“I want everybody to see that I’m a fighter - I’m not just a wrestler that’s just going to go out there and take people down and lay on top of them; I’m going to go out there and push the pace and when its all said and done I want people to know that I’m exciting and that I’m never going to slow down no matter what happens."
When John Salter started fighting in 2008 he found himself a natural for the MMA game. A wrestler since the age of 12 who parlayed his hobby into a collegiate career at Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri, Salter utilized that wrestler’s strategic edge in MMA to win his two amateur fights and his first four professional fights.
“It was exciting, but at the same time it was one of those things where I wanted to improve and move my career along further,” said Salter. “I was happy about winning and everything, but I definitely wasn’t satisfied, and I just wanted to move forward and keep improving my record and my career.”
Ask and just sometimes you shall receive, so when the UFC came calling on short notice and asked him to fight fellow UFC debutant Gerald Harris, who was also experiencing the confidence attached to a superb win streak, Salter took the chance that just might catapult him to the next level. Unfortunately, a third round TKO that left Harris with his hand raised was the result, but Salter isn’t daunted by the experience.
“I took the Gerald Harris fight six days before it was supposed to happen and it was the middle of wrestling season where I was coaching at a high school. I wasn’t in shape or anything, not planning on the fight, but I tried to go in there and just kept telling myself I was (in shape). I decided that the worst thing that could happen is I lose, so just go out there and do the best that I can. I tried to fight smart and slow the pace down so I could last. I felt pretty good through the first round, but about maybe through the second round I started tiring and Gerald’s a great fighter, so he came after me and ended up finishing me in the third round. I felt like all in all because of the circumstances it wasn’t too bad of a first showing so hopefully I’ll get to show everybody what I really fight like when I’m in shape this time.”
That next showing came in the former of Jason MacDonald, a fierce UFC competitor known for his aggressiveness. The fight resulted in a TKO win for Salter due to an injury suffered by MacDonald and the start of a potential comeback trail that tasted bittersweet.
“I was supposed to fight Nick Catone and my main thing for that fight was I was not going to get tired because everyone had seen me get tired (in the Harris fight). I didn’t want people to think I’m the fighter that gasses out, so I trained for that one, worked hard, made sure I didn’t get tired and pushed the pace. Then Catone got hurt and they came with Jason MacDonald so I had the same game plan: go out there and if I wasn’t doing damage on the feet then take him down. I took him down in the first round and broke his leg which I didn’t know what happened, he said he broke his ankle but I thought he sprained his ankle so I was celebrating the win but then I found out the next day that he had broken his leg so I never want to win that way. I wanted the ‘W’ but you never want to win that way if you can help it.”
So the road to come back now unfolds, and the biggest test of his career was granted, taken away, and then granted again. With UFC 118 on the horizon, Salter was set to matchup against Phil Baroni, who he had admired since before becoming a fighter. However when Baroni was taken off the card due to an injury and replaced by Dan Miller, the early disappointment quickly led back to a state of elation.
“It was disappointing because when I was in college and wanting to get into MMA I used to watch Phil Baroni fight all the time and I always liked his style. It was exciting and I thought it was a good matchup for me; it was something that I was really pumped about. Then when they came back and they offered Dan Miller because Baroni got hurt and it wasn’t going to happen, it was also another fight that I could be really excited about because he’s a big name. He’s fought some big opponents and I think it could really improve my career big time.”
Salter sees his new opponent as the ultimate challenge, no pun intended, a careful mix of everything with very little in the way of flaws.
“Obviously his jiu-jitsu is really good. He’s got good wrestling; he wrestled in high school as far as I know. He’s definitely a well-rounded fighter, so there’s no weak place for him and that adds a new dimension when you’re fighting a guy that there’s nowhere that he doesn’t want to be. His stand up’s pretty solid as well, so I don’t think there’s any huge weakness to exploit. I just think I have to push the pace and find holes in his game as I get them.”
Having moved to a new gym in Nashville, where he trains with Dave Herman, and leaving his home state of Alabama behind, Salter is ready to begin his journey all over again. Having captured one UFC win, the hunger for more rages and the UFC can only satiate his thirst with the best talent in his division.
“I want everybody to see that I’m a fighter - I’m not just a wrestler that’s just going to go out there and take people down and lay on top of them; I’m going to go out there and push the pace and when its all said and done I want people to know that I’m exciting and that I’m never going to slow down no matter what happens. I want people to want to watch me again."