Kimbo Slice battled through adversity at Bellator 138. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
ST. LOUIS -- For approximately three months, former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Mike Thomas Brown worked diligently to train Kimbo Slice for his first mixed martial arts bout in more than five years.
And just when Slice appeared to be on the verge of defeat in his grudge match against Ken Shamrock in the Bellator 138 headliner at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Saturday night, that preparation paid off, as the popular YouTube brawler resisted -- and then escaped -- a rear-naked choke attempt from “The World’s Most Dangerous Man.” Shamrock nearly had victory salted away when he took Slice’s back, sunk in both hooks and slid his arm under the Floridian’s trademark beard.
“I thought it was going to be tough to dig out of this one,” Brown told Sherdog.com. “That’s nearly checkmate. You’ve got one opportunity to get out of there, and he found that way.”
Somehow, Slice was able to loosen Shamrock’s grip and return to his feet. Moments later, he blasted his 51-year-old opponent with a right hook to clinch victory for the first time since December 2009. The fight itself wasn’t a thing of beauty, but few expected it to be. Slice’s ability to persevere through adversity was what impressed Brown.
“I think one of his best attributes is he’s a gamer, man. He shows up fight day and never says die,” said Brown, who since retiring from the sport now serves as a coach at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. “He’s just one of those guys that knows how to show up and fight well on fight night. Obviously he has big power in his hands, big balls and is very confident. He’s coming after you, no f---ing around and trying to take you out.”
Slice’s come-from-behind triumph was enough to make a believer out of Bellator MMA President Scott Coker.
“As far as I’m concerned he’s back,” Coker said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “This guy can hit extremely hard and you saw some of his new techniques. He fought that rear-naked choke off and stood up and did what he was supposed to do.
“We all said, ‘What if it went to the ground?’ And [if] Ken could keep him down there then this might be his night, but Kimbo was able to stand up and fight off the choke. He throws bombs; the guy is a heavy puncher. That’s how the fight ended.”
As soon as the bout with Shamrock was announced, Slice insisted that his return to MMA was not a one-and-done. He reiterated that point on Saturday night in St. Louis, although there was no obvious future opponent in the immediate aftermath of his triumph over Shamrock.
“I think there’s more opportunities out there for him, but that’s more his management’s call,” Brown said.
If the live atmosphere that surrounded his showdown with Shamrock was any indication, Slice will be welcomed back into the Bellator fold with open arms. Call the fight a circus, a sideshow or an abomination if you must, but Coker said nobody can deny that it generated more than its share of excitement.
“I haven’t felt that much electricity in the room for a fight -- the whole crowd was standing up -- and I don’t remember a fight ever where I was standing there even in Strikeforce, looking back and going, ‘Man, everyone is standing up,’” Coker said. “There were so pumped up that they couldn’t sit down.”
If and when Slice decides to return to the cage for another demonstration in MMA spectacle, he’ll have Brown in his corner.
“He’s a super humble dude, super willing to learn and just a good guy,” Brown said. “….If he wants to fight again I’ll be there. He’s got a home at ATT.”