Kimbo Slice and James Thompson give their thoughts on the main event for EliteXC’s debut on CBS this weekend:
Operator: Good day and welcome to the CBS EliteXC Fighter conference call. Today’s conference is being recorded.
At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Mitch Graham. Go ahead please, sir.
Mitch Graham: Hi, everyone. This is Mitch Graham from CBS Publicity. Welcome to the CBS EliteXC Saturday Night Fights Main Event conference call.
On the call, we have our headliners, Kimbo Slice and James Thompson along with Kimbo’s trainer Bas Rutten and EliteXC Live Events President Mr. Gary Shaw. Kimbo and James are headlining the inaugural CBS EliteXC Saturday Night Fights live from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Saturday May 31 from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. on CBS.
Obviously, we are thrilled to have teamed up with EliteXC to bring fans everywhere the first ever MMA event live on network television and primetime. EliteXC has put together an outstanding five-fight card for the first show on CBS.
And with that, I’ll now turn it over to Mr. Gary Shaw.
Gary Shaw: Thank you, Mitch and thank you James and Kimbo and Bas for joining us and the rest of the press. It’s a huge day on May 31st, 9:00 p.m. primetime on CBS for all of mixed martial arts. It’s the opportunity for it to be seen by a hundred million eyeballs, plus it’s the opportunity for everybody to understand that mixed martial arts is really a sport, and the athletes are true athletes with many different disciplines.
It’s going to be an exciting night, five fights headlined obviously by Kimbo Slice and James Thompson, and a great cast of characters and fighters that you have seen before, with Robbie Lawler fighting to defend his world championship against Scott Smith and obviously our featured women’s fighter, which is Gina Carano.
Rockstar is one of our major sponsors, and we thank Rockstar and we thank the union of EliteXC along with CBS to bring together the first ever mixed martial arts show on terrestrial TV. I don’t want to take up any more time. It’s about the fighters.
I’m going to let James Thompson open up with a few words first, then I’m going to have Kimbo, and then we’re going to throw right to the questions. So James, you want to make any opening comments?
James Thompson: Yes, cheers, Gary. I just want to say it’s James “Colossus” Thompson here on the phone from England. I’m training hard and really looking forward to May 31st. It’s going to be a war.
Gary Shaw: OK, thank you. And Kimbo?
Kimbo Slice: Hey, Gary; how’s it going, buddy?
Gary Shaw: Good, good. I miss you, buddy.
Kimbo Slice: All righty.
Gary Shaw: You want to make any opening statement to the press, Kimbo?
Kimbo Slice: Nope, not at all.
Gary Shaw: OK. Operator?
Operator: At this time, ladies and gentlemen, if you do have an audio question, simply press the star then one on your touch-tone phone. You may withdraw your question at any time by pressing the pound key.
And we’ll first go to Michael Wood from ESPN Magazine. Go ahead please.
Michael Woods: All right. Kimbo, Gary, Colossus, thanks for taking the time out. I appreciate it. Kimbo, have you seen the cover of yourself on the cover of ESPN Mag yet?
Kimbo Slice: Yes, I thought it was amazing, man. You guys did great work. Thanks guys so much for also taking the time to show me that kind of love.
Michael Woods: Yes, it looks great, and we’re hoping for a great show and for your continued success because it’s a great story for the building up of MMA. James, I want to ask you first very quickly.
James Thompson: Yes.
Michael Woods: I was referring to the fact that Kimbo was on the cover of ESPN Magazine this week, and the press coverage of him has been amazing. There’s been so many people grabbing him, and I’m wondering if you think that possibly he’s concentrating too much on that kind of stuff, getting caught up on that and overlooking you?
James Thompson: Well, you know, we can only guess. I mean Kimbo’s got a lot to display. He’s with a professional team with Bas Rutten, and I’m not. And I’m sure he realizes – I mean what sort of stage you know what I mean so – and I’d like to say he’s got some kind of real concern with what we’ve got. I won’t be thinking he’s taking it lightly.
Michael Woods: And Kimbo, I’m guessing the answer is no, but I’ll ask it to you anyway. I know you like to keep your eye on the prize, but what are some of the things that you do so you don’t get too caught up in the media hype and ‘damn, my face is on the cover of that magazine’ and get your head too big? How do you deal with that?
Kimbo Slice: Well, I look at it like this. Those type of things are more for the fans than anybody, and I continue to concentrate on my training and what I have to do. Like he said, I know what is at stake here and I know what it means to me you know, so to take a few minutes or an hour out of my time you know that’s fine, that’s cool. You know when I get back to training you know I train and that’s what’s up.
