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The Cornerman: What didn’t kill Kimbo will make him a real mixed martial artist

Mike Reilly is the owner and head instructor of Team Bison MMA in St. Paul, Minnesota. Team Bison is the home to many competitive mixed martial artists such as Brett Rogers, Sammy Morgan, and Kelly Kobold. Mike was cageside working Kobold’s corner during her Oct. 4 fight against Gina Carano on CBS’ Saturday Night Fights. In Mike’s latest column for Five Ounces of Pain, he provides our readers with a unique look into the event.

You can judge a sport by how bad it hurts when you lose.

In MMA losing is devastating. Physically, the pain inflicted by the victors is meaningless. MMA fighters are used to physical pain. Injuries and blood are part of the game. After the fight, the pain of a loss remains not only in the days after, but the weeks that follow it as well. A loss effects not only your most recent fight, but the very next one as well. Your pay will be less; your spot on the card drop; and sponsors dry up.

Winning doesn’t mean doubling a fighter’s pay day; it means quadrupling their money and moving them one step further towards the top. Making matters worse is that your next opportunity to redeem yourself will not present itself for months. Yet it is in the dust of defeat that we still find greatness. The lessons learned in victory do not rival the magnitude of the ones you learn in defeat.

EliteXC’s Oct. 4 show on CBS was one of the best cards I have ever been part of. While Elite remains the favorite target of the Internet fanboiz, this show had everything. Fighters showed amazing heart, skill and spirit. We saw massive upsets coupled with back and forth battles that kept fans on the edge of the seats.

Then came the main event.

The intrigue was amusing. More theories have sprouted up than compared to the Kennedy Assassination. In fact, the next day at the Flagler Dog Track I was playing poker with a guy who knew “for a fact” the entire thing had been rigged by the mob. Just for that, I had to crack his Jacks and send him to the rail.

People saw what they wanted to see in Kimbo Slice and they saw what they wanted to see in Kimbo going down. Now if Kimbo has had a harsher, more dogged critic than me, then I don’t know who that person might be. Remember, I’m the same guy who helped author an open statement to Kimbo that became quite the talk a few months back. However, Kimbo did not get exposed in that fight vs. Seth Petruzelli; he did not get embarrassed; and he certainly didn’t get paid off by some shadowy figure on the grassy knoll.

On October 4, 2008, Kimbo Slice became a fighter; a real, full-fledged, dangerous mixed martial arts fighter.
We watched the fight from the locker room cheering for Seth. I have been a fan of Seth’s for many years and hoped he’d make the most of this amazing opportunity. In a flash, Seth had jumped from an also-ran with potential to being a superstar. But we saw something else. In defeat, that horrible pain, that gut wrenching, soul ripping feeling that the fight is lost. The moment gone. That pain was in Kimbo’s eyes and that pain will make him dangerous.

Kimbo had a tough night. The guy carries the show on his back and then gets put on his back with a lightning strike no one saw coming. But fighters are not measured in how they fall; but rather in how they get up. In this game everything can turn on a second. One mistake, one misstep at any time and it can be over. No one gets out unbloodied, unmarked. No one leaves the field without wounds. But how will that warrior come back?

For all my poking, prodding and provoking Kimbo, I believe the man will come back better, stronger and more focused than before. Kimbo’s next opponent had better come ready for war because they won’t be fighting Kimbo the sideshow or Kimbo the “YouTube Legend”. They will be fighting Kevin Ferguson: MMA fighter; and a hell of a good one at that!

Our game is great because it hurts so bad to lose that you have no choice but to come back better. Glory to the victors and congratulations to Seth, Gina, Arlovski and the rest. But take heart those who stood to watch the other warrior’s hand raised; those whose dreams lay shattered in the dust. Take heart and stand tall for you are no less the warrior. The next time you walk through the door to risk it all you will come through better.

I have stood with my fighters hundreds of times. I have raised them up in victory and helped them up in defeat. Win, lose or draw I have looked in their eyes and never been less then awed at the greatness they behold. I hope every camp can look at their fighters in victory or defeat and see the same thing. We have a great sport, because even in defeat there is honor, glory and a reason to dare once more.

  • jim smith says:

    He’s still way overrated

  • Robert says:

    Way overrated how? Where have you seen him ranked anywhere near the top 20 or even top 25, nowhere so who is it that has him rated so high?

  • HexRei says:

    overrated by the unwashed masses, perhaps.

  • jim smith says:

    overrated by elite XC, by the casual fans and by the author of the article stupid.

  • Jim says:

    I cannot agree more. Not necessarily about Kimbo — who knows how this will affect him, because he’s still inexperienced and this loss didn’t give him experience in anything other than not rushing in unguarded — but about the sentiment that a loss defines a fighter far more than a win.

    GSP learned that his talent won’t even help him every time against a fighter of lesser skill, that no matter what he has to be focused and prepared. Matt Serra taught him that.

    Jon Fitch now knows that he can take the best GSP has to offer and not go out. That’ll strengthen him a great deal.

    Great article. I’d love to read your take on other fighters and situations.

  • Makea says:

    Best commentary I’ve read in a long time.

  • ACK! says:

    Wow. Brilliant article. This might be the best piece of writing I’ve ever read on 5oz.

  • Jesse says:

    While I agree with some of the sentiment about a loss making a fighter better, and I have respect for Mike, this whole Kimbo is dangerous thing stinks. This seems to me like nothing more than a way to generate some interest in a Brett Rogers vs Kimbo fight that should have happened instead of Shamrock/Petruzelli. EliteXC lost their chance at having Kimbo lose to a man in Rogers, who while not being a top heavyweight still has some marketability, and instead rolled the dice one too many times and lost. This statement just seems like a way to say, “Hey, we still want to fight Kimbo and maybe we can spin it as he’s even MORE dangerous now.” I’m not EliteXC hater, quite the contrary I like a lot of their fighters, but this seems like a PR move rather than a serious assessment.

  • Sabotage says:

    Agreed, Makea. One of the best MMA insight reads in awhile.

  • HexRei says:

    I agree with the sentiment of this article but it could probably have been reduced to a single paragraph if you subtract all the misty-eyed melodrama.

  • BadMonkey says:

    Nice article and wise words about the nature of big time MMA. I’m ready to choke out the next chucklehead I hear say Kimbo took a dive b/c, and I quote, “Kimbo’s a total badass, there’s no way that guy could’ve really beat him.” Morons.

    Every top fighter in MMA today has been beaten at least once and they learned how to come back stronger and be a better fighter. And I agree, Kimbo’s next opponent is in for a war.

  • chuntsmanbjj says:

    kimbo will be a warrior that gets knocked out again… like gary goodridge

  • Max B says:

    OWWWWW Kimbo got his wave smashed

  • Goomba says:

    Topgunmma rates him at 30. He is nowhere near that.

  • randy says:

    I didnt really agree with much in this story. Kimbo will still suck and not get any better in this lifetime (at least not to be a real MMA fighter)(Of which I am not either). His best hope is that someone starts a senior tour for him shamrock grace hughes abbott and the other old guys who still want to fight. I see it know.

    Live on CBS watch our famous warriors on MMA Seniors Night where contestants are given 3 minutes between each round so they can change their depends and eat a bowl of fiber one

  • Dr.Stoppage says:

    So like,what’s he’s trying to say is,”It’s not how many times you get knocked down,it’s how many times you get back up”,except in alot more words, right?
    Hang in there,Kimbo.
    Pick yourself up,so Brett Rogers can kick your ass in the future.

    “The guy carries the show on his back”?

    “Seth, Gina, Arlovski and the rest”?
    Sound like Gilligan’s Island.
    Let Kimbo train with Team Bison if your so pumped about him now.

  • Dr.Stoppage says:

    “MMA Senior’s Night”?
    I like it.

  • fightfan says:

    This is the same donkey that “helped” author the ripping of Slice and “Jurassic MMA, dinosaurs, etc, etc……

    and the absolutely embarassing 2nd open letter with all the 3rd grade level THC and marijuana references??????

    Now , he is praising how bad ass Slice will become?????? WTF??? How can you take this guy seriously??? What will he post next mma poetry and the dangers of bloodloss???

  • kingiefella says:

    Kimbo now knows that he can get kncocked out and cant just plough through these guys anymore. Im not saying that Kimbo didnt train hard but maybe mentally he thought that he could just knock these guys out and now knows that he has to take his training seriously mentally and physically. Hopefully Bas will now give him a kick up the ass and get him to train like an MMA fighter….c`mon we all know Bas knew this was coming

  • kingiefella says:

    Well at least Kimbo has the backyard fights to fall back on if he decides to not persue MMA….only thing is i bet now there will be a line of guys now wanting to fight him.

  • Animal says:

    Hey, fightfan. One question: When is YOUR next fight??? Do you even compete?? People are allowed to change their minds. You seem like the typical “armchair mma guy” that watches from a far judging fighters with no real first-hand knowledge of the sport, or think you know whats goin on because you have a friend that fights and think you have some sort of inside knowledge. Tell you what; Step into the cage a couple times, win some and lose some, then read the article again. Anyone with enough heart to step into the cage has the potential to become the best, no matter what their background. Maybe we don’t all see it right away, but sometimes it does take a loss to become a better fighter. What Reilly is saying is true and I bet any true fighter out there will agree that you learn more from a loss than from a win.

  • blake says:

    Heh, nice writing. I hope that Kimbo does come back strong, from what little I’ve learned about him he seems like he’s got his head on relatively straight. Keep working hard Kevin, and God bless. I’ll watch your next fight, and be pulling for you.

  • ACK! says:

    I love how people who’ve undoubtedly never fought don’t agree with this article. What don’t you agree with? The fact that fighters are defined by their losses more than their wins?

    It’s the truth. Do you think Anderson Silva would be half the fighter he is today if he wasn’t shocked by Ryo Chonan and completely embarassed by Daiju Takase?

  • Suga says:

    Great read

  • Shatner says:

    Sounds like maybe Randy needs to change his diaper he’s certainly crying like a baby.If you don’t like CBS Saturday night fights just don’t watch it!

  • Kaitlin says:

    Wow. Well put.

  • clashfan says:

    Anyone who has the nuts to walk into a cage with no protective equipment and slug it out man to man deserves respect, whether they win or not. Couture had his losses and his record is what 16-8, yet considered one of the top pfp fighters. No one said Kimbo was unbeatable, maybe in time, training with Bas he will become better. Remember what GSP did to Serra in the second fight after being embarrassed. Good article

  • HexRei says:

    clashfan, that’s because of the quality of opponents he has faced. to be perfectly honest nearly any past opponent of randy’s is tougher than the toughest guy kimbo faced.

  • Shatner says:

    I would take James Thompson over Valentijn Overeem,Tony Halme,Steven Graham,and Mikhail Illoukhine.Some of Couture’s past opponents.

  • HexRei says:

    I’m not convinced today’s Thompson could beat any of those guys (when they were in their primes). Those were all big tough guys, most of them with similar skillsets to Kimbo’s actually, and Thompson had a very tough time with Kimbo. Thompson’s best wins were all washed up ex-UFC guys like Severn and Fry who he had significant size and youth advantage over.

    And for what its worth, I don’t really count the Thompson win for much given the extremely controversial nature of the stoppage and the oddball refereeing. It was not a convincing victory to me and didn’t prove much about Kimbo’s ability.

  • chris shultz says:

    Thank you Mr. Reilly

  • Imbecile says:

    Interesting perspective…

    I like the trainer’s point of view, although there definitely is an air of self-interest in a lot of the praise of Kimbo and keeping his hype alive for a potential big-money match against Brett Rogers. Maybe there isn’t any self-interest involved, and it is just an honest assessment, but the appearance is certainly there.

  • Duty Guy says:

    Kelly Kobold looked like all she was interested in was burying her face in Gina’s oh so magnificent rack. She kept making love to the camera, and then wanted to just feel Gina in her embrace for several minutes. It was awkward to say the least. So what did Mike Reilly teach her at his MMA camp? How to get past the kicks and tweak a nipple while keeping her mouth guard in her face (which didn’t really need it)?


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