Tributes have started to pour in for Kimbo Slice, the legendary bearded American Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter who has died aged 42.
Slice, whose real name was Kevin Ferguson, was taken to a hospital in South Miami, Florida on Monday night.
His death was confirmed by his manager. “We lost our brother today,” Mike Imber told The Associated Press.
He was due to fight at London’s O2 Arena next month in a rematch against James Thompson at MMA event Bellator 158.
“We are all shocked and saddened by the devastating and untimely loss of Kimbo Slice, a beloved member of the Bellator family,” Bellator MMA president Scott Coker said in a statement.
“One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport.”
“Outside of the cage he was a friendly, gentle giant and a devoted family man. His loss leaves us all with extremely heavy hearts, and our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ferguson family and all of Kimbo’s friends, fans, and teammates.”
The cause of death is still unknown.
Professional fighters and fans paid tribute to him on social media:
We battled inside the cage, warrior vs warrior. Outside the cage, we have loved ones. REST IN PEACE KIMBO SLICE. May God Watch Over You.
KEN SHAMROCK (@ShamrockKen) June 7, 2016
all these Legends dying..
2016 is not a good year ;(
lira mercer (@Iira_Galore) June 7, 2016
With his distinctive beard and intimidatingappearance, Bahamian-born Slice shot to fame with his YouTube videos of violent knockout victories in the streets in the early 2000s.
An ex-football player and strip club bouncer, Slice signed a deal with UFC and competed in several promotions, becoming an MMA star.
His fight with Thompson in 2008 became one of MMA’s most watched fights in history with more than seven million views.
With Slice and pioneering featherweight Gina Carano as the top attractions, EliteXCs two CBS shows drew big television ratings and introduced millions of viewers to MMA.
While he went 5-2 and never won a championship belt, Slice became one of MMAs best-known figures, attracting large television audiences and crowds to his growing sport. He also had a pro boxing career between stints in the cage, going 7-0 with six knockouts from 2011-13.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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