Michael Woods: Thanks. Good stuff. Hey guys, have a great fight. Everyone stay safe and we’ll talk to you again soon. Take care.
James Thompson: Yes, thank you. I appreciate it.
Operator: We’ll take our next question from the side of Beau Dure with USA Today. Go ahead please.
Beau Dure: Hello. This is a question for Kimbo, and I want to point out that I am just a messenger here. This is not me saying this. This is a quote that I want to get your reaction to. It’s Dana White, and it says ‘B.J. Penn at 155 pounds would destroy Kimbo Slice. Kimbo Slice isn’t anywhere near that type of level. He’s not a professional athlete.’ So, Kimbo, and then I guess Gary too, your reactions?
Gary Shaw: I’ll do it first. Dana White is a j***-off. That’s what Dana White is. He’s a f***ing idiot and you can quote me on that. If he cared about mixed martial arts and the sport instead of caring about his big-a** swimming pool and his own personal gains, he would understand that statements like that make someone into a jerk.
First of all, I love B.J. Penn and he is a friend of mine. And his brother J.D. Penn works with our company. Kimbo Slice with one shot would knock out B.J. Penn, a 155 pounder. But they’re never going to fight. It’s an idiotic statement from a complete idiot.
Kimbo doesn’t need to say anything at all. But I understand you’re the messenger. I don’t mean it against you, but this is a conference call about fighters, two fighters fighting each other and a real competitive match-up on a first-ever CBS live MMA event, and Dana White is an idiot. And if he wasn’t an idiot, May 31st would’ve been the UFC instead of EliteXC. I rest my case.
Beau Dure: All right. Thanks, Gary. Kimbo, do you want to take it?
Kimbo Slice: You know, it’s a free country. You know, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.
Beau Dure: All right. Thanks, Kimbo.
Operator: We’ll take our next question from Denny Burkholder with CBSSports.com.
Denny Burkholder: Hi, guys. I’d like to offer a question for Bas. You’ve been a player in this sport for years and I was just wondering what it’s like for an MMA pioneer like yourself to see the sport finally broadcast on primetime network TV?
Bas Rutten: You know, that’s what we all are fighting for. I expected this way sooner when I had my first fight in Japan. The next day, they stopped me on the street. I was thrilled. This is going to be the biggest thing, and you will see it got bigger.
That was in the beginning there, and I said it. This was in 1993. I said the first person who’s going to put this on free TV, regular TV, is going to make a killing because that’s what they want. But the world wasn’t ready for it yet. And now the world is ready for it, so I think it’s great.
Denny Burkholder: OK, now a question for James. James, you were knocked out by Brett Rogers in February, and now you find yourself fighting in the main event against Kimbo Slice. What happened in that last fight and how will you avoid this same thing happening versus Kimbo?
James Thompson: Well, what happened in the last, you know, it’s very hard to predict what will happen in a fight. You do all your training, so – I mean you go out there and I’m hoping to win it. It didn’t happen for me on that occasion. And basically I look at (the line). I look at where there’s long (goals) in my game, etc., go back to the drawing board. I just keep on drilling things, keep on being positive and (that’s what he can do).
Denny Burkholder: OK, now a couple of questions for Kimbo. Kimbo, you’ve become so popular in such a short period of time., you’re fighting in main events despite still being relatively new to the sport. My question is where do you think your MMA skill level is at right now? Do you feel like you still have a lot to learn?
Kimbo Slice: Yes, yes. I will always feel that way no matter what level that I’m going up to, no matter the magnitude, the popularity. I will always feel like I’m a baby at the sport and the game. I’m always willing and ready to learn.
Denny Burkholder: OK, now we know you’re training with Bas. You haven’t had a chance yet to show us your ground fighting. Are you looking forward to showing more versatility or would you just be happy to keep things standing?
Kimbo Slice: I think each fighter (is effective) and I never underestimate our opponent. You know, if I was training someone to fight me, that’s what I would work on. I would have my opponent try to take me to the ground, but that’s where they’re going to underestimate me you know.
Denny Burkholder: Very good, OK. Now I have a couple of questions for Gary. Gary, following up on a (question), you said numerous times that MMA promoters should work together for the fans. EliteXC has been very active working with Strikeforce, DREAM and other groups. Would you all work together with Affliction or were they – are they the exception?
Gary Shaw: Right now they’re the exception because they’re a clothing company. Would I work with them in a fight? Yes, I would work with them in a fight. And then would fighters wear Affliction clothing on our telecast? No because I don’t let – allow them to wear competitors’ clothing on our telecast. Would I work with Affliction in the co-promotion? Yes.
