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

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.

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