Interview Nick Newell, who fights at Bellator 241 this weekend, and you’ll be hard pressed not to ask about his arm. He’s a bonafide elite athlete, the real article, but there are narratives that are simply hard to avoid. Newell is a congenital amputee. It’s essentially unheard of for a pro fighter. In the same vein, speak to Baby Slice — properly Kevin Ferguson Jr. — and it’s nearly impossible not to bring up his father, the late Kimbo Slice.
Slice — Ferguson Sr. — was a larger than life figure in mixed martial arts, in an era brimming with stars. A Youtube brawler turned UFC fighter. And despite his own fight pending at Bellator 241, the man known as Baby Slice has no problem being asked about his father, who passed away from heart failure in 2016.
“I definitely take pride in it. I love it actually,” Slice told Cageside Press ahead of the fight. “It’s like keeping that name alive, I’m keeping his name alive. The fact that you guys are still asking questions and want to know things is perfect. I embrace it. I’m his son, I’m his seed. It’s perfect, I love it actually.”
At times, it does blow him away, the number of lives his father touched. “For sure. I didn’t know how many people he touched or his stardom, his limit,” Slice said. “I thought he was an MMA fighter, bare knuckle fighter, yeah a lot of people know him. But it’s bigger than that, it’s huge actually.”
The ‘Baby Slice’ nickname came about for obvious reasons. “My dad was 250lbs, 6″3, he always told me ‘you’re my baby, you’re my baby son, my first son.’ I am the baby version of him, I am a little version of him. I was thinking ‘Little Slice’ but that didn’t work out right. It didn’t sound right. ‘Baby Slice’ just fit, it had a ring to it.” So Ferguson Jr. ran with it.
Names can lead to expectations. In the literary world, Joe Hill shunned the name King, so that he could be judged on his own merits rather than compared to his father — horror icon Stephen King. Kevin Ferguson Jr., however, has embraced his father’s nickname, becoming ‘Baby Slice’ to dad ‘Kimbo.’ He doesn’t mind the comparisons to his late father, rather, he welcomes them. “I actually like being compared to my dad. I like it a lot,” he said. “It brings up memories, it’s a great feeling.”
In his last fight, Slice walked away with what seemed like a quick, definitive win. His knockout of Craig Campbell at Bellator 232 was short-lived, however, overturned to a No Contest almost immediately due to an illegal blow to the back of the head.
“I don’t think it was an illegal blow at all,” said Slice. “They said I could have fought it, but I didn’t want to. I’ll just let the commissioners do their thing. It is what it is, at that point.”
Slice said he’s found support from just about everyone who watched the fight. And while he admits that “one [strike] landed illegal,” he feels that blow connected “because of the first one. The first one knocked him out a little bit. He dropped into the second one.” After the second blow, recalled Slice, “the ref gave me one warning, he was like ‘watch the back of the head’ on the second punch. I heard him, I switched it.”
Even the the commissioner, said Slice, agreed he had switched his placement when he called to inform him over the overturned result. “He said I did nothing wrong, but if I did nothing wrong, why was it a no contest? But it’s all good, I’m moving on, looking forward to my next fight and working hard for that fight. No hard feelings, no love lost.”
Despite his last outing coming to an early end, Ferguson was please with his improved performance. And was able to take away a lot of positives as a result. “My movement was different, I threw hard kicks, I saw a lot of improvement.”
Slice trains with Team Bodyshop, which has produced talents like A.J. McKee and Joey Davis. Working with the camp, and head coach Antonio McKee, has been great, said Slice. “We have everyone, we have everything I need. No one’s gong to go in and out-wrestle me, no one’s going to out-strike me. You take it to the ground, you’re going to get beat up or submitted. We’re well-rounded in this gym. We have it all.”
Preparation, covering all the bases, is key for the team, the way Slice described things. “We prepare for every situation, every scenario that can happen, that’s possible to happen, we prepare for it,” he said. “If something bad does happen, we know how to get out of it. There’s no panic. A lot of people panic. A lot of fighters panic, that’s how they end up losing. There’s no panic here.”
At Bellator 241, Slice goes up against Kaheem Murray, who he noted “has good movement in like, the first round. But I’m just going to go out there and do my thing. I’m going to push the pace, and break him.”
Slice and his camp are more about focusing on their fighter, rather than over-analyzing an opponent. “We watch a little footage just to see what we’re working with,” he explained. “We don’t go in there blind, but we definitely prepare ourselves before anything. Before we try to work out a certain style for this guy. We don’t work out no style — our style wins fights.”
The fight is being contested at a 160lb catchweight, and asked about that, Baby Slice quipped that “I guess I’m a catchweight fighter.”
“I definitely can make 155 though. That’s my ultimate goal, is to fight at 55,” he continued. There’s an advantage to avoiding draining weight cuts early in one’s career, he agreed. “I’m just working my way into it. No rush. I only had one amateur fight. One amateur fight, and all my pro fights were at the big stage, the big leagues. I’m still learning, I’m learning a lot.”
Slice loves the sport, and sees his future will be at lightweight, and in the top of the division. “I have the skills, I have all the skills. I’m well-rounded” he said. “I see myself going far in the next two years. Definitely a top five fighter in the next two years.”
Bellator 241 goes down this Friday, March 13 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The card airs live on DAZN.