Internet sensation turned MMA fighter, Kimbo Slice, is quickly becoming one of MMA's top draws for all the wrong reasons. Slice, aka Kevin Ferguson, carved out his path to fame by participating in numerous backyard brawls and scraps where he routinely beat up ex-cons, nefarious thugs, and other sordid characters. Slice's "promoters" in the early days were a cast of porn producers and pseudo hip-hop record entrepreneurs. This was the perfect combination for YouTube success.
Who hasn't searched "fights" on YouTube? FlyMaster definetely falls in that category, and in fact that is how Kimbo Slice first appeared on the FlyMaster's radar. Slice's fights, while entertaining on a violent level, were disturbing on another level. Slice would usually enter some ghetto neighborhood like a new age slave gladiator with his posse of pimp handlers and then he would get into combat with another despondent character, either another large black guy or trailer trash white guy or a stereotypical Latino gangster. The entire production wreaked of racism and stereotypes. The telling signs were the comments that users would post. Users played to the lowest common denominator factor. Bigoted speech, overt racism, and rampant ignorance were on full display. However, along with the ignorance and violence came page views and millions of users watching the videos. This led to Slice's catapult from the 'hood to the mainstream world of MMA.
EliteXC, an up and coming MMA company, saw the inherent value the Slice possessed. MMA's youthful fan base were aware of Slice because of the YouTube videos and EliteXC was quick to bring the fans from YouTube to PPV events featuring Slice. There was no attempt to market Slice as a technically sound fighter or as the future of the sport. Instead, Kimbo Slice was marketed just as he was by his former handlers. He was and is the baddest, most thugged-out, go for broke, ghetto superhero, and therein lies the problem.
Slice represents the same imagery that was once used to depict Jack Johnson and Joe Louis as "black gorillas" who were bred to fight. Kimbo Slice quickly became the new face of negritude, a face that long needed to be erased from our social vocabulary and knowledge base. Even the name "Kimbo" hearkens back to the horrible imagery of "Sambo and Quimbo," the two brutish slaves who worked for the master in "Uncle Tom's Cabin." In Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Sambo and Quimbo used their physical prowess and inherent violent nature to inflict punishment on the other slaves on the plantation. Similarly, Kimbo Slice, is revered for his simpleton barbaric ways. He is feared by both his handlers and by his opponents, but he is respected by neither. Combine the vision of Kimbo drinking a 40oz then beating up a fellow victim of the ghetto with the image of Kimbo being paraded to a cage to fight on PPV and the message is clear. There is no difference. Both instances are mirrors of each other.
MMA in general has played to the base nature of its fans. Violence draws eyes to the page and to the screen and MMA has prided itself on being "extreme" and "hardcore." When most fighters were white the underlying racial tones were not evident, but when Slice, and to some point Quentin "Rampage" Jackson, entered the scene the images of the brutish Negro could not be disguised. While our society has become more racially tolerant as a whole we cannot afford to backslide into some antiquated thoughts about race even if the backsliding is not intented or malaciously done. In the effort to generate more greenbacks MMA has unfortunately taken the path of equating Kimbo Slice with a Silverback (gorilla), and that is taking everyone back several steps.
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