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Talk Radio: Do we need to give Gary Shaw credit for what he did with Kimbo Slice?

By Zach Arnold | June 7, 2010

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Final passage from yesterday’s MMA Nation radio show. I bring this topic up because I’m surprised that no one has booked Kimbo Slice yet in a fight now that he’s gone from the UFC. If you look at the PPV estimates for that UFC 113 event in Montreal, I’m really starting to wonder how much of a factor Kimbo Slice played in convincing people at the last-minute to order that show.

Before you read the radio passage (transcript of quotes) here, let me ask the following — do you think Kimbo Slice could still draw 6,000 or 7,000 fans for a mid-level independent MMA show right now? I bring this up as a clue to you as to the person who I think should deserve the most credit for the Kimbo Slice experiment in MMA, and it’s not Gary Shaw.

Full-page mode gets you the radio passage and my answer to the last question.

CALLER: “I don’t know if you guys are big Youtube fans but I’ve been watching, I was real into Kimbo Slice back in the day and then he got on UFC and just you know botched and it was really upsetting and I want to hear y’alls take on that. Why did that just die?”

LUKE THOMAS: “Why did what just die? You mean the hype in Kimbo Slice?”

CALLER: “Why’s Kimbo so horrible?”

LUKE THOMAS: “Because he can’t fight!”

CALLER: “But if you watched his videos, he whacked people.”

LUKE THOMAS: “Dude, he… I mean.”

CALLER: “He was trained by Bas Rutten, wasn’t he?”

LUKE THOMAS: “Yeah. Well, Bas Rutten’s not world-class any more for starters. Dude, there’s a huge variety of reasons why this is going on. To start with, Kimbo Slice sucks and he can’t fight and I can’t say that enough. Folks, if this is the first you’ve ever heard this, listen good. He cannot fight at all. He can fight a little bit at the low-end of the professional level, that is it. He is old. He has a very lopsided game and even the parts of the game where he is strong he is not for a professional MMA standards not very strong. It’s less an indication of how bad Kimbo Slice is and more of an indication of how folks simply aren’t in touch with how good UFC-level fighters are. The difference, listen, I’ve fought guys in people’s backyards and won. I ain’t going to be in the UFC any time soon, I can assure you that. It’s easy to beat up a guy who you can fight at a barbecue. It’s much different to fight a professional athlete that is, many cases, world-class in one particular discipline. We’re talking about two different universes.”

CALLER: “OK.”

LUKE THOMAS: “Make sense?”

CALLER: “I see a guy on Youtube beating someone up in a towel, I think that he can do anything but apparently not.”

LUKE THOMAS: “Nah. Doesn’t work that way.”

CALLER: “Well, I’m glad, thanks for clearing that up with me. Hope everyone realizes that now.”

LUKE THOMAS: “Well, thanks buddy.”

CALLER: “Appreciate it.”

LUKE THOMAS: “Thanks. Any other calls from 2003? (laughter)”

JAMES KIMBALL: “I think you put it best is that you yourself have won backyard brawls and you’re not stepping in there.”

LUKE THOMAS: “I’d get killed in a low-level professional fighting league.”

JAMES KIMBALL: “You cannot equate the two at all. He was an Internet celebrity, not a world-class athlete.”

LUKE THOMAS: “Here’s why you can’t get mad at that guy. I get a little frustrated when guys ask question like that, but the reality is you can’t. I mean, it’s partly at some point I’m going to say, OK, enough is enough, you have to know what’s going on in the sport. The myopia of the hardcore community is to their own detriment. This guy is not alone, who just called. There are a LOT of people just like him. “Hey, I thought that Kimbo Slice guy was good.’ They don’t understand that Kimbo Slice is TERRIBLE. He’s terrible. He’s terrible. But you know what? IT kind of speaks a little bit to people’s naiveté. I have to wonder a little bit, just a little bit, just a little bit — do we have to give credit, it was a false image, I’m not saying it was an accurate image… do we have to give credit to Gary Shaw? Just a little bit, man, just a little bit, you know. Like this is 2010, almost 2011, we’re only a few months way, half-time. It’ll still be 2011 and folks are still going to be asking, ‘Hey, I thought Kimbo Slice was good.’ Dude, he was promoting Kimbo Slice in what, 2007?”

