LAS VEGAS – "Kimbo Slice," the controversial heavyweight who in 2008 headlined the most-viewed mixed martial arts card in history, will be one of 16 contestants on the forthcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter," the UFC's reality TV series.
Dana White, the UFC's outspoken president, has repeatedly mocked Slice for his lack of fighting ability. Slice, whose real name is Kevin Ferguson, became a cult figure by competing in street fights that were posted on YouTube. Slice's "bouts" drew tens of millions of views and led him to turn professional.
He fought for the now defunct EliteXC, garnering massive media attention but getting mocked by White and others affiliated with the UFC for a lack of ability.
White has called him a "joke," a "bum" and "not a real fighter," among other less than kind descriptions. He said that Slice would "get murdered if he fought in the UFC" and suggested that his lightweight champion, 155-pound B.J. Penn, would "annihilate" the 230-pound Slice.
The UFC president has repeatedly insisted he would not allow Slice to compete in the UFC unless he won his way onto the show by competing on "The Ultimate Fighter."
Slice has called White's bluff and will appear on Season 10 of the highly rated Spike TV series, White has confirmed. Fighters live in the same house and train together, and then fight during the show in a bid to earn a UFC contract.
His appearance, along with that of former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans as coaches, should guarantee massive ratings.
"It should be interesting, given some of the things I've said about him," White said.
Slice, who has a 3-1 professional record, appeared in the main event of the first MMA card shown on network television in the U.S. when he fought James Thompson on May 31, 2008, on CBS.
Slice won by third-round stoppage in a bout that attracted a record 6.5 million viewers and remains the most-viewed MMA bout in history.
But Slice hasn't fought since Oct. 4, when he was knocked out by a jab from late replacement Seth Petruzelli, a light heavyweight, just 14 seconds into another fight broadcast on CBS. The plug was pulled on EliteXC, which reportedly lost millions of dollars, in the aftermath of the fight.
White promised "some major surprises" as he announced on a Thursday conference call that Jackson and Evans, each of whom is a former light heavyweight champion, would serve as coaches on Season 10.
He declined to say anything further but urged reporters on the call not to miss media day, which is Tuesday at the UFC Training Center in Las Vegas.
White worked hard to keep Slice's appearance on the show a secret, hoping to have unveiled him Tuesday. Season 10, which is being called "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights," was originally slated to feature a cast of eight heavyweights and eight middleweights, but the UFC quietly informed the middleweights who tried out that it was going with an all-heavyweight show.
And unlike in recent seasons, where the competitors had to win a fight to earn their way into the house, there will be no such arrangement this time. All 16 fighters – Spike and the UFC are keeping names of the others a closely guarded secret – will automatically move into the house.
Though White goes to great lengths to insist that nothing on the show is scripted, it's virtually guaranteed that Slice won't fight early in the competition. Having him around and alive in the competition is going to keep ratings elevated.
If Slice is able to advance to the live Dec. 5 finale, with a chance to earn a UFC contract with a win, ratings would likely be the largest in Spike history.