioning himself in the role of Slice, they see Kimbo in the role of opponent or aggressor. And the fact that he used to KO people on the street probably only reinforces the idea that he might "get them" in some thug-like manner.

To many white guys Kimbo Slice is the embodiment of their overblown fears of black guys, which is just sad.

In the case of Igor Zinoviev people are A) having an easy time wanting to be him, because of his caucasoid genes, and B) romanticizing his military status. I mean, he was a secret agent, right? Like Q made gadgets for him and he got to bang hot European girls, right? That's how 007 does it, see.

Sorry to elevate the level of discourse above the usual grunting and barking about Fedor. I feel out of place.
thug life- April 24, 2008 at 3:56 pm
doing some backyard brawls does not make you a thug...the combination of race and jealousy definitely factors into the kimbo hating. in every interview i've heard, he repeats that he has no problem paying his dues, and is incredibly respectful. but people can't look past the beard and the scowl.

look, most of the fighters in MMA today found out they could fight by fighting everyone around them, and learning that they had a gift for knocking people the f*ck out. i'd say getting in street fights makes you more of a thug than underground fighting, because at least in underground fighting, both people know what they're getting into and agree to it. kimbo even says today he wouldn't even do the underground fights anymore because it wouldn't be fair. yet we celebrate the myth of other guys who still can't stay out of fights outside of the cage (such as Urijah Faber's escapades in Bali). people also hate on kimbo cause they want to bait him into taking on a fight beyond his skill level just so they can knock him down. give the guy a break...he'll take on the top tier guys when he's ready, and we'll get a much better fight when that happens. until then, let's chill on the kimbo hatin.
Bdizzle- April 24, 2008 at 3:40 pm
You have to earn your right to fight top 10 fighters. Right now what Kimbo is doing is climbing that ladder.

Exciting fights sell tickets. Kimbo is an exciting fight. If you want the sport to last you have to have draw.

Let's talk about kimbo again after the next fight and see what happens. Who knows he might be 16-0 in 2 years and holding a title.

Jealousy, Envy.... Sure was spoken.
Alex- April 24, 2008 at 2:53 pm
Good editorial here. You are correct that Kimbo never went to jail. He did, however, go to Thug U (University of Miami) to play football, but left before he did.

Just to add...people love Wandy, but you can't forget his days in the mid nineties fighting Vale Tudo. Plus Bas himself is a legendary street fighter - I know because I have the DVDs.
Jason- April 24, 2008 at 2:09 pm
Kimbo is getting paid six figures cause people (including me) want to see him fight! Regardless of his skill level the fact that he's humble in interviews and KNOWS he has a long way to go before he's ready to fight top-level fighters makes me want to watch him.

He knows himself it'll take him a long time but he doesn't care he'll train as long as he needs to. That's the impression I get and I rarely see it from other fighters.

Yeah so what he's been fighting a few cans thus far - he's COMPLETELY new to MMA. Or did you guys want to pull a Brock Lesnar and have him tap out in 90 seconds.
Jpayne- April 24, 2008 at 2:06 pm
Uhh...I'm pretty sure Kimbo has been to jail. He gave an interview three years ago talking about how he went to prison and learned how to fight the hard way.
Gary- April 24, 2008 at 1:18 pm
i think you are puttin way too much thought into this.. what happened to just entertaining the watchers? put together good fights that people want to watch, thats what its all about
El_Loco- April 24, 2008 at 12:11 pm
Personally i think Kimbo's great for the sport. Yes he's unproven, but he is new to the game and i don't believe that a loss at this point in his career would hurt him that much. He's marketable, likeable and entertaining its personalities like his that draw huge loyal fan bases that transcend all demographics and could help in mainstreaming our sport.
Blackleg- April 24, 2008 at 11:43 am
I like Kimbo. He's a decent guy, fairly well spoken and seems to be honest in wanting to make good on the hype that EXC has built around him. I'm all for it. I'd be less inclined to support them if it was 'Crazyhorse' they were pushing as the "next big thing" in MMA. I'm happy to see a US fighter being pushed to the front that isn't a fucking redneck and/or gigantic douche-bag.

Bas knows what he's talking about, he's amping Kimbo because he's trained with him and has seen the commitment and ability Slice has presented. Bas isn't saying he's the be-all-end-all. He's just saying stop the hating, back the fuck up and let Kimbo show what he's got.
C-Bus Allstar- April 24, 2008 at 11:34 am
I am sick of Fedor fans. I think Fedor is an overpaid, overhyped, (almost) over-the-hill champion. Yea he was a beast back in Pride, but how long has it been since he's fought top 10 competition? Over a year? 2 years? Come the fuck on. I don't think he's as good as everyone in the fuckin world seems to think he is. I mean, he barely took out Hong Man Choi, and that guy is about as fucking close to Bob Sapp status as it gets.

