By now you’ve probably gotten the news that the “new look” Bellator MMA just got themselves a new signing.
It’s not a nod to the future, like Aaron Pico, the teenage prospect who was announced as signed to Bellator at their last event, Bellator 131, back in November.
It’s not a legendary champion from the past, like Tito Ortiz, who headlined that very show. Ortiz, in fact, helped Bellator score a massive ratings victory that night — to the tune of about two million viewers, the most in the promotion’s six year history.
No. It’s not a champion, and not a (hopeful) champion of the future.
It’s Kimbo Slice, and it’s just a little bit absurd.
But, I think it’s going to work. I think I like it.
Some fans have likened the signing to the UFC signing CM Punk. They don’t get it.
Some didn’t have an issue with Punk signing with the UFC, but find the Kimbo announcement laughable. They don’t either.
The signing of CM Punk represented an about-face for the UFC, the promotion which calls themselves the “Super Bowl of Mixed Martial Arts.” He’s a guy with no MMA experience; in fact, no combative sport experience at all. He doesn’t even know in which weight division he will fight. What is he doing there?
But Slice? He’ll fit right in at Bellator.
I think of the pro wrestling theatrics which helped Bellator 131 differentiate itself from a typical offering from the UFC. Fighters made their walks to the cage with a little more style than maybe we’re used to seeing these days, with the help of a video screen reminiscent of PRIDE.
The action at Bellator 131 included some “works in progress” like Joe Schilling — a kickboxer who showed the expected striking acumen but looked a little lost on the mat. Bellator takes chances on guys like that, because they can’t quite match the UFC roster.
Now, look at Kimbo Slice, a guy who made his name in bare knuckle brawls on YouTube. He’ll cut a promo with the best, puff his chest out, and rile a crowd up — no problem.
As far as actually fighting goes — well, he’s certainly not among the elite but he’s got relevant experience: a 4-2 MMA record and a 7-0 boxing record. I’m assuming Scott Coker made sure the big man is in shape and will match him properly. And hey — laugh if you will, but he has a history of garnering attention.
My colleague at Caged Insider, Jim Genia, offered this “Slice” of a fighting life in his article, By Signing Kimbo Slice, Bellator Has an Atomic Bomb:
- The second most-watched MMA fight of all time was Slice vs. James Thompson, which aired on CBS back in 2008 and garnered 7.281 million viewers.
- The fourth most-watched MMA fight was Slice vs. Seth Petruzelli, which aired on CBS back in 2008 and snagged 6.451 million viewers.
- A pre-recorded episode of TUF featuring Slice vs.Roy Nelson drew in 6.1 million viewers. PRE-RECORDED, not live.
- Slice left the Octagon back in 2010 after losing via TKO to Matt Mitrione, and he faded into relative obscurity. That obscurity will only help serve to make his return all the more compelling.
Does it all seem nuts? Sure. But, the bet here is that it’s nuts enough to work.