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He's searching for a slice of credibility

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

After a string of embarrassing losses, Kimbo Slice will take on Houston Alexander in a bout Saturday. His future with the UFC, says the organization's president, depends on how he does.

December 04, 2009|By Lance Pugmire

Kimbo Slice is hungry.

At the moment, he was yearning for Friday's weigh-in to end before Saturday night's Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight fight against Houston Alexander so he could get some food.

"The last time I weighed this much I was in middle school," said Slice, the former street fighter from Miami whose fights became a YouTube phenomenon. "I gotta eat something, I need a nibble."

Slice's appetite also craves some credibility.

Since parlaying his "Kimbo fights" Internet popularity into a professional mixed martial arts career as a main-event fighter who fought twice on the CBS-televised Elite Xtreme Combat circuit, Slice (real name Kevin Ferguson) has been the target of some ridicule in the passionate mixed martial arts community as little more than a steely-eyed, bearded, metal-mouthed sideshow.

He suffered an embarrassing first-round loss in his Elite XC swan song and was promptly defeated by the heavier Roy Nelson in the first round of the UFC's reality television series, "The Ultimate Fighter."

Nelson has proven to be no slouch by advancing to Saturday's "Ultimate Fighter" championship against Brendan Schaub. The winner of that heavyweight fight at The Palms Hotel in Las Vegas earns a six-figure UFC contract.

There's no doubting the massive interest in Slice, however. His fight with Nelson drew the most viewers to Spike TV's popular series ever.

UFC President Dana White inserted Slice into Saturday's show, which in addition to Nelson-Schaub features a light-heavyweight bout between the rising star light-heavyweight Jon Jones against veteran Matt Hamill.

White said in a text message to The Times that Slice's future in the UFC "depends on how he does" against Alexander, but UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta has confirmed that Slice will fight again in the organization, win or lose.

Slice brushed off questions about a recent knee injury, insisting, "Everything is good, I'm ready to fight." He said he's not dwelling on the legitimate challenge of fighting big puncher Alexander, who had a memorable first-round KO of Keith Jardine.

"I don't care about him or anything he's done in the past," Slice said of Alexander. "He's never fought a person like me."

Unquestionably, the UFC would like Slice to produce a sensational fight Saturday so he can be taken seriously as main-event fighter. Popular UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar is laid up with an intestinal infection.

Other UFC champions Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre have been laid up by injuries, and won't return until early next year.

"It's a good thing to consider, it's a goal," Slice said. "You knock a few guys out, you get on the monument. In this sport, anything can be expected, but I'd like to start a winning streak and give the crowd what they want to see. I know my fan base is following me because win or lose, I come to fight."

What: "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights" finale

Where: The Palms Hotel, Las Vegas

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

TV: Spike TV

Who: Ultimate Fighter finale: Roy Nelson vs. Brendan Schaub heavyweights; Kimbo Slice vs. Houston Alexander, light-heavyweights; Jon Jones vs. Matt Hamill, light-heavyweights.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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