Denny Burkholder: Now I’m going to the topic of fighter sponsorships and you know wearing sponsors on your clothing on your way to the cage. One of Kimbo’s sponsors is Reality Kings, and Reality Kings operates a number of pornographic Web sites. Was there ever any discussion of banning Reality Kings from sponsoring Kimbo on the CBS show due to being on primetime network TV?
Gary Shaw: Yes, Reality Kings will not be on his clothing.
Denny Burkholder: OK. Was that a EliteXC call or CBS call or what?
Gary Shaw: It’s both. We understand what’s socially responsible, and CBS has a very high standard for standards and practices. And every logo we put on or whatever we do goes through CBS in their standards and practices.
Denny Burkholder: I know that sponsorships are a pretty big chunk of fighter income. Was there any – did you do anything to make that up to Kimbo that he wouldn’t getting that sponsorship money?
Gary Shaw: You know I gave him a big hug. I showed him love.
Denny Burkholder: All right, very good. Thanks, guys. Best of luck next week.
Gary Shaw: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes to us from Jaime Martinez from No Holds Barred. Go ahead please.
Jaime Martinez: First question I have was for Kimbo Slice. Kimbo, because James Thompson is a taller opponent than others, have you had to adjust your training schedule and your training technique?
Kimbo Slice: Because he’s what?
Jaime Martinez: Taller.
Gary Shaw: Well, James Thompson’s taller than a lot of the other opponents.
Jaime Martinez: Have you had to adjust your training because of that?
Kimbo Slice: I have a pretty long reach.
Jaime Martinez: OK, and Gary, I wanted to ask you about what kind of ratings you were expecting because from what I understand, it’s around three to four million viewers. Is that right?
Gary Shaw: Well, you know, everybody has their own expectations. I don’t know what CBS’s expectations are. I think it’s a new timeslot for sports on Saturday evening’s primetime. It’s definitely a new spot for mixed martial arts that’s never been seen. So, we’re not really sure where the ratings are going to be. I’m hopeful we hit a home run. CBS has put all their assets behind us in this promotion. I couldn’t ask for anything more, and I believe we’ve done our job and we’re sure our athletes have done their jobs in helping to promote the show. So, you know, let’s talk after the 31st. The chips will fall where they may, and we’ll make whatever adjustments we have to afterward.
Jaime Martinez: All right, gentlemen, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Gary Shaw: Thank you.
Operator: We now move on to Jason Probst from Sherdog.com. Go ahead please.
Jason Probst: This question is for both Bas and Kimbo. Obviously it’s a lot of transition to make the move to mixed martial arts. Kimbo, what were your impressions of Bas when you started working with him and what point did you decide that ‘this is the guy I want to work with’?
Kimbo Slice: Actually about a year ago. I have a great impression of Bas. Bas is the man. You know what I’m saying? Can’t get a better trainer, a better coach a better adviser of the sport and of the game. I mean he explains everything to me why. And to my knowledge I can pick it up better. I can understand the cause and the effect of everything, and I wouldn’t want to change that.
Jason Probst: And Bas, what were your initial impressions of Kimbo? Obviously this guy was an Internet phenomenon but what did you think coming in when you started work with him and at what point did you say this is a guy that can make the transition?
Bas Rutten: Well, with him being so big and popular already and to put all – everything on the line to go pro — and there’s a big chance of losing it all because like they say you know he can be a tough guy on the street, but that doesn’t mean anything if you’re going to do it against a pro. But he said, “No, I want to (go) with the pros.’ And I think that has something to say about his motivation, and that’s what sparked interest with me.
He took that risk to go pro so at least, you’re not going to be a guy who’s going to say, ‘Oh, I fought through on the street fights I never won – I never lost.’ You know I want a guy who actually does it against guys who also full time train and you get that.
Jason Probst: Bas, obviously mixed martial arts has a huge grappling in it. With such a short time frame to get Kimbo acclimated to that, did that change the strategy you used to kind of get him to use certain submission tactics versus making it more complex? How did you address getting up, going on the ground, takedowns, clinches and things like that. How did you incorporate that into Kimbo’s game?
Bas Rutten: Like I do with everybody else, I had to learn the hard way. A long time ago I lost – when I lost my last fight against Ken Shamrock, I said, ‘You know what, I don’t like losing. I’m not going to lose anymore.’
So I start training two, three times a day and won my next eight fights I won by submission. So that actually my record shows I beat more people by submission than by knockout.
So right away when Kimbo came in, we already started working on it. I knew he was going to be a striker. I think that Kimbo’s hands are better than 80 percent of the guys in the mixed martial arts game right now. Why would you play? They’re going to try to take him down, so that’s what we really expect is going to happen.
Operator: Our next question comes to us from Damon Martin of MMA Weekly Radio. Go ahead please.
Damon Martin: Thanks for doing the call everybody today. First question is for James. James, you had worked for a little bit with Xtreme Couture in Vegas. And I think you said you’re back in England now. Can you talk about who you’re training with and what it was like with Xtreme Couture?.
James Thompson: I’m training with a team called London Street Fighters at the moment in England. You know I spent some time actually (deciding where to train). I joined a great team with great people. I learn from them. The problem was Sean Thompkins has done a lot of work with Bas and Kimbo. I didn’t want to put him in such an awkward position. Sean is a great guy. So I started looking for all the teams and followed up on one in England. It’s all been going great for me.
Damon Martin: And so you would work with him again in the future?.
James Thompson: Yes, yes, yes. I would. I mean London – I hope that for next fight, too. I have really enjoyed working with them. I’ve had fine training.
Damon Martin: Very good. And for Kimbo, we talked about some of the negative stuff but recently a lot of fighters have come out supporting you – Josh Barnett, B.J. Penn and Tito Ortiz said he’s really changed his opinion of you, so a lot of positivity coming from a lot of long-standing MMA fighters. What does that mean to you as a guy who’s still kind of new in the sport to get that support and kind of turn those people around your way?
Kimbo Slice: My feeling about those guys has never changed. I’m not a sometimes person. I still have love for the sport. I still have love for all my brothers and sisters in the MMA world. They know it. And we’re only going to get bigger and better and make more money doing what we do. And this is what we love to do; (we) fighters entertain. And you know and that’s where I stand with that.
Damon Martin: Gary, in one of the conference calls previously, you mentioned the women’s title coming soon. What about the heavyweight title and where does Antonio Silva and maybe Kimbo or James Thompson fit into that picture?
Gary Shaw: Right now we’re close to doing a heavyweight title. We’ll probably do the heavyweight title in 2008 and Kimbo’s there and James Thompson is there and obviously Junior Silva is right there at the top.
Damon Martin: All right, thanks, everybody. I appreciate it.
Gary Shaw: Thank you too.
Operator: We now go to Bernard Fernandez from the Philadelphia Daily News.
Bernard Fernandez: Before this thing came up about May 31st, I had seen pretty much all of Kimbo’s fights on YouTube because my son had downloaded all of them and has made me watch them. But Gary, on the conference call (Wednesday), Frank Shamrock said that this was a day that was 15 years in coming. And he also said that he got into MMA from watching Bruce Lee movies.
I’m just wondering, in watching those YouTube tapes of or download of Kimbo, if he’s not really like real-life embodiment of the Philo Beddoe character played by Clint Eastwood in those “Every Which Way but Loose” and any-which-way-but-you-can movies from 20 years ago. I mean it’s not like street fighting. It’s something that street fighting livens or something that just came up. I mean can you kind of address that?
Gary Shaw: Sure. I watched. (Jared) my son made me watch Kimbo’s downloads. That’s how I got interested in Kimbo. I didn’t know Kimbo Slice existed.
When I saw him obviously this very first thought in my mind is he is a purebred heavyweight fighter. I watched the way he moved. He reminded me of Tyson. He has natural head movement. He fought side to side. He did things very naturally. I didn’t think of him as a backyard or a street fighter. I immediately thought of him in boxing.
Jared then told me, ‘Dad, he’s training in MMA, and I believe he’s training with Bas Rutten.’ That’s all I needed to know. And having an MMA company, I put two guys on a plane. There’s no more to the story. I sent them to Florida. I told them, ‘Don’t come back (until) we had Kimbo Slice’s signature not only on a piece of paper but every page of the contract.
And so I didn’t look at him as a character or anything else. I looked at him as this big, mean fighting machine that I thought that I could turn into a superstar. Having met Kimbo and having bonded with Kimbo, he’s triangular. He’s got an on-off switch like Tyson. He can baby-sit your kids and be sweet. He is a real mean fighting machine that you don’t want to meet in a backyard or an alley or anywhere else.
And then there’s the third part of the triangular, which is that he is a very complex individual. So, he’s a lot of different things and a family man, and he has what it takes to be a superstar. And that’s why we’re backed up with over a 150 requests right now for interviews. And that’s why he’s on the cover of ESPN Magazine. And now there are other magazines wanting to cross over that have nothing to do with sports. And I know, Bernard, how long you’ve been covering boxing, and you know the difference between a fighter, a star and a superstar. Kimbo Slice is a superstar.
Bernard Fernandez: OK, I appreciate it.
Gary Shaw: Thank you.
Operator: We next go to Sharon Robb from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Go ahead please.
Sharon Robb: Kimbo, hello. Mixed martial arts has been around for a very, very long time and finally it’s a very hot sport. I’m curious what your initial attraction was and what took you so long to get involved with it?
Kimbo Slice: My initial attraction — and I’m not saying this because he’s here — was Bas Rutten. (When I saw how he loved the sport and lived, I said then) if I’m going to train with anybody, it has to be that guy. That’s what made the transition for me to cross over to the MMA world and leave street fighting alone.
Operator: We’ll move on to the side of Pedro Gonzalez from Sports Review. Go ahead please.
Pedro Gonzalez: Hi and thanks for giving us the time. Kimbo, I grew up in Cutler Ridge close to Goulds and Perrine (Florida) areas. How much did growing up in a rough area attribute to your toughness?
Kimbo Slice: It doesn’t have a lot to do with it. It comes with (the) neighborhood. I actually went to schools — Cutler Ridge Middle, Bel-Air Elementary, Richmond Middle and also Palmetto Senior High. You know those neighborhoods are pretty rough, (but) it was school. (If it is time to throw down), we’ve got to throw it down.
Pedro Gonzalez: What is your ultimate goal with MMA? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Kimbo Slice: To continue to be fighting. I see myself receiving one of the heavyweight titles whether it’s boxing or MMA and holding on to them.
Pedro Gonzalez: Are you ever scared or nervous when you approach a fight?
Kimbo Slice: No.
Pedro Gonzalez: Who do you think punches harder? You or Mike Tyson?
Kimbo Slice: I don’t know. We have to do a test to find that out.
Pedro Gonzalez: How often do random people in the street cause problems with you or try to challenge you to a fight?
Kimbo Slice: Never. It never happened.
Operator: We now move on to Eddie Goldman from No Holds Barred.
Eddie Goldman: Thank you. Hello, everybody. Kimbo, besides the financial aspects, how is becoming a professional mixed martial arts partnered with EliteXC changed your life? Or has it?
Kimbo Slice: It’s changed my life tremendously. I’ve learned – I guess that I’ve learned — discipline. I’ve learned (commitmentship). I’ve learned to be more loyal to something that I love (besides) my family.
When I’m in training mode, it’s a three-month or for however long (stint). There’s no drugs, there’s no smoking, there’s no drinking and there’s no sex. And that’s some serious (commitmentship) and I’m loyal.
This does mean something to me. I’m fighting for a reason. I’m fighting for my family. I’m fighting for myself. I’m fighting to never go back into the gutter again. I’m fighting to raise my kids up to be in a different environment. There’s a lot I’m fighting for.
I’m not just in there slugging it out you know. It’s a chess game. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to use my brain. I can drink a cup of water and also write something and watch TV and read a book. I can do all. I’m versatile now. You know, I’m no longer one dimensional in my life. I can do a lot of different things now that I’m training.
Eddie Goldman: There was a recent article by a writer on ESPN.com that was very critical of your image and used a lot of epithets about you.
Gary Shaw: Don’t even go there, Eddie, because any article that starts, ‘Although I’ve never spoken with the man and although I’ve never met the man,’ — that alone disqualifies the article and doesn’t warrant a question. And I’m not going to let Kimbo even give an answer.
Eddie Goldman: Well, I just wanted to get his rebuttal to it.
Gary Shaw: There is no rebuttal. Anybody that will write an article that’s speaking third person and without meeting the person is not a journalist.
Eddie Goldman: OK. I’m not disagreeing with you. I just wanted to …
Gary Shaw: OK, well …
Eddie Goldman: … get his take on it.
Gary Shaw: … forget it.
Eddie Goldman: I’ve got a question for James also. James, you’ve been brought into this fight. Kimbo is the big star attraction on the cover of ESPN Magazine and is the main one being …
James Thompson (interrupting): Some people don’t even say hello to me.
Eddie Goldman: I know. I’m sorry about that. (But) how are you going to approach this fight? Do you think you’re being brought in to be knocked out? And obviously you want to win this fight on this big stage and being on CBS. How are you going to approach Kimbo?
James Thompson: You know, obviously, I’m being brought in to – I’m mean I’m a big guy, I’m an exciting fighter, I look big and mean but you know they’re hoping I get knocked on the chin and that’s not over for me. I mean fans will call me “James See You Later.”
It doesn’t matter to me. That doesn’t bother me at all. It doesn’t bother me because it gives me a chance (to make amends). I mean after my last few fights, I don’t think I really deserve the chance. But to get this chance (is massive) to me. I mean it really is a big thing and I intend to take full advantage of it.
Eddie Goldman: I want to ask also finally Kimbo and James. Do you guys both expect this to be a short fight over in the first round? Kimbo first.
Kimbo Slice: Well, I’m expecting the fight to go to the ground. I’m expecting to do some of my ground game. Man, you don’t understand. I’m more excited about going to the ground than I am standing up right now. You know the last quarter of our training has been ground by ground by ground. I’m really looking forward to that right now.
Eddie Goldman: And James, how do you see it? Do you think it’s actually ending up going to the ground or do you think it’ll be a stand-up battle?
James Thompson: There are so many different elements in it. I wouldn’t even like to predict where the fight’s going to go. All I know is I’m training hard. I’m sure Kimbo’s training hard. You know we both come to fight, we both come to entertain and we both come to give our all. So all I know is it’s going to be one exciting fight.
Operator: We next go to Steve Feitl from Home News Tribune of East Brunswick. Go ahead please.
Steve Feitl: Hi, good afternoon, everybody. My first question is for James. With Kimbo being a relatively young fighter and you know knowing how his skills are developing, does that make it somewhat more difficult to prepare for fighting him?
James Thompson: To a certain extent because you have this – well you know obviously Kimbo’s very aggressive. Obviously. he’s got a good stand-up. You know that’s what we’ve seen. And you can answer with a question mark. All I can do is see what I’ve got to work with and where my game is and fill in the holes I have and fight hard.
Steve Feitl: Kimbo, this is obviously a huge night in the world of mixed martial arts, a big opportunity for mixed martial arts. Do you feel any extra responsibility considering you’re kind of the guy that they’re kind of building this all around as far as EliteXC?
Kimbo Slice: You know I know what I have to do and I never had a problem doing what I have to do.
Operator: Our next question comes to us from Doug Jeffrey. Go ahead please.
Doug Jeffrey: Thank you for your time. I appreciate it very much you guys. James, your walk-ins are very, very intense. What goes through your mind during that time you are walking in to the cage?
James Thompson: Nothing really goes through my mind. It’s just a mixture of adrenaline. It’s there. It’s kind of all those kinds of things mixed in together, which you kind of just go along with. It’s kind of the kind of what comes out of your end. You know I mean that kind of intense amplifier.
Doug Jeffrey: OK. What is your biggest concern with Kimbo?
James Thompson: His beard. I don’t want to get the oval bed rush. You know I mean that’s what I mean. Now I mean obviously he’s an aggressive stand-up fighter. I’ve got holes in my stomach defense. I mean I’ve got to make sure I’m tight and you know I mean I don’t want to be going to war with Kimbo. I mean that’s no secret. Eventually, I want it to go to the floor and see what he’s got there.
Doug Jeffrey: Bas, can you assess Kimbo’s skill level?
Bas Rutten: Well, it’s up there you know. The thing is we fought three fights with a two-minute-and-twelve-second total time. There’s nothing much we can say from that, right? So we got to fight – I foresee everything being really good because the way he is before a fight, he’s very relaxed.
He really likes to fight. He keeps his mind together which is a very difficult thing to do for a fighter because you see a lot of fighters who are really good in the dojo, but then once they bring it to the fight they get stage fright and they lock up there and like only 20 percent comes out. But I don’t see a problem, so I think he’s going to have a great career just as long as there are no injuries — that’s the only thing I wish because that’s what happened with me. Then, I foresee a great career.
Doug Jeffrey: Kimbo, what is your biggest concern with James going in to the fight?
Kimbo Slice: I don’t have one.
Doug Jeffrey: Totally confident and ready to go?
Kimbo Slice: Yes, sir.
Doug Jeffrey: OK, good deal. Thanks for your time, you guys.
Gary Shaw: OK, Doug. Take care, man.
Operator: Your next question comes to us from Jack Encarnacao from The Fight Network. .
Jack Encarnacao: Hi, guys. Thanks for taking the call. I really appreciate it. Gary, how close were you guys to making a Kimbo versus Ken Shamrock fight for the CBS debut?
Gary Shaw: Not really close. Ken is one of our fighters and we absolutely would’ve considered him had he won in England, but the fact is that he didn’t win and I didn’t like the way he lost. I didn’t think it was appropriate for the first CBS telecast.
Jack Encarnacao: How about in James Thompson’s case, who also is coming off a loss like Ken?
Gary Shaw: I think he just walked into (a shot). It was a different type of loss. I mean it was more competitive. I thought he walked into a punch. He fought Brett Rodgers, who we have a lot of respect for, so much respect that he’s on this CBS telecast. Somebody asked before about James coming in to be a sacrificial lamb for Kimbo. Well, a lot of people thought that Brett Rodgers was a sacrificial lamb for James Thompson. I’ve been in the fight game long enough to know that anything can happen on any night. And if you’re not well prepared, then you know you are in a problem. But as Buster Douglas showed when beat Mike Tyson, anything can happen on any night. That’s why the smart people will tune in on May 31st primetime, 9:00 p.m, on CBS.
Jack Encarnacao: Kimbo, why do you think so many people want to see you fight?
Kimbo Slice: Because you’ve got a lot of people out there who love the sport. They love the fact that people who love boxing are transitioning now over to MMA. And they love a battle like back in the days when the Romans just filled their buildings up with millions or hundreds of thousands of people to watch the Roman gladiators go at it. This is the modern day time. Now we’re in the new millennium, this is a new era, and it’s the same thing you know. People love to be entertained. You know man to man. That’s what people love. Luckily for me, I’m one of those gladiators. I love to fight. I love to perform. It’s your move and my move. It’s one on one. You know I can take a punch. Can you take a punch? You know you’re going to put me in a move. I’m going to try to get out and I’m going to slip you in a move. And that’s what it’s about with me.
Jack Encarnacao: Kimbo, do you get a sense that you are bringing new people into the sport that don’t watch right now?
Kimbo Slice: Yes, I’ve been all around and I’m getting that and, you know, that’s good. That’s good that we’re able to be a positive influence on the public; that people are getting more involved. That is a good thing because that means that we are part of — you know James, myself and , everybody on this fight card — we’re going to (show that this really is a) sport. And that’s what it’s about.
Jack Encarnacao: Bas, you’ve been around the sport pretty much longer than anybody else, and I wondered if you have ever seen anything in Japan or even in America like what’s happening with Kimbo? Can you compare it to anything as far as the general interest in this and his story?
Bas Rutten: I would say Bob Sapp in Japan. But then, Bob, I think got more attracted to pro wrestling and then they started doing more and more interviews and TV and he got sidetracked a little bit. In the beginning, let’s not forget that he gave Antonio Nogueira a run for his money, pile driving on his head. But then when they started pulling away because he was so big – I had dinner with Bob Sapp one time and they had to close the restaurant because people were gathering in the front of it. We had to escape from the back.
With Kimbo, it’s the same. Wherever you go, people recognize him. Kids recognize him, all those people. He rams his car into another car you know in front of a church very close to my gym. And the people from the church, they ran out and they go, ‘Oh my God, Kimbo Slice. We were watching you before we went to church on YouTube.’ I will say also that Kimbo is really focused on the training and we have tried to keep him away from the movies for now.
Jack Encarnacao: Kimbo, do you follow all the press about you? Do you ever look at it or do you completely shut it out?
Kimbo Slice: I completely shut it out.
Jack Encarnacao: Except ESPN The Magazine, right?
Kimbo Slice: Yes.
Jack Encarnacao: All right. It’s all good. Thank you, guys.
Operator: Thank you. We’ll now move on to Kevin Garvey from TheGARV.com. Go ahead please.
Kevin Garvey: Hey, guys. Thanks for taking the call. Kimbo, you did a lot of bare knuckle boxing in your day. How are your knuckles, your hands now? Are they in good shape?
Kimbo Slice: My hands are great.
Kevin Garvey: Kimbo, you mentioned that you’d like to possibly be the heavyweight champion in boxing. Do you see a pro boxing match in your future?
Kimbo Slice: It’s going to be up to my promoter and my manager. They’ll work together and decide what is best for the future and my career.
Kevin Garvey: Kimbo, you have a lot of fans but there are some people who feel that you should not be headlining this because of your lack of experience. How would you address that?
Kimbo Slice: They’re right.
Kevin Garvey: They’re right, huh?
Kimbo Slice: Yes.
Kevin Garvey: That’s interesting. Bas, I know that you’re working on the ground game with Kimbo. How would you rate his ground game?
Bas Rutten: Kimbo’s take-down defense is really good actually. There are certain ways to take people down. And we’ve got great (fighters) for takedowns, so you know whatever comes, he’s going to counter with something. And if they go for a takedown, he’s going to reverse them and end up on top. (That’s because) of his size and his power. That’s going to be a great position to be in.
Kevin Garvey: All right, it sounds great, guys. Thanks very much.
Mitch Graham: Guys, we have time for two more questions.
Operator: We’ll go next to Stephen Marrocco from Full Contact Fighter. Go ahead please.
Stephen Marrocco: Kimbo, you seem to be a lot more talkative today (then you were) at the press conference in Los Angeles on CBS Media Day. Were you shy in front of so many cameras?
Kimbo Slice: No.
Stephen Marrocco: Gary, you mentioned that you had to be prepared for whoever won the main event, Kimbo or James Thompson. What is the plan if Kimbo loses?
Gary Shaw: For me to hang myself on TV. (Seriously) I never think of any of my athletes losing on either side. I’m at it promoting an event, so put on a great and a winning experience and the millions of viewers that are going to watch on Saturday, May 31st, (will get) a great show. So I don’t really look forward – well if he loses, what do we do? I don’t even look forward if they win when they do. I take one of them at a time and one side at a time. And that is the truth.
As far as the question about Kimbo headlining a show – headlining a show has nothing to do with experience. It has to do with fighting ability and entertainment value. And Kimbo Slice brings to the arena and to television great fighting ability and great entertainment skills.
And Bas – and I don’t know Bas that well, but I could tell you that many, many people have told me the same thing: If Bas didn‘t believe Kimbo was real and Kimbo couldn’t fight, Bas would not put his name attached to Kimbo and walk down that cage war with Kimbo. And he could – Bas could speak for himself, but I can guarantee you that he’ll back up what I’m saying right now.
Bas Rutten: Yes, I would.
Stephen Marrocco: Gary, if you matched the ratings expectations on Saturday, what do you expect from the other networks in the future?
Gary Shaw: That’s a great question. I believe if we do the ratings that I personally am expecting then I think you’ll see other networks – NBC, Fox, probably go right into mixed martial arts because they’ll see the entertainment value, they’ll see the ratings value, they’ll see the sponsorship money come in. And it’s the new wave sport. It’s here. And I don’t believe anything’s going to stop it as long as we give competitive fights and great entertainment value.
And I think not because it’s a show that I’m promoting, but I believe in the product. And if it’s done right, I believe you’ll see others jump in immediately.
Stephen Marrocco: And if you miss the mark, what do you expect other than a trip to the gallows for yourself?
Gary Shaw: If I miss the mark, I’ll be very disappointed in myself and my leadership. I’ll forever question what went wrong and why it didn’t do the ratings. And the only thing that I could think of on this conference call is maybe we’re just a little ahead of the time. But I don’t expect that to happen. I don’t think CBS is expecting it to happen. And truthfully I’m not prepared for if it doesn’t happen. It’s a very good question. I gave you an answer with maybe not a lot of thought but from my heart.
Stephen Marrocco: Gary, do you have any comment about Carina Damm’s positive test for steroids and do you have a replacement for her on June 27th?
Gary Shaw: Well, she’s obviously suspended from fighting for us. I’m very disappointed in any athlete that takes steroids. That’s one thing that I won’t tolerate as a formal regulator and someone that really cares about the health, welfare and safety of every fighter. There’s just no reason for that, no reason to get an unfair edge. So, yes, we’ll have replacements, and she’ll be suspended maybe even longer than her athletic suspension.
Stephen Marrocco: OK, great. Thank you very much.
Gary Shaw: Thank you very much.
Operator: The last question will come from Alberto Martinez from URDirt.com.
Alberto Martinez: James, how do you feel fighting so close to New York City, which has historical value as far as big events go and do you see the future of New York chasing up for you guys?
James Thompson: Yes, although I am not really following it much where the fight’s taking place. Obviously it’s in America, it’s on CBS. It’s primetime, it’s a massive historical event and the fact it’s kind of near New York or in New York. I hope New York gets a license so they can have actual MMA fights. I’m not going to give it much thought, though.
Alberto Martinez: Kimbo, how close do you feel to being ready to fight Tim Sylvia or Fedor?
Kimbo Slice: I’m willing to fight anybody. I’m willing to take any challengers. I don’t turn anyone down.
Alberto Martinez: Kimbo, do you have a prediction?
Kimbo Slice: He’s going to throw punches. It’s going to go to the ground.
Alberto Martinez: Are you prepared for that, Kimbo, if it goes to the ground?
Kimbo Slice: Yes.
Alberto Martinez: James, how does it feel being a sacrificial lamb in the media actually feel?
James Thompson: The actual title of being a sacrificial lamb is unofficial. I’m not sure what – it doesn’t bother me. This is such a memorable event. I’m all good and I’m all ready to go.
Alberto Martinez: Thank you.
Mitch Graham: All right everyone. Thank you so much for calling in today. Thank you Kimbo, James, and Bas and Gary.
We will have a replay of this call available for one week. The replay information – the number is 719-457-0820 or toll free at 888-203-1112, and the pass code is 4526085. If anybody has any questions or follow up, they can contact Kelli Raftery in New York or myself, Mitch Graham.
I think all of you have our information. And thank you again for calling in today and tune in on May 31 on CBS 9:00 to 11:00. Thanks, everyone.
Tags: Bas Rutten, CBS, James Thompson, Kimbo Slice, Mixed Martial Arts