Monday, October 6, 2008

Kimbo Gets Sliced by Smoothie King

Kimbo Gets Sliced by Smoothie King
for The Bleacher Report

A few heartbeats before Glory.

Seth Petruzelli woke up Saturday expecting to fight in a never-to-be-seen untelevised undercard fight with Aaron Rosa. He had only fought 4 times since 2004, having gone 2-2, and although still under contract with UFC for additional fights, had back in September decided to fight in the EliteXC. Petruzelli's most recent accomplishment was the sale of his interest in ATT Orlando, a gym he had been invested in, and the purchase of his first Smoothie King franchise with his girlfriend.

The showdown between Ken "World's Most Dangerous Man" Shamrock and Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson had been hyped by CBS and EliteXC for months as the next step in the unfolding legend of Kimbo. Set to take place just outside Kimbo's hometown of Miami in Sunrise, FL, the expectation surrounding this fight was that Shamrock would be a terrific challenge that Kimbo would easily clobber, possibly annihilate.

Shamrock, once one of the most feared men in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, had not won a fight in over four years.

Seth Petruzelli was considered a has-been as well--He had been a contestant in the second season of The Ultimate Fighter but had lost in the semi-finals to Brad Imes, and had lost his next two UFC fights. He was known to have talent, however, and his 90% knockout percentage was nothing to sneeze at.

Elsewhere Saturday morning, Ken Shamrock was cut above his eye by an accidental head butt in a light training session and was deemed unfit to fight by state officials. EliteXC rushed to replace him, considering first turning to his brother Frank who was not allowed to participate either by state officials or CBS.

Through the power of the Internet, Kimbo Slice went from being an anonymous backyard brawler to being a multi-media superstar almost seemingly overnight. He first appeared in several filmed underground fights made and promoted through his personal association with RK Netmedia, better known as "Reality Kings", the purveyors of a number of popular adult subscription websites, such as MILF Hunter, and Captain Stabbin.

While on the scales for Friday's "EliteXC: Heat" weigh-ins with a pink streak running through his hair and striking a gorilla pose, 28-year-old Seth Petruzelli (then 10-4) was standing on the verge of instant stardom.

Critics have long held the belief that Kimbo Slice's popularity is the result of his internet presence, and the need of EliteXC to have a mainstream talent to rival the names of their direct competitor, the UFC.

Kimbo's sole loss had been to a Boston police officer named Sean Gannon, in a fight that Kimbo's camp alledges broke one of the few rules that governed his street brawls. Gannon is quoted as saying, "It's not my fault Kimbo's crew is ignorant of MMA techniques and styles."

Many of MMA's purists have a negative view on EliteXC, believing that it's promotion is largely centered on the "entertainment" aspect of MMA, as opposed to the actual fight product. The upstart EliteXC has had few mainstream talents defect from the UFC, although Tito Ortiz was in attendance Saturday night.

"EliteXC has few name fighters and the conundrum of Slice." Dan Wetzel analyzed pre-fight "He’s the most famous and popular fighter in the world yet he may not be a top 50 heavyweight. He’s fought professionally just three times and it’s unlikely he’d make it out of the first round with anyone in the UFC."

While it is unclear whether EliteXC attempted to first arrange a fight between Kimbo and Aaron Rosa, by 8:30pm it had been agreed that Kimbo would face Petruzelli, and that an undisclosed sum of money would go to Kimbo's purse for the last-minute change in fighter.

The tale of the tape was stacked largely in Kimbo's favor--a heavy weight fighting at 240 pounds and two inchs taller than Petruzelli, most observers thought Petruzelli, fighting at 205, would be an easy meal for Kimbo.

Instead the match lasted mere seconds as Kimbo rushed at Petruzelli, who backed up and attempted two karate-style front kicks. The first was ineffective, and the second halted Kimbo just enough for Petruzelli to glace a punch above Kimbo's eye, stunning him and laying him onto the canvas, at which point Petruzelli attacked with a flurry of punches that the referee quickly ended as Kimbo was obviously not defending himself.

"I kind of have a different style than most stand-up fighters," Petruzelli said in the evening's post-fight press conference. "I'm a stand-up fighter myself, but my traditional karate background kind of throws people's boxing styles off. I knew [Slice's] style was real straight-forward boxing, and I do well against boxers that I train with."

"It definitely hasn't set in yet," Petruzelli said. "It feels like a dream sequence for me. I'm not used to all the attention. I mean I was getting a little bit of attention after 'The Ultimate Fighter,' but this is just 10-fold now."

EliteXC has been counting on Kimbo Slice's fame as their prime investment.

Earlier this year, before Kimbo's fight with James "Colossus" Thompson, ESPN The Magazine surmised that Kimbo and MMA have a lot in common despite the MMA Elitists and Establishment that is very outspokenly against him.

"Besides, Kimbo's and MMA's stories are exactly the same. Up from the gutter. Secretly popular. Misunderstood. Violent. Criticized. Dangerous. Fun. Cool. Bloody. Viral. And now, finally, mainstream. Think about all the sports and leagues that aren't as popular in the U.S. despite huge financial backing: soccer, the WNBA, maybe even the NHL. MMA popped up because we demanded it, stepping over protests and outrage. It mixes football's violence with pro wrestling's entertainment and more sciences than boxing. Kimbo combines Mike Tyson's mystique and Mr. T's personality."

“I got my first black eye,” Kimbo laughed at the post-bout press conference. He later turned to Petruzelli and joked, “You knocked me out in front of my family; that’s fucked up.”

Tito Ortiz named his dog "Kimbo Slice".

It’ll never be the same, not for the fighter and not, perhaps, for the entire EliteXC promotion that just lost its signature star on top of the $58 million it’s burned the past two years.

Afterward, EliteXC execs tried to paint a bright future but admitted they needed a drink. Lower-level employees used gallows humor about finding new jobs.

Following the bout, EliteXC Vice Preident Jared Shaw said, "[Petruzelli] is now the modern-day 'Rocky Balboa...Movies are real. When opportunity knocks, you answer it. And when you open the door, there may just be a pot of gold on the other side. For Seth Petruzelli, he's now a star."

Petruzelli largely downplayed the post-fight praise. "It's humbling...It kind of secures the feelings that I had going through -- it sounds kind of corny -- but through childhood because that's how I felt growing up, that I wanted to be that person. I wanted to rise above the challenges. It was really cool. It meant a lot actually."

"I guess you could say I'm a part-time fighter," Petruzelli said. "[This win] does make me re-evaluate. I think I should concentrate more on fighting.I was fighting every six months. I think I'll be fighting every couple of months now."

Yeah, that's the whole fight.