Granted, Kimbo isn't a champion, nor is he champion material (yet). But he's got something that a lot of fighters seem to be lacking lately. And that's HUNGER. He's HUNGRY for fights, he's HUNGRY for training.. and from what Bas Rutten says of him, he absorbs everything like a sponge and treats everyone around him with the utmost respect while doing so.

Overall, Fedor is overrated, and Kimbo is still new to MMA, give it time.. give him time.
Bigokie- April 24, 2008 at 10:28 am
TX... let me know when you're ready to be the house on Lidell vs Kimbo... I could use a new house.

I also am glad to see Kimbo in MMA. If his only sin is that he took a different path getting in the mix (streetfighting) then so be it. People are pissed off because he didn't supposedly work his way up the ladder of lesser events, training in MMA type gyms, etc.

If Kimbo is for real... he'll prove it. If not... that will be proven too. If nothing else, it makes for interesting viewing and, lets face it, makes the sport we love more popular. God help me, I'm finding it hard to watch boxing anymore.
KTFO- April 24, 2008 at 7:20 am
Oh and by the way a sleeping Fedor could destroy Kimbo on his best day.
KTFO- April 24, 2008 at 7:18 am
Wether or not Kimbo ever proves himself to be a true MMA monster worthy of a belt does remain to be seen....but you have to admit this guy is wringing his shammy for all it's worth, and cashing in on it in a major way. Maybe if Dana had a lick of common sense he would have paired Lesner with a lesser opponent to build the hype, instead of petering out in less than five minutes. Kudos to Kimbo and Bas for getting it while the gettin's good.
geoff- April 24, 2008 at 7:16 am
rob, warpath was a fill in at almost last second. i give him props for even going in the ring despite bas' long break(if u want to call it that). i mean the guy can kick like a fucken horse.

anyways, i agree that it's great to watch kimbo's career develop. I used to watch his old videos and to see him start fighting legitimately in mma is cool. Yea, he fought all cans so far...but honestly, it would be a stupid move right now for elitexc to put him toe to toe with top fighters(like they even rly can with the different contracts). He needs to train more (specifically some ground game) and fight a few cans before taking on top names. We all know all the hype would drop a lot if he get his ass handed to him now..

travesty, fedor would get kimbo in an armbar after his first swing..
Grant- April 24, 2008 at 5:03 am
hey is it just me or is Bas looking really creepy these days? old-man-creepster vibe? no? anyone?

and hey isnt it the PUBLIC's fault that kimbo is where he's at, and other mma guys who have been "in the game since the 90s" or whatever ARENT in the limelight? who makes the hype? the fighter or the people who watch it and the media? we dont have to buy into this man, by we (i speak generally here), DO. long live fedor!

sorry for the caps, id rather use italics haha.
Rob Enderle- April 24, 2008 at 4:22 am
Almost two decades of hard work and the MMA network breakthrough is going to be done on the shoulders of a cartoon character.
Not that the reality UFC product is any less cartoonish in their promotion of athletes.

Mercer, Cantrell, Tank.
Wow, color me totally unimpressed.
I wouldnt be surprised if Butterbean comes after J.Thompson whose main talent is that mean stare of his which must impress pre-Ks.
Thompson's stare is as impressive as Cantrell's so that's promising.

What was the name of that can that Bas Rutten last fought? Warpath?
Oh yeah, he could be next opponent.

Anyone see that YAMMA fight between Ricco Rodriguez vs. Travis Wiuff?
That fat gut was once UFC champ.
He is also on the EliteXC roster so you know this travesty will happen.

Still, you got to be happy for Kimbo. Chances were higher that hed be lying in a puddle of blood after being stabbed at one of those gangbangers circle jerks than running this big scam. He's playing with house money.

I dont say I wouldnt be interested in seeing him go against Antonio Sylva who is with EliteXC but so far his 3 opponents were total jokes.
Kalib Starnes cant be far behind.
dugmouth- April 24, 2008 at 3:49 am
i agree with Adam, EliteXC doesnt care about the sport. you can argue about the ufc and their duty to the fighters, but despite Bas' carefully guarded statements (which only help to defend a straight up newbe) Ferguson looks like and acehole. oh well, he's nothing great and we all know it!!
Jason- April 24, 2008 at 3:19 am
* Awaits comment from Kimbo's Lice :D
lolwut- April 24, 2008 at 2:35 am
haha you play warcraft!
Warcraft- April 24, 2008 at 2:23 am
Do you think Chuck Liddell would lose a fight against Kimbo?
If you do you need to drop that crackpipe.
Give kimbo a few more years to mature and he might have a shot but right now he be food for the beast.
Warcraft- April 24, 2008 at 2:17 am
Who is gonna let kimbo fight any of those top 10 fighters? Are there any in the EliteXC?
I think kimbo got some talent but its getting overblown by everyone and there cousin.
Kimbo is almost like a one-hit wonder he knocks out a few bums in and out the cage and all the sudden hes plantium status.