By Ben Fowlkes April 18, 2016 4:15 pm
A little more than two months ago, Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson fought and nearly killed a man at Bellator 149 in Houston, then tested positive for steroids, and now he’s already got another fight lined up as if none of it happened.
Actually, wait, that makes it sound worse than it really was, and that’s not fair. A more fair way of putting it would be to say that Slice fought a man who nearly died – or who did die, only to return, according to that man himself, Dhafir “Dada 5000” Harris – but that near-tragedy happened not so much as a result of Slice’s efforts as adjacent to them.
Then came the thing with the steroids, and then the thing with his next fight, which is where we find ourselves now.
July 16, The O2 in London, Slice will take the main-event spot at Bellator 158 opposite old foe James Thompson. Never mind that Slice hasn’t been cleared by the commission in Texas. Never mind that he came within a heartbeat or two of becoming the villain in the scenario that has long been this sport’s worst nightmare. Who cares, right?
Not Bellator, apparently. Not even a little bit.
Maybe this is our fault. We’re the ones who have rewarded the new Bellator with its freak-show fighters and seniors tour. We pay more attention to its weird stuff than we do to its good stuff, and in so doing maybe we’ve sent the message that we don’t care what Bellator does as long as it comes up with bizarre new wrecks for us to gawk at from afar.
It’s especially glaring when you consider the counter-example of the UFC. Thanks to its partnership with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, it lost two fights from this past Saturday’s UFC on FOX 19 event in Tampa, Fla. Former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida and lightweight Islam Makhachev were both removed from the card due to potential violations flagged by USADA, the latest casualties in the UFC’s ongoing attempt to clean up its roster.
It’s been a rough road of late. Turns out that when you start doing more testing, you start catching more cheaters, which in turn means more fighters being scratched and suspended.
The result is that the UFC has just paid a bunch of money to make life harder on itself, but, or so the thinking goes, it’s worth the cost and the headache if it gets us a cleaner sport in the end.
So far, Bellator has been given a pass on its relative inaction on the anti-doping front. We don’t hear much about drug tests there, and we usually don’t ask. Maybe we don’t care. Maybe we think things are tough enough for everyone outside the UFC, so we don’t want to trouble them with the added burden of cracking down on performance-enhancing drug use.
Doping in MMA? The UFC needs to do something about that. Everybody else? Just pay your fighters on time and try not to get anybody killed, and we probably won’t complain. It’s a low bar, and one Bellator only narrowly cleared, to hear Mr. 5000 tell it.
Slice has barely bothered denying that he took steroids prior to his most recent bout. In a recent interview he flirted briefly with a contamination defense, and then argued that, actually, maybe fighters like him should be allowed to use “extra vitamins to perform.”
But now that he’s been penalized with a main event bout just five months later, and in a city where there’s no athletic commission to drug test him, surely he’ll see the error of his ways.
Either that, or he’ll decide that he might as well do whatever he wants, since none of this really matters.
That seems to be Bellator’s take, and it’s a viewpoint the promotion came by honestly. It puts together fights that are senseless bordering on reckless, and we reward it with record ratings. It refuses to concern itself with the larger issues pertaining to the sport as a whole, and we welcome this temporary respite from the real world. It survives a bad outcome that nearly became a tragic one, and instead of seeing a bullet dodged, it finds a blueprint to be copied.
It’s like some great social experiment in giving us what we’re proven to want, regardless of what we pretend to want. There are no guarantees that it’s going to be good for us – or for anyone.