Questioning Bellator's decision to promote Kimbo Slice fight

Kimbo Slice, right, tested positive for steroids after his February victory over Dhafir "Dada 5000" Harris at Bellator 149. Cooper Neill for ESPN

It's time to talk about Kimbo Slice, Bellator MMA and a scheduled fight between Slice and James Thompson on July 16 at O2 Arena in London.

That date is less than five months removed from Slice failing a pre-fight drug test in Houston -- an anabolic steroid was found in his system. So the issue of whether he's even eligible to compete for Bellator this summer is potentially confusing. An athlete recently busted for steroid use should be subject to some type of ... punishment. Right?

Well, technically, Slice has been "punished." The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) announced Monday that Slice had reached a settlement regarding his positive drug test from February. Program director Greg Alvarez told ESPN.com that Slice agreed to a $2,500 fine and a one-year license revocation -- within the state of Texas.

Before we dive headfirst into this Slice situation, it's worth pointing out that anti-doping punishments in mixed martial arts have been a hot topic. More random drug testing, mostly in Nevada, produced a high volume of failed tests in recent years, revealing a potential problem in the sport.

Several athletic commissions in the United States have responded to that problem. In Nevada, for example, regulators are discussing a three-year ban for an anabolic agent -- instead of nine months for first-time offenders.

California has gone beyond simple discussions and actually suspended former Bellator champion Alexander Shlemenko for three years after he tested positive for steroids in February 2015.

And last July, the UFC partnered with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to launch an independent anti-doping program, which has tested 344 athletes in 2016 alone. Under USADA regulations, a first-time steroid user faces a potential two-year suspension.

Now, back to Slice. The TDLR will upload Slice's one-year license revocation in Texas to a national database, which most (if not all) U.S. athletic commissions would see and then honor -- or at least consider -- when determining Slice's eligibility to fight in their respective jurisdictions.

By booking Slice, 42, to a fight in London, Bellator circumvents that issue. That event, Bellator 158, will be regulated by the International Sport Karate Association. ISKA president Cory Schafer also serves as Bellator's director of regulatory affairs in the U.S. and told ESPN.com that, although details regarding drug testing and other issues are still under consideration, ISKA would not deny Slice a license to compete in London based on his status in Texas alone.

The bottom line here is this: As far as the regulation of mixed martial arts has come in the past two decades, it remains somewhat messy and extremely inconsistent in practice -- which allows someone like Slice to compete five months after steroids were found in his system, and after he fought an opponent, Dhafir "Dada 5000" Harris, who suffered a cardiac arrest immediately after their match and was hospitalized for several weeks.

Maybe no one cares. Slice is not considered an elite martial artist. His fights are more about cheap thrills than legitimate sport these days. Who cares if he was using performance-enhancing drugs?

In a recent interview, Slice stated, "We're fighters, man. ... I don't think commissioners should really blackball fighters for having to use a little extra vitamins to perform. 'Cause we're entertainers. We perform on a high level. We put our body through some extreme workout to entertain the public and the media."

Even if the public perception matches Slice's interpretation of the situation, one has to wonder how healthy the entire situation is for the Bellator brand -- a promoter that was willing to announce Slice's next fight before his case in Texas was even resolved. Not to mention, a company that has not clarified what drug-testing procedures will be in place in London.

Bellator's numbers suggest the risk is worth it. Slice's fight on Feb. 19 against Harris delivered record ratings, with a reported peak average of 2.5 million viewers. That means Bellator president Scott Coker knows how to present a circus that delivers viewers to his broadcast partners.

Only one question remains: Does it matter that Slice gets to skirt a drug suspension so Bellator can deliver viewers?