The Kimbo Slice vs. Roy Nelson fight that will air Wednesday night on Spike TV was set up by former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, Nelson's coach this season on The Ultimate Fighter. And Evans said in an interview with FanHouse that he set up that fight for one reason: He wanted to see Kimbo get knocked out, and he thought Nelson was the man to do it.
That wasn't intended as a slight toward Kimbo, whom Evans says he likes. It was intended as a slight toward Rampage Jackson, Evans' coaching rival, whom Evans says he desperately wanted to beat on the show -- just as he desperately wanted to beat him in the Octagon before Jackson walked away from the UFC to pursue an acting career. Jackson made Kimbo his first choice when the coaches picked their teams, and Evans said he thought Nelson was just the man to whip Jackson's first-round draft pick.
"I was thinking about winning, and that's why I wanted Roy to beat Kimbo -- I thought Roy could knock Kimbo out," Evans said. "It's not just that Roy can trade punches with Kimbo, but Roy has been in big fights before and he was the only guy who I could be sure wouldn't get sucked into the mystique of Kimbo Slice."
Like everyone affiliated with The Ultimate Fighter, Evans is careful not to reveal any spoilers about what actually happened when Kimbo fought Nelson. But he does say that before the fight, he considered Nelson one of the best fighters on Season 10 of the show -- and he considered Kimbo one of the worst.
However, in hindsight, Evans says he actually sees Kimbo and Nelson as very similar. He said he thinks they both have big things in store for them if they work hard enough, but he's worried that both of them lack the work ethic to put themselves through grueling training camps with world-class coaches.
"Roy's biggest problem is he's always trained by himself, and he doesn't always seem like he knows how to take coaching," Evans said. "Kimbo can be a very, very good fighter under the right tutelage. Whether he gets that training? That's on him."
Evans said he thinks Kimbo needs to markedly improve his Brazilian jiu jitsu skills, so it's a good sign that Kimbo is training at American Top Team with black belt Ricardo Liborio. But more than that, Evans said Kimbo needs to reshape his body: According to Evans, Kimbo's broad shoulders and bulging biceps mask the fact that he doesn't have the kind of explosive power in his legs that MMA fighters need.
Nelson, on the other hand, has the jiu jitsu skills, and he also has that explosive power in his legs, even though his body looks doughy. In fact, Evans said his nickname for Nelson was "Jiu Jitsu Panda" because, like the protagonist in Kung Fu Panda, Nelson's skills as a martial artist are greater than you'd think from looking at him.
But while Evans was impressed by Nelson's MMA abilities, he said he thinks Nelson could stand to learn from Kimbo's street-fighting mentality. Evans said Kimbo is the kind of guy who always comes out looking to fight, while Nelson lacks the killer instinct that great fighters have.
"Roy's got everything that every great heavyweight needs to have, he just needs to push himself in the Octagon," Evans said. "Roy doesn't put himself in the attack mode all the time."
In a fight that UFC President Dana White said could draw 7 million viewers to Spike TV, that contrast will be on display: Nelson, the experienced mixed martial artist who doesn't always look like a fighter, against Kimbo, the hard-core street fighter who doesn't always look like a skilled martial artist. Was Evans right when he picked Nelson to KO Kimbo? We'll all find out on Wednesday night.
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