After five years away from mixed martial arts, Kimbo Slice is back. Slice, aka Kevin Ferguson, announced his return to the sport where his star first exploded by inking a multi-fight contract with Bellator MMA late last week, and despite his 41st birthday peeking from around the corner, the one-time street brawler says he never for a second doubted that he'd lace up those four-ounce gloves for one last ride.
"These guys been in bed for a little bit trying to make this s**t work for me," Slice said on Tuesday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"I knew we were going to eventually get back into it, but on the playing field of Bellator, that I didn't expect. So that right there put a real big smile on my face."
An enigmatic heavyweight who rose to prominence with a slew of brutal street fighting videos in the early-Youtube era, Slice made his mixed martial arts debut in the summer of 2007, submitting former WBO boxing champion Ray Mercer with a 72-second guillotine. He went on to become a bona fide ratings star for Showtime, CBS, and even Spike TV, generating the highest viewership totals The Ultimate Fighter has even seen with his run on the UFC's flagship reality show.
Slice eventually washed out of the sport, just as many observers figured he would, and shifted over to professional boxing, where he compiled an undefeated 7-0 record from 2011 to 2013 (although not without the help of a few miracles). However Slice says that even during that time, the cage was never far from his mind.
"The reason why is because as the time went on, this s**t started sticking to me, like grits," Slice said. "I would feel the rolls, I would feel the sprawls, I would feel the armbars. I would feel certain things, and just moving around, it started coming natural. The ground game became natural, like second nature with the standup, just putting them together.
"Doing boxing for ‘x' amount of years, three, four years doing boxing, I always had that MMA [inclination] to throw a knee or kick this dude in the head, but I couldn't do it."
Slice recently picked back up where he left off, re-familiarizing himself with the nuances of mixed martial arts alongside Bellator and UFC stars alike down in Coconut Creek, FL at American Top Team. Despite all his time away from the sport, Slice says he feels stronger and more proficient now than he ever did during his UFC heyday.
"I know I have (evolved)," said Slice. "Rolling with these guys and being put in awkward positions over the years, it just took time. That's what it was, I was just too young back then. I was like a bull. I was just headstrong, running in there ready to just [swinging] my horns around.
"But now I've got a lot more tools to work with. I mean, s**t, I would like to be tested on the ground. I would like for a motherf**ker to come in there and try and test me, to see if they're going to try to get me down and they get caught with something. I mean, that's what I would be looking for, a guy to come in, to try to take me straight to the ground. Yeah, go for it."
While a timeline for Slice's Bellator debut has yet to be finalized, Bellator President Scott Coker told MMAFighting.com that a summer date is likely, and Slice already did Coker the service of suggesting a few names for his first test, chief among them former Slice nemesis Seth Petruzelli or resurrected old-school star Tito Ortiz.
As for those who may criticize his signing as nothing more than a publicity stunt, Slice's response is simple.
"We need the haters," Slice said. "Even though they are haters, they're going to have their own comment, but at the end of the day, we know it's love. We give them something to talk about. We give them something to depend on. We give them something to have something to say. It's good barbershop talk. It's good for communication. So I like the haters."