BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
Although he was kicking butt on the streets of Orange County, Calif., long before, David "Tank" Abbott gained worldwide fame in 1995, when he smashed 400-pound John Matua in 20 seconds on UFC 6: Clash of the Titans.
After the 6-foot, 260-pounder blasted Paul Varelas in about 80 seconds, he was forced to submit to Oleg Taktarov at 17:45 in the finals of the eight-man tournament. Nevertheless, a star was born.
He never reached the top of the mixed martial arts game, but the hard-punching - and harder-drinking - Abbott became a household name for those who followed the rapidly growing and wildly popular sport.
Kevin Ferguson, a.k.a. Kimbo Slice, is a product of today's technology. Although, like Abbott, he earned his reputation on the streets - in his case, in Miami - he rose to prominence on the Internet, where he was - and is - a fixture on YouTube.
The bare-knuckled brawler, who bashed faces for dough in warehouses, fields and yards in filmed underground contests, moved to the MMA ranks in 2007, when he defeated former WBO heavyweight boxing champion Ray Mercer in an exhibition.
Kimbo followed that with his Showtime debut on Oct.11, when beat down Bo Cantrell in 19 seconds.
The 34-year-old Slice and the 42-year-old Abbott - both of whom fight under the banner of EliteXC - will meet Feb. 16 in a Showtime-televised event, held at BankUnited Center at the University of Miami.
In a January conference call, the pair took turns - with the help of promoter Gary Shaw - taking shots at each other, beginning the smack-talk before getting underway with the smackdown.
Slice began the interview with nothing else to say except, "What's up," which incensed the more voluble Abbott.
"I'll tell you what's up. Kimbo's going to be on his back," Abbott said. "This fight is going to last about as long as his interview opening did. 'What's up' is about how long it's going to take for him to end up on his back knocked out."
"Did you have a six-pack or 12-pack before you said something?" Slice responded.
"I don't drink beer," Abbott said. "I can afford vodka."
Shaw asked Abbott if he really believed the fight would end in a knockout.
"I don't see it going any other way," he said. "I can do anything I want to him, but what fun is that? I like to knock people out. I can go 15 minutes holding my breath standing on my head. So it could be the 14th minute or the first minute, whenever he runs into one."
Slice begged to differ.
"You better wear a pad with that cup, because I'm going to have you (urinating) blood, homie."
"That sounds good," Abbott said. "That's what it's all about."
Abbott, who is writing a book about himself, said it's a good thing Slice didn't run into him back during his streetfighting days.
"I tell you one thing, if Kimbo was back in my era, stomping around Orange County, he would have been long gone a long time ago," he said. "There was no referee and there were no people walking around watching it. When you entered into a fight you assumed the risk to die. You didn't have to worry about somebody as a referee stepping in and saving it. Like I said, I've got well over 200 street fights under my belt."
According to sherdog.com, MMA's record-keeping agency, Abbott has 22 sanctioned bouts, winning nine. But Slice said he's not concerned about his lack of experience in the cage.
"I'm dying to get the opportunity to show off a little stuff," he said. "I've got a lot of tools in my arsenal now. I'm not afraid to use them. I'm getting to the point where it's second nature. I'm just excited to be where I am, to get to bang up Tank and make a good future and a good name for myself.
"I'm proving myself now, because people feel like the guys that I fought were pretty much nobodies. But you never know what another guy has. You never know what type of skill the next man has. If a guy's willing to fight you, that says a lot. He's sure about himself. You can't take that from anybody. Like every fight, the best man's going to win. Whoever trains the hardest and wants it more is going to win. That's what it's about for me."
There are a couple of factors besides experience that would tend to favor Abbott. One is the fact that Slice, a former bodyguard for a Miami-based Internet pornography production company, is heavily hyped and portrayed as being invincible.
That myth was dispelled as early as 2003, when Sean Gannon, then already trained in MMA, floored Slice four times along the way to stopping him after a 10-minute fight in a warehouse.
Slice displayed no aptitude for defending against a front choke or knee strikes.
The other is that, in spite of his reputation as a streetfighter, Abbott has been wrestling since he was nine and was at one time under the tutelage of noted boxing trainer Jesse Reid, who has trained 23 world champions, including Orlando Canizales, Hector Camacho, Johnny Tapia and Roger Mayweather, among others.
Although the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Slice outsizes Abbott, Reid said that the smaller man is no pushover.
"Tank Abbott is a very strong man. He's bench pressed 600 pounds without steroids," Reid said. "I think his boxing skills are better than most. He's a bit mean. If Tank gets him at a disadvantage, he might finish him.
"When I trained him, he was 255 pounds and in the best shape of his life. He broke two guys' jaws [in sparring]. I taught him the up-jab. Tank Abbott has really gotten old, but he's still a strong guy."
Reno super heavyweight Rocky Batastini, who is a member of Ken Shamrock's Lion's Den at The Stadium said although Slice is still weak in his ground game, he's picking him to win.
"Tank's old and out of shape," Batastini said. "He's never really trained for a fight in his life. One good thing about Kimbo is he has a good chin. If Tank doesn't get him out of there in two or three punches, he'll blow his load. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. At 42, I don't think he can do anything different than he did in his 20s and 30s."
Reid offered another insight that would undoubtedly delight Slice.
"People paint Tank out to be some kind of villain, a real tough guy," Reid said. "He's not. He has a chin of iron, but he has no heart. He ain't no tough guy. He has the heart of a pea. He trains on booze. If he runs out of gas, he'll quit."
Showtime will televise the event on tape delay, beginning at 10 p.m.