The UFC has signed former hockey enforcer Steve Bosse to fight Ryan Jimmo at the TUF Nations Finale April 6, and somewhere, nestled in an air conditioned corner office in a building in Las Vegas, N.V., a group of executives in casual attire are crossing their fingers, hoping that a certain kind of magic that at one time graced the Octagon materializes in some form once more.
In May, it will have been four years since Kimbo Slice – the most popular MMA fighter of all time – last fought in the UFC cage.
Fun fact: I was one of the judges for Kimbo Slice’s first sanctioned MMA bout ever. It was June 23, 2007, and the Internet superstar was taking on former boxing champ Ray Mercer in a local New Jersey promotion called Cage Fury Fighting Championship. No judges were needed of course – Slice tapped him out with a guillotine early in the first round – but the degree to which the backyard brawler elevated that regional show into a monster event that crammed 7,000+ fans into Boardwalk Hall… you knew he was something special. Practically (and probably) one of a kind. And when he graduated to EliteXC and became the lifeblood of that organization, when he joined a season of TUF and the episode featuring his pre-recorded (PRE-RECORDED!) fight did better ratings than most live fights do, it only just hammered home the point that preexisting stardom could be lightning in a bottle for whichever organization had managed to catch it with whatever star they’d managed to sign.
Bosse is obviously no Kimbo Slice. But there are comparisons to be made, obvious ones like their reputations before entering into MMA (Bosse beat people up on the ice, while Slice battered them in boat yards), their proclivities toward violence, and the expectation by non-MMA fans that there will be blood spilled in the cage in dramatic fashion. Bosse, of course, is 10-1 in regional MMA competition, so his resume upon entrance into the Octagon is superior to what Slice’s was when he came a-knocking.
All that is pure semantics, though. Because at the end of the day, the notion of hiring someone with ready-made cache in a realm beyond the oft-insular world of MMA is the brass ring any promotion – UFC or otherwise – would want to grasp and hold tight. Popular fighters sell tickets and pay-per-views and draw strong ratings, and multiply those numbers by ten if that popularity pre-dated their time in the cage.
It’s been almost four years since Kimbo Slice last fought in the UFC cage. He’s not coming back anytime soon, but at least the UFC has Steve Bosse.