Kimbo Slice died yesterday aged 42. The Florida heavyweight, who was set to headline July’s Bellator debut in London, UK, reportedly suffered heart failure after being admitted to hospital earlier on Monday.

Bellator president Scott Coker release a statement this morning, stating: “We are all shocked and saddened by the devastating and untimely loss of Kimbo Slice, a beloved member of the Bellator family. One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport.”

Slice, aka Kevin Ferguson, fought his way off the streets in Miami to become an internet sensation as a backyard brawler. He became a global phenomenon due to his back catalogue of bare knuckle fights during the early years of the internet boom.

His popularity led him to the cage, where he quickly amassed a 3-1 record under the Elite-XC banner on Showtime, before he was signed up for season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter. Slice proved to be a ratings winner on the show, but was TKO’d by Roy Nelson in the prelims. However, his popularity led to a chance inside the Octagon.

Slice, who was born in the Bahamas before moving to South Florida, defeated Houston Alexander on points in the TUF 10 Finale in December 2009, but was then TKO’d by Matt Mitrione at UFC 113 five months later and was subsequently released by the promotion.

Switching to professional boxing, Kimbo run up an unbeaten 7-0 record largely touring the US, but returned to MMA with Bellator 12 months ago to defeat Ken Shamrock at Bellator 138. This February he followed that up with an embarrassing third round TKO of fellow boat yard brawler ‘Dada 5000’ at Bellator 149 when the bitter rivals both lacked fitness and technique. And the TKO result was later changed to a no contest after Slice was popped for steroids.

Yet despite the tumultuous nature of his fighting career, the American Top Team heavyweight remained a hugely popular figure with the fans.

Coker added: “Outside of the cage he was a friendly, gentle giant and a devoted family man. His loss leaves us all with extremely heavy hearts, and our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ferguson family and all of Kimbo’s friends, fans, and teammates.”

A UFC statement included: “While he will never be forgotten for his fighting style and transcendent image, Slice will also be remembered for his warm personality and commitment to his family and friends. UFC offers its sincere condolences to Slice’s family, friends and teammates at American Top Team.”