Looking back at some of the biggest moments in Bellator MMA, it would be hard to argue that many were bigger than Bellator 138’s main event between Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice. It was a fight almost a decade in the making, and maybe one that shouldn’t have even happened. Nevertheless, let’s take a look back at a moment that Bellator capitalized on being in the mainstream in a big way.
The date was June 19, 2015, and the venue was the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. After a brief promotional stint that came to an end after UFC 113, Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson was once again a free agent. The former king of backyard brawls spent a few years knocking out hand-picked opponents in boxing rings, but when Scott Coker came calling in January, Slice was suddenly back in the mixed martial arts (MMA) business once again.
Kimbo scored an impressive six million viewers on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 against “Big Country” Roy Nelson on Spike TV, but to draw those kind of numbers again he’d need the right opponent ... at the right time. That turned out to be another UFC veteran, albeit one with much more history in that organization — “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” Ken Shamrock. The two had been set to meet in 2008 before Shamrock suffered a deep cut hours before the fight. Replacement Seth Petruzelli finished Slice in just 14 seconds. After more than a half-decade since their fight (and EliteXC) fell apart, it was time to give both men a second chance to make things right.
Slice turned 41 on June 6 and sported a professional MMA record of 4-2. Shamrock was 28-15-2 and had turned 51 on February 11. This brought on questions about whether two men that age should really be getting into a cage, but an audience of 6,724 in the building and a record-setting 2.4 million at home were ready to watch it on Spike TV.*
There was some other business to attend to first, though. The fighters sharing the main card with the two draws certainly made the most of their spotlight. “Iron” Michael Chandler finished Derek Campos with a rear-naked choke at 2:17 of round one. Daniel Straus used a guillotine choke to finish Henry Corrales at 3:47 of the second round. Former WWE star Bobby Lashley scored a technical knockout over Dan Charles at 4:14 of round two. In the co-main event, Featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire nearly got finished in the opening frame, only to roar back and knockout Daniel Weichel 32 seconds into round two. Four fights, four finishes. Would the main event be a clean sweep?
Covering this event for MMA Mania, I can tell you firsthand that the building was buzzing even before both of these men made their way to the cage. The “King of Pancrase” versus the “King of the Streets” — you could literally feel it in the air. When the bell finally got the action underway, it wasn’t surprising to see Shamrock immediately go for a takedown. That’s because 23 of Shamrock’s 28 wins came via submission. His heel hooks and kneebars were the stuff of legend. Could he take the big bruiser 10 years his junior to the mat and make him tap?
Although Shamrock got the takedown, the problem was keeping Slice down, as he proved to be just too strong for Shamrock to hold in place. They got up and shoved each other across the cage, Shamrock throwing knees, trying his best to bust up his opponent. Shamrock went for a single-leg takedown and took Slice’s back, and for a moment it seemed like Kimbo Slice would pass out rather than tap out to a rear-naked choke.
Slice survived the squeeze. Putting his all into the finish proved to be Shamrock’s downfall. He had no energy left to survive the onslaught of strikes that came roaring back his way on the feet, and when Shamrock crashed to the mat at 2:22, “Big” John McCarthy stepped between them and would not allow any additional strikes. Game over. Slice confirmed in his post-fight interview that he would have gone out before submitting.
“First thing I wanna do, I wanna give thanks to my lord and savior Jesus Christ, St. Louis I love you, and a happy birthday to my daughter. I trained for the ground. Tapping is not an option. It was not an option.”
Armchair quarterbacks called it a freak show. MMA analysts called it a work. You can call it anything you like really, but when two men with the aura of a superstar stand toe-to-toe and go blow for blow, you certainly can’t call it boring. It was a fun night all around.
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*The Bellator 138 card peaked at 2.4 million viewers during the main event between Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock and averaged 2.3 million viewers over the fight’s entirety.
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