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The legend of Kimbo Slice

Rest in peace to one of Miami’s finest

Crushing news came last night as mixed martial arts fighter and Miami’s own Kimbo Slice died in a Margate, Florida, hospital. He was just 42 years old.

Slice — birth name Kevin Ferguson — was a hulking beast of a man with heavy fists and enormous pride. He was a linebacker at Miami’s Palmetto High School in the early 1990s before his life journey took him for a ride: homeless, then a strip-club bouncer, followed by a porn bodyguard and then ultimately a beloved backyard YouTube brawler. Slice went on to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship twice, as well as for Bellator. He had made it out. It wasn’t always like that, though.

Slice was made in a pocket of Miami called West Perrine, a place where the residents live off $11 a day and unemployment is forever high. The very idea of the backyard brawls was birthed by Dada 5000, a former bodyguard for Slice and a future fighter himself. In Billy Corben’s intense and important film Dawg Fight, Dada 5000 explained how so many of the men fighting did so to make a living, unable to secure jobs in Miami with petty drug offenses on their resumes.

“I don’t promote violence, I promote hope,” Dada 5000 told ESPN senior writer and CNN contributor LZ Granderson. “A lot of these men paid their debt back to society; they did the rehab, but they still can’t get a job. They don’t blame society for their life. … [T]hey are back here in these streets, and they would like a second chance, a chance to do the right thing, but those chances are not there. We are an alternative to the bad things.”

In 2002, Slice was charged with carrying a concealed weapon (the charges were dropped) and a year later he was pummeling neighborhood bullies in fights his friends would upload to YouTube. The very last time Slice fought was in February against Dada 5000 himself. The fight itself was a tough watch, as both men gasped for breath and clutched onto each other throughout the match, trying to stay upright. Slice won, but it was later reported that doctors told Dada 5000 he had kidney failure and multiple heart attacks during the fight.

Watch Dawg Fight and read this profile on Slice by ESPN’s Dan Le Batard. We can only salute Slice and hope for better options for the people living in a broken and brutal part of Miami. Slice showed everyone there’s a path to rise above and for that he should be celebrated always. He did Miami proud.

Ryan Cortes is a staff writer for The Undefeated. Lemon pepper his wings.