CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Having been told repeatedly that he is "the lead act in a circus" that started in some Miami boatyard, Kevin Ferguson, better known as Internet fighting sensation "Kimbo Slice," is tired of and offended by the label.
"No more of that," the 34-year-old heavyweight growled early Sunday morning.
Why should the world consider Slice a legitimate mixed martial artist, one who deserved to headline a card on Showtime that also promoted a former UFC heavyweight champion and other respected veterans of the sport?
It's rather simple, said his trainer, Bas Rutten.
"What he's got, he's got [guts]," said Rutten. "He can take a hit, and he really likes to fight. It's not an act with him. He really likes to hurt people."
Saturday on the campus of the University of Miami, Slice not only got to hurt someone -- David "Tank" Abbott, an older version of Slice from a bygone era in MMA -- but he showed why top billing in just his second professional fight was reasonable.
From the moment the intimidating fighter strode to the cage, the 6,187 people inside the BankUnited Center stood. None would take a seat again until it was time to drive home. And surely the conversation on that ride centered on Slice's blistering right hand that ended Abbott's night just 43 seconds after the opening bell.
The fight itself wasn't noteworthy. Slice came out looking to strike. Abbott momentarily thought of a takedown. But as happens with men like these, everything went out the window.
"I just said, 'Screw it,' and decided to fight him," said Abbott, who hasn't won a fight of consequence in years and owns just one victory in nine tries since 1998.
Yet, for the same reason it didn't matter that Slice (now 2-0) had just one professional fight to his name, it didn't mean a thing that Abbott (9-14) had failed in MMA for almost a decade when he began winging right hands.
Men like Abbott and Slice have that uncanny "what's going to happen next" quotient. As punches winged, the crowd roared. They were getting exactly what they had come to see. The potential was enough. It's a lesson that should serve Slice well, whether or not he evolves into a top-10 heavyweight.
Three times Slice dropped Abbott, who was slow and awkward next to the quick bursts that the fight-for-dough street brawler brought into the EliteXC cage. Hooks and straights came heavy and hard. There was no pretense, no feeling out process. This was, as the billing suggested, "street certified."
But in that manic pace resided the truly intriguing thing about Slice, blunt-loving family man: He was prepared to, if necessary, fight like a professional.
"I was expecting Tank to come out, possibly with a takedown, possibly with a sloppy left to try to plant his right," Slice said. "In a sense, I was well prepared to come with anything he was gonna come with, like my trainers train me to be for any of my fights."
And that is where, in just two fights, he already has differentiated himself from Abbott.
While Abbott, 42, has relied on his persona and heavy right hand, Slice is trained and learned. Under the tutelage of Rutten and Randy Khatami, the unique Slice stands to become a unique fighter -- although Abbott still was reserving judgment.
It's Slice's aptitude for fighting, which Rutten said was evident when the new pro made adjustments during Saturday's fight, that could set him apart from other brawlers who tried to make it big in MMA.
"At the moment you saw he was too close [to connect with punches on Abbott], he was realizing he was too close," the trainer said. "He corrected that in the cage. And for a fighter, that is something that is very rare. With that said, he's got a lot of talent."
Talent, charisma and an innate ability to captivate an audience have EliteXC and Showtime excited about Slice.
"I think he could be one of the anchors of our company for a long time, because he's the type wherever he goes, he's going to attract attention," promoter Gary Shaw said.
He already has.
Silva wins on televised undercard
Following three tight rounds, the judges at ringside disagreed on the winner. It was understandable; both men had their moments in the competitive contest. Even exchanges on the feet made the opening round close until Rodriguez scored with a double-leg takedown of the former super heavyweight. The position and subsequent ground striking were enough for two judges to award the first round to Rodriguez.
Silva recovered with a controlling middle round to sweep the period on the score sheets. Working from the top position, Silva pummeled Rodriguez, opening a cut on his right eyelid.
"I got hit hard," Rodriguez said. "There were points where I thought, 'Wow, I'm in trouble.' I came back, and I think the fight went back-and-forth."
Judges Rich Coreen and Hector Gomez saw the third in favor of Silva, while Chris Lee dissented. Final scores had it 30-27 (Coreen) and 29-28 (Gomez) for the American Top Team-trained Silva, while Lee finished with a 29-28 tally for Rodriguez.
"It's the first time anybody has ever gone past the first round with me," said Silva, who revealed at the post-event news conference that two weeks before the bout, he tore a medial collateral ligament. "I want to congratulate Ricco; he's a very tough guy. I hope in the future I'll be fighting for the belt."
Smith ignores boos to knock out Noke
Apparently, Scott Smith didn't like the boos.
Following an opening period that brought loud jeers and an impromptu chant of "Kimbo! Kimbo!" inside the packed arena, Smith (13-5) landed a straight right that knocked out Australian middleweight Kyle Noke seven seconds into the second frame. The veteran Californian pounced and connected with an additional winging punch that sliced open the right corner of Noke's mouth as he lay in a heap along the cage fencing.
The explosive end came after a five-minute stretch in which Noke (14-4-1) repeatedly scored with jabs and left hooks.
"Kyle was picking me apart," Smith said. "I knew if this fight went the distance, he would probably win the fight. He won that first round."
The short-armed Smith, 2-2 in UFC competition and a veteran of "The Ultimate Fighter 4," apologized for the slow start, although he really didn't need to, despite the cries of a blood-thirsty crowd.
Edwards owns Berto
Fighting at 160 pounds, Yves Edwards went to 3-0 since joining the ranks of South Florida's American Top Team with a beautiful counter knee to a single-leg takedown against Edson Berto.
Edwards' resurgence since losing five of seven fights was exemplified in his performance against the dangerous Berto, a fighter who possesses the tools to win against elite competition but has had mixed results.
The brother of boxing welterweight contender Andre Berto, Edson used his striking early to show he belonged in the cage with Edwards, once considered the finest lightweight in the UFC. The fighters exchanged kicks to the midsection and close submissions before Edwards established control of the opening round with a good series of strikes from Berto's guard.
Although he was active, Edwards' work wasn't enough for referee Jorge Ortiz, who stood the fighters as the round moved toward its conclusion. Berto (13-5-1) moved for a single-leg takedown, but Edwards (33-13-1) fought it off perfectly by pushing the Tampa-based fighter's head down toward the canvas.
They remained nearly frozen in the position before Edwards delivered a perfectly timed knee with his plant leg. The short strike put Berto down, and Edwards delivered another punch before Ortiz intervened with four seconds remaining on the clock.
Mega Punk gets his
British heavyweight James "Mega Punk" Thompson rushed at St. Paul, Minn., fighter Brett Rogers as soon as referee Troy Waugh opened the evening's televised portion. While Thompson's aggression should not have surprised anyone, his effort to wrestle Rogers after a career full of brawls was strange.
The Mohawk-wearing Rogers didn't need much time to illustrate why Thompson's game plan was an ill-fated one.
Having created enough distance and shown Thompson (14-8) -- whose modified style could be tied directly to his recent move to Randy Couture's Las Vegas gym -- he would not go to the canvas without a serious fight, Rogers (6-0) unloaded a powerful combination that put the veteran heavyweight on the canvas for good.
Against the fence, the 264-pound Rogers scored with a knee in the clinch. He followed with a left hand, overhand right and two more punches, the last coming as Thompson started to go down, to force a stop of the fight at the 2:24 mark.
"I'm very disappointed," Thompson said. "Obviously he caught me. He hit a lot harder than I thought. My confidence just wasn't where I would like it to be or where it should be after my last fight."
Josh Gross is the editor of Sherdog.com.