Kimbo Slice doesn't remember how many YouTube clicks it took in 2003 before he realized his life was about to change.
When the online videos of Slice (birth name Kevin Ferguson) brawling in a South Florida backyard reached 10,000 views, did it happen then? What about 100,000? One million?
"Not really man," said Slice, when asked if he could recall. "I can't say that I do."
What Slice does know is the appeal of him fighting another man still lives in 2015. The 41-year-old heavyweight ends a five-year absence from mixed martial arts on Friday, as he's set to face Ken Shamrock at Bellator 138 in St. Louis.
Slice (4-2) hasn't fought in MMA since a one-sided TKO loss to Matt Mitrione under the UFC banner in May 2010. He hasn't won since December 2009 -- a rather strange decision over Houston Alexander, who did nothing but circle the cage all night.
He has been more-or-less removed from the public eye entirely since 2013, when he competed in his last professional boxing match. His boxing record stands at 7-0, but it would be a stretch to call it a "success." When asked what the money-making opportunity was like for him in the squared circle, Slice replied, "There is no money in boxing."
And yet, Bellator MMA president Scott Coker has gone on record saying Friday's event will be the most-watched fight in the company's history (and he said it before the Golden State Warriors clinched the NBA Finals in Game 6, ensuring Bellator's ratings would not have to go against basketball on Friday).
If there is an "A-side" to this fight, it's undoubtedly Slice (as such, he will walk to the cage second) -- even though his opponent, Shamrock (28-15-2), is about 100 times more decorated in the sport.
What is it about Slice and an MMA cage that is still so appealing, 12 years after his first taped backyard fight against one "Big D?"
"I'm going to be honest with you," Slice said. "I like it. It motivates me. I walk around and people still cling to me. We're talking about all demographics -- race doesn't matter -- and it's all love. They want to know when I'm fighting again.
"I'm sure promoters knew, 'People are still calling for this guy to fight. His fan base is huge.' We're in the millions. We're talking about a few million people who will tune in to watch your boy fight. They love the fact I'm a family man. They love the fact I'm from the streets, coming up from being homeless. America loves a fighting story. I've always been the underdog. I've always had a target on my back and it never shook me. That's America."
The fight against Shamrock has been promoted as a well-overdue matchup finally getting a second chance. The two were supposed to fight in October 2008, but Shamrock suffered a mysterious cut hours before the event was set to take place. The then-undefeated Slice went on to fight Seth Petruzelli, who knocked him out in 14 seconds on network television.
Slice acknowledges that in the grand scheme of things, a win wouldn't be too much different from a loss on Friday. It's safe to say he's not attempting to climb any divisional ranks at this point in his career. And win or lose, history suggests his selling power won't be significantly affected.
Although he wouldn't say for sure, Slice strongly hinted there is no win bonus built into his Bellator contract. He'll likely make his entire fight purse up front.
That said, Slice says he's very motivated to get his hand raised on Friday. He's trained for the bout at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, and says if he loses to Shamrock, after all this time, he'll never live it down.
"To me it matters," Slice said. "To my friends and family, it matters. Everybody would be like, 'What the f--- happened?' I don't know how this dude can win this fight. This fight is bred for me. The time that went by -- it's my time to fight. Shamrock has a big mouth. Everybody knows it and everybody wants to see me smash his mouth. That's what I'm going to do."
"This fight is bred for me. The time that went by -- it's my time to fight. [Ken] Shamrock has a big mouth. Everybody knows it and everybody wants to see me smash his mouth. That's what I'm going to do."Bellator fighter Kimbo Slice, who clashes against Shamrock on Friday
Slice says he wasn't turned off toward MMA in 2010 by that unique three-fight stretch that included the notorious knockout loss to Petruzelli, the awkward encounter with Alexander and the loss to Mitrione during which he was leg kicked to death.
He does say, however, that he was frustrated at the time by his training regimen. He basically says he never built a relationship with any former trainers -- it was just an impersonal rush to learn the basics of takedown defense.
These days, Slice calls the men who will be in his corner -- ATT coaches Malachy Friedman and Mike Brown -- friends. He says it's been exciting to get back on the wrestling mat, something he didn't do at all during his five-year hiatus.
"Not to really go back into it too much, but I was just sick of not having answers (in 2010)," Slice said. "I was basically being taken through the motions. Now I'm older and wiser and I have trainers that care about me."
Whether or not that makes a difference in how Slice looks in the cage, one thing is for sure. People are still interested to see it.