The mixed martial arts community as well as its fans say they were shocked to hear of the death of popular fighter Kimbo Slice, who died at age 42 after being taken to a Margate, Fla., hospital on Monday.
The bushy bearded Slice, whose real name was Kevin Ferguson, was a one time strip club bouncer who became a street fighter who parlayed his unsanctioned bouts into internet fame and eventually a MMA career and global popularity.
Slice’s death was confirmed by Scott Coker, the CEO of Bellator, which promoted his return to MMA last year after a five-year absence.
“One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport,” Coker said. “Outside of the cage he was a friendly, gentle giant and a devoted family man. His loss leaves us all with extremely heavy hearts.”
American Top Team, the Florida gym where Slice trained had also tweeted Tuesday that he had died.
The ATT Family and South Florida community lost a legend today. RIP Kimbo. pic.twitter.com/sjs8ctyJMd
— American Top Team (@AmericanTopTeam) June 7, 2016
Ultimate Fighting Challenge issued a statement praising Slice, who appeared on a highly-rated season of their long-running reality competition show, “The Ultimate Fighter,” in 2009. Slice also fought at UFC 113 in Montreal, losing to Matt Mitrione before taking his five-year break from MMA.
“He carried himself as a true professional during his time in our organization,” the UFC’s statement read. “While he will never be forgotten for his fighting style and transcendent image, Slice will also be remembered for his warm personality and commitment to his family and friends.”
Others in the MMA world took to Twitter to express their sadness over the death of Slice including current UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
You’d never find anyone that could say a bad thing about Kimbo. Such a great guy. Going to be missed. Rest easy big fella. #RIPKimbo
— Stipe Miocic (@stipemiocicufc) June 7, 2016
Rest in peace Kimbo Slice
— Angela Hill (@AngieOverkill) June 7, 2016
I knew kimbo since I was 19. I was a kid. Wouldn’t be where I’m at it if it wasn’t for him.
— Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) June 7, 2016
The cause of death was still unclear. Kmiotek said there is no active police investigation, and no foul play is suspected.
After gaining viral internet fame at a time when the phenomenon was still relatively new, Slice studied MMA and eventually competed for several promotions, including the UFC and Bellator, which staged his two most recent fights. While he went only 5-2 and never won a championship belt, the personable Slice became one of MMA’s best-known figures, attracting large television audiences and crowds to his growing sport.