JAMES KIMBALL: “I think more credit belongs to Youtube and the power of the Internet.”

LUKE THOMAS: “Sure, of course.”

JAMES KIMBALL: “And you know, once people hit it big on the Internet you know they’re cult heroes and when you know the guy’s knocking out people in 30 seconds in vicious fashion, you know people are attracted to that.”

LUKE THOMAS: “Youtube is forever the way in which he was lionized in American culture. But… you know, it wasn’t until that feeling wasn’t crystallized until somebody saw him fight in a professional setting. I don’t know. I hesitate to do it because I think maybe I’m overreaching a little bit, but part of me still says you know what man? That Gary Shaw did something there with ‘ol Kimbo, didn’t he?”

JAMES KIMBALL: “Clever fox that guy.”

LUKE THOMAS: “How many guys have tried to sign somebody or try to put on a show and just couldn’t get the attention that they wanted? Now, Gary Shaw had ample resources, he had an existing and till this day a still existing relationship with Showtime. … Part of me feels like Shaw succeeded there. He succeeded in hurting the sport by creating a false image about a guy who ultimately created more misunderstanding about the sport than we needed, but in terms of promoting his own guy, I don’t know, man. I don’t know, that’s not so bad, right?”

(Later on…)

LUKE THOMAS: “You talk about Kimbo Slice, it’s Pandora’s box. Line one, we got Todd in Waldorf who wants to talk about Kimbo Slice. Todd, you’re on MMA Nation, what’s up?”

CALLER: “Yeah, man. The only thing I got to say about what you said about the Kimbo Slice situation is that I thought it was a smart move because before Kimbo Slice there was a lot of people that wasn’t even interested in that whole UFC thing, you know. So he got out of it what he needed it. Kimbo got a little fame. They promoted the sport. You know, everybody really came out you know good behind it. I mean, I know he wasn’t a professional and I realized that when I was watching him, but you know he was a good figurehead to try to promote the sport with and he was very successful.”

LUKE THOMAS: “I won’t disagree with you, Todd. Todd I think you’re 100% right. Here’s what I would say. To the extent that Kimbo benefited, I think he benefited a lot. He’s got a lot of money out of this and he can continue to leverage his name for further opportunities for he wins. The UFC got a lot of ratings out of their show for it and they did big numbers when he fought on PPV and on television. They got a deal out of it. I’m not disagreeing with that at all. Here’s what I am saying, though — when he was promoted by Gary Shaw, not the UFC, but by Gary Shaw and Elite XC, I remember distinctly talking to Gary Shaw about it. Gary was saying that Kimbo had world-class hands and could beat David Haye in boxing and was you know easily can compete with UFC guys. That’s a lie. It’s a lie. And when you do that and when you tell casual fans who don’t know anything that this is the epitome of high-level Mixed Martial Arts, you are distorting the actual truth. It doesn’t benefit them to learn about MMA through Kimbo Slice. Now, I admit, he brought people to the sport and I’m very happy about that, I don’t take that away from him. But that is not the guy that I would show people if I was trying to teach them about MMA.”

(Later on…)

LUKE THOMAS: “I think at the end of the day I think ultimately the UFC repaired the situation, I think you’re right, I think it was a benefit. The reality is you know Kimbo Slice was not world-class at fighting, but he was world-class at selling tickets and PPV buys and I admit there’s no way you can deny that he brought a ton of people who ordinarily would not have seen it, no doubt about it. But we have to be careful about the way in which we characterize his talent.”

CALLER: “Oh, yeah, oh yeah, I mean he was a street fighter like you said backyard fighting type dude that you said. But, hey, listen, he got his 15 minutes and everybody benefited by it. That’s all I got to say.”

LUKE THOMAS: “I don’t disagree, I’m just saying Todd I live in a world where I talk to people and they’re like, ‘you know, these UFC guys, they’re not good, didn’t that guy from the backyard beat a couple of them?” You know and that’s not really a fair, that does the sport a disservice when we confuse talent levels, that’s all I’m saying.”

CALLER: “Oh yeah, oh yeah, most definitely.”

(Later on…)

JAMES KIMBALL: “Please, can we leave Kimbo alone? Can we put him where he should be and that’s off this radio show and off the MMA landscape?”

LUKE THOMAS: “I don’t think I want him off the radio landscape. Look at how many calls this guy is bringing in.”

JAMES KIMBALL: “For that purpose, you’re right, you’re right. But for the wrong reasons. He will… people will always view forever MMA, there are people out there that will always think of MMA, think of UFC even, and think of Kimbo Slice. That’s not what I want. There are talking heads on ESPN, I watch them every day, they think Kmbo Slice is the UFC. It is sad.”

As for the answer as to who should get a lot of credit for the beginning of the Kimbo Slice experiment, the answer is… Gary Marino.

Unless you are really an insider’s insider, you probably haven’t heard the name Gary Marino and that’s a shame. Gary is a long-time matchmaker on the East Coast who I would love to see get a big run as a matchmaker for a promotion with resources because he really can book. Gary was the matchmaker for the Cage Fury promotion which booked Kimbo against Ray Mercer at Boardwark Hall in Atlantic City. There was a money man who desperately tried to finance those Cage Fury shows and ran out of cash, but when he gave Gary the cash to book Boardwalk it was hard to get a ticket during the Kimbo Slice experiment there in AC.

If you weren’t there when Kimbo first fought at Boardwalk or didn’t have friends with connections there, you have no idea what the atmosphere was like. People were going ape over Kimbo in Atlantic City and it was a circus. That’s where Gary Shaw ultimately saw Kimbo in action and then picked him up once Cage Fury had their $$$ problems and couldn’t book a fight between Kimbo and Tank Abbott. Gary Shaw is the one who did make Kimbo into a huge name nationally, but the very beginning of Kimbo’s MMA career was due in part to what Gary Marino did as a matchmaker and just how rabid those fans were at Boardwalk Hall. It was really an amazing sight to see.

Topics: Media, MMA, Pro Elite, UFC, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

8 Responses to “Talk Radio: Do we need to give Gary Shaw credit for what he did with Kimbo Slice?”

  1. Fluyid says:

    A lot of factors came together perfectly for Kimbo.

    YouTube, that “exhibition” in AC, the UG forum, Sean Gannon…. lots of things came together at the right time.

    At least that’s how I see it.

  2. jim genia says:

    i was actually a judge for the kimbo/mercer fight. as it was an exhibition match, no NJSACB employees could judge it, so they asked me and a couple other dudes to step in and man the scorecards.

    and gary marino did some fantastic work putting together the cage fury cards.

  3. Paradoxx says:

    Let’s see…. A kimbo mid-card fight on spike pulled more US viewers then a CBS Fedor main event.

    So, yes. Kimbo Slice could still draw 6,000 or 7,000 fans for a mid-level independent MMA show right now.

  4. Mark says:

    No, Gary wasn’t a mastermind to getting success with Kimbo anymore than Dana being a mastermind for getting success with Brock Lesnar. The public already chose to care about them before their initial fights so it was a no brainer to bet everything on them.

    I think Kimbo would draw well, but as I’ve said 10,000 times I really believe his fans are mostly children, which is great if you want a big TV rating. But “Mommy, can you take me to the local casino to see a MMA show?” doesn’t sound promising. And honestly you’re wasting your time if you’re not going to attempt to get the event with him on pay per view. Not saying you’d do 100K or anything, but Kimbo would give you more exposure than you’ll ever get running some washed up UFC fighter from the mid-90s or quickly eliminated TUF contestant, so run with it.

  5. jim genia says:

    i want to say that gary managed shelby, but i can’t remember exactly if that was the case. gary managed (and still manages) quite a few fighters.

    • Mark says:

      Yes, for her boxing career. Not sure if he also handled her MMA stuff for sure. She certainly would have had Gina’s spot in Elite had she lived.

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