Bellator 188: “Lahat vs. Labiano” comes to Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, tomorrow night (Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017) for a show that will broadcast on Spike TV via tape delay the following night (Fri., Nov. 17, 2017).
The main event features Featherweight Noad Lahat (11-3) taking on Jeremiah Labiano (11-5). However, earlier in the night, Middleweight stars will also get their chance to shine, and one of the biggest (figuratively and literally) is John Salter (14-3). The stocky 6’1” fighter could easily be a 205-pound fighter, but with six straight divisional wins, why would he want to change any time soon?
The previously unheralded Salter put his name on the map by submitting former champion Brandon Halsey in 2016, and since then the wins have just kept coming, including his defeat of former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner Kendall Grove earlier this year.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Salter about his streak of excellence and the late change of opponent — he was originally set to face Bellator 172 winner Anatoly Tokov this week.
“Yeah, originally I was supposed to fight (Tokov) and he got injured so he was out.”
That unfortunate (and undisclosed) injury has brought London-based fighter Jason “The Assassin” Radcliffe and his overall 12-4 record into Tel Aviv for his first Bellator fight.
“It looks like he’s a pretty sold Muay Thai guy, pretty fast, athletic, decent everywhere. I think one thing I’ve seen is he seems to have problems if he gets hit on the chin. He’s been knocked out a few times, so that’s definitely an option.”
Salter’s hitting the proverbial nail on the head ... and hopefully on the chin. Three of Radcliffe’s four losses are knockouts, including technical knockout defeats in his last two bouts. Salter has seven wins by knockout and seven by submission, though, so he’ll take whatever comes.
“It feels good to hit somebody and see their eyes roll back, you know? That’s one of those (times) where you’re just like, ‘Okay — I did really well,’ but nothing’s quite like choking somebody and seeing them give up and not want to fight any more.”
For Salter the desire to get to a world title shot with a seventh straight win is high, even though he has to wait in line behind Gegard Mousasi for that opportunity.
“You know what? It’s frustrating. When he first came to the organization I said, ‘I understand. He’s accomplished a lot in his career, so it’s not gonna piss me off if they jump him over me.’ But, after that last performance, if you look at who just won the fight, he clearly didn’t win. Now he won round by round and I think the judges did the right job and they picked him as the winner, but he got beat up in that fight. I think it’s kind of hard to the jump him to the front of the line and give him a title shot now.”
Some might even debate whether or not Mousasi won two rounds. Regardless, Salter knows he’s got to play his role: Keep on winning and wait for the right opportunity to come.
“I guess that’s all internal politics that hopefully my manager can work out. All I can handle is going out there, winning this fight as impressively as possible, and I guess I just gotta see where everything falls there.”
And if that involves flying overseas for the second time in his last three fights, Salter’s more than happy to buy the ticket and take the ride.
“You know I’m excited about it. I think it’ll be a good time. We get there early enough that I’ll have time to settle in and be comfortable where I am. Realistically, they’re about seven hours ahead of us, so (if) we fight at eight o’clock that puts me fighting in my time zone at one o’clock, which is about the time I’m hitting one of my hardest training sessions, so I think that’s kind of good for me.”
In fact, Salter is feeling so relaxed about this trip he’s looking forward to some sightseeing.
“I’ll get there on Sunday, so I’ll have a few days there, and then my wife’s coming out. We’re gonna do a little traveling around Israel and see Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, so I’m really excited. I think it’s gonna be a great, great trip. I’ve gotta take care of business first, but after that, we’re going to have a good time.”
Taking care of business also involves not taking Radcliffe’s nickname of “The Assassin” too seriously.
“Whenever they name themselves something like ‘The Assassin’ I always feel like it’s a little bit of them trying to get in their own head and make them feel a little tougher. You know to me he’s a tough guy, but I always think that’s kind of a funny nickname.”
No matter how things go with Radcliffe, Salter is looking forward to continuing his run in the Middleweight division and even has a future opponent other than Rafael Carvalho in mind.
“The Middleweight division is growing. There’s getting to be some tough guys. One of my friends and old training partners Chris Honeycutt is getting ready to fight Rafael Lovato and I think Honeycutt’ll take that. If for some reason he didn’t, Lovato would be an interesting fight just because we’re both good jiu-jitsu guys.”
The one thing Salter relishes the most going forward is that people will continue to underