The Kayfabe of Kimbo vs Tank

Good analysis of the pro-wrestling style build up for Kimbo vs Tank from Bryan Alvarez at the Fight Network: Because the only promoting vehicle…

By: Nate Wilcox | 16 years ago
The Kayfabe of Kimbo vs Tank
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Good analysis of the pro-wrestling style build up for Kimbo vs Tank from Bryan Alvarez at the Fight Network:

Because the only promoting vehicle they had was Showtime, which has a very limited number of viewers, this will have to rank as the third best pro-wrestling build of the year behind the Lesnar fight and Orton vs. Hardy. But as I watched it I wept at how few people were aware of it, and thus how much money was lost. I don’t want to say “flushed down the toilet” like I would say with Impact, because EliteXC had no other options. They don’t have eight hours of weekly TV on Spike, and they did the best with what they had. But with the right vehicle to promote this, I have no idea how big it could have been.

The most lucrative fights often aren’t about the best fighters. It’s all about creating an illusion, and this was the ultimate battle of illusion. You had Tank Abbott, the supposed pitfighter from the early days of UFC who people could look at and say, that’s what a real fighter looks like. Fat, powerful, big beer gut, hairy, thick beard, the guy who eats some wings, drinks some beer and then punches people out. He’d won a single fight since 1998 and was coming into this with a 9-13 record, but it didn’t matter — he was TANK ABBOTT. Kimbo was the “Internet street fighting legend”, a big black powerful muscular dude with a bald head and gigantic beard, the kind of guy that people who don’t follow fighting would look at and say, that’s the baddest man around. It was the street fighter of the 90s vs. the street fighter of the 00s, two cartoon characters about to slug it out in a cartoon match to determine who was the supposed toughest brawler around. They even billed it, no joke, as THE STREETFIGHT. It was a pro-wrestling stipulation on an MMA show (even though, obviously, they had to follow traditional MMA rules and the fight was even stopped at one point for illegal shots to the back of the head). When Kimbo, the hometown Miami boy, got the win in 43 seconds via knockout, it got a reaction unlike almost anything we’ve heard in pro-wrestling or MMA in the last several years. The people lost their minds because the guy from Youtube beat the old guy who hadn’t shown a thing in a DECADE. This was magical, and really a once-in-a-generation type of fight, and I was so sad that so few people had been aware of it.

As much as some MMA purists hate on pro-wrestling, it has always been close kin to MMA — in fact in Japan MMA is almost wholly a spin-off of proresu — and there is much to learn about building a business, selling fights, and most importantly sustaining a business model from our friends the carny barkers at WWE.

Update [2008-2-18 12:28:7 by Kid Nate]:
Mike Sloan has a slightly different take on the Kimbo phenomenon at Sherdog. Key quote:

Most hardcore MMA purists’ stomachs churn at the notion of a swarming street toughie with little to no ground knowledge eliciting such excitement and intrigue. Fans of such veterans as Nate Marquardt, Jeremy Horn (Pictures) and Anderson Silva assuredly roll their eyes in disgust over a battle between an over-the-hill Abbott and some dude with no authentic credibility outside of his YouTube version of Bum Fights.

As horrendous as it is for purists the world over, the reality is that Slice will be nabbing the headlines for quite some time. First we had Abbott, next was Sapp and now we have Ferguson.

I disagree. I think as our own Luke Thomas personifies, some MMA hardcores are very impressed with Kimbo and welcome him to the sport. He kicks ass and sells tickets, what more do we ask of a fighter?

Share this story

About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories