Is former street brawler Kimbo Slice 'The Ultimate Fighter?'

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Former street brawler Kimbo Slice is getting a chance to fight his way into the UFC.

Spike TV confirmed Tuesday that Slice, a much-hyped heavyweight whose MMA skills were exposed in a 14-second loss to Seth Petruzelli in the now-defunct EliteXC organization last October, will be part of the cast of Season 10 of ``The Ultimate Fighter' reality show.

The move is unexpected and more than a little inspired. And it should guarantee bumper ratings on the show, which airs this fall.

UFC president Dana White, no shrinking violet at the best of times, wasted few opportunities to belittle Slice last year as rival EliteXC looked to ride his hype on national TV.

``Kimbo Slice wouldn't win `The Ultimate Fighter,'' White said last June, prior to UFC 85.

``He's not really a good fighter at all . . . It actually makes me sick when we have such great athletes in this sport, so many guys that are really talented and they don't get showcased by the major media. But as soon as a freak show pops up, everybody jumps on it, wants to cover it,' he added.

Now White is looking to get a piece of that action, while offering Slice a chance to prove him wrong.

``It's an opportunity for me to prove myself, being a mixed martial artist coming from the backards, being a street fighter and all,' Slice said on White's video blog. ``It's time to step my game up. ... I'm coming in to prove myself, I'm coming in to kick ass and take names.'

The 35-year-old Slice, whose real name is Kevin Ferguson, became an Internet phenomenon for his bare-knuckle street fights, available on YouTube or other video forums.

Slice battled opponents in backyards and alleys, often with pumped-up observers looking on.

In one, at a boatyard, Slice steps out of an SUV, takes off a massive piece of bling and prepares to insert a mouthguard before facing an opponent named Dreads.

``Are you ready to thump,' someone asks off camera? ``All day,' Slice answers.

At 6-2 and 240 pounds, Slice is a fearsome figure. Bald on top, with his hair tied back in a tiny pigtail, and sporting a full beard, the musclebound, tattooed fighter exudes a Mike Tyson-like menace.

He won his first two MMA fights in a combined 62 seconds, knocking out little-known Bo Cantrell and over-the-hill Tank Abbott. James Thompson lasted into the third round before being knocked out, exposing some Slice weaknesses - especially on the ground - along the way before a TV audience of 6.5 million.

The Slice myth cracked when light-heavyweight Petruzelli, a last-minute replacement, finished him off in mere seconds.

While White always had plenty to say about Slice, the fighter himself was usually less forthcoming.

``It's a free country. You know, everyone's entitled to their own opinion,' he once said of White.

``It's not like putting MMA's best foot forward,' White told reporters after UFC 84 in May 2008. ``I've said it before about Kimbo Slice, I give him the props, he's training in mixed martial arts. But this guy was fighting in backyards a while ago. And that's part of the appeal, but that's what we've stayed away from.'

Until now.

``The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights' will debut Sept. 16 on Spike TV with former light-heavyweight champions Rashad Evans and Quinton (Rampage) as coaches. Filming is scheduled to start this week.

Evans and Jackson will square off in December once the show's run is done. It's the first time the series has featured heavyweights since Season 2 when Evans, who has since dropped down to fighting at 205 pounds, was a cast member.

The show takes a crop of fighters and stashes them in a roomy Las Vegas home, denying them access to friends, family and the outside world other to train and fight. The last man standing wins a contract to fight in the UFC, although many of his castmates also usually graduate to the UFC.

The show has been a huge success for the UFC, producing a stream of talent while exposing fans to the sport.

Rich Franklin, a former UFC middleweight and coach on Season 2 of the show, says featuring Slice on the reality show makes sense at this point.

``It's a smart move to put him on the show, it's going to pull in ratings. So from a business point of view, it's probably that's probably the best thing you could do,' he said Tuesday on a conference call to promote UFC 99.

``But I think at this point in time he doesn't deserve just to be able to jump in the UFC and fight. He kind of has to earn his way to get there. And `The Ultimate Fighter' is the best place to do it.'

Welterweight Marcus (The Irish Hand Grenade) Davis called it ``a great business move' for the UFC.

Depending on the talent level of the cast around him, Slice could either be exposed once again or ``come out of it looking like he's some sort of killer,' Davis added.

``I'm just excited to see what's going to happen,' said English welterweight Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy, who fights Davis at UFC 99.

``I think Kimbo Slice in the house is really going to stir things up and make for some interesting fights,' he added.

Wanderlei (The Axe Murderer) Silva, who is due to fight Franklin in the main event at UFC 99, called Slice an exciting fighter.

``He's so tough, he going to put a lot of the guys in the heavyweights in trouble,' the Brazilian said.

Slice says he has been known as Kimbo since he was a kid. The name Slice came from his first ever backyard fight, against ``Big D.'

``I caught him with a left hook that sliced the bottom of his eye, and I guess, broke his whatever,' he recalled. ``His eyeball came a couple of inches down, almost out of his head. They (the fans) branded me with that name.'

According to his official biography, Slice has worked as a bodyguard for a Miami-based adult entertainment company responsible for a number of adult websites. In a cover article for ESPN The Magazine, he was also described as a former strip club bouncer and limousine driver who once lived in a car.

Slice, who has six kids, lives in Miami.

Spike says there are no Canadians in the Season 10 cast.

Organizations: EliteXC organization, ESPN The Magazine

Geographic location: Las Vegas, Miami

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