Kimbo Slice, a street brawler who skyrocketed to popularity through viral YouTube videos around a decade ago, died on Tuesday, according to reports. It turns out that Slice, born Kevin Ferguson, had been awaiting a heart transplant.
He last fought in MMA promotion Bellator, defeating Dhafir “Dada5000” Harris (later overturned to a no contest) in 2016. He fought in the UFC in 2009-2010.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that Ferguson, a Miami native, had been diagnosed with heart failure and was informed he need a transplant. He was admitted to the hospital on June 3 after complaining of “severe abdominal pain, shortness of breath and nausea,” the paper said.
The 42-year-old was placed on a ventilator in intensive care before he was slated to be transported to a hospital in Cleveland.
Foul play and trauma are not suspected in the MMA fighter’s death.
Mike Imber, Slice’s longtime manager and childhood friend, told ESPN that Ferguson appeared to be doing OK but the situation turned south.
“He went to Germany around March and got really sick while he was there,” Imber told the website. “I don’t know what he thought it was, but he just felt sick. On Friday (June 3), he had bad chest pains and went to the hospital. I went and visited him on Friday and he seemed OK. I didn’t feel like I was going to lose my friend in two days, by any means. He seemed concerned, but he seemed all right.”
He added: “I talked to him that Saturday and Sunday, and he was still in the hospital. I said, ‘something’s not right.’ On Monday, his wife called and told me he had stopped breathing.”
Ferguson was slated to fight at Bellator 158 in a bout against James “The Colossus” Thompson. He had intended to drop the fight, according to coach Mike Brown at American Top Team, where Ferguson was training.
“He had a few things going on,” Brown told ESPN. “He had a crazy hiccup problem and he had high blood pressure. He also had a problem that had something to do with his gallbladder. We had talked about him pulling out of the fight. That’s what he was going to do. I don’t know if he had done that officially yet, but a decision had already been made not to fight.”
Fighter Matt Mitrione, who fought Ferguson and knocked him out at UFC 113 in May 2010, told the Indianapolis Star that he was stunned upon hearing the news.
“Couldn’t believe it,” Mitrione told the Star. “We were in this car when we found out. The PR guy from Bellator got some phone calls. Still can’t believe it.”
Mitrione said he knows Kimbo better than most.
“Kimbo’s a really good dude, man,” added Mitrione, 37. “He’s a family man, cares about his children, loves life. It’s really unfair. It’s sad. He’s quiet and not as outspoken as people wanted him to be, but he’s not a thug. He’s a good dude. He got in a position where people were making bets on him in a backyard, and it became more than he ever imagined. It’s unfortunate he was branded as a thug, and he wasn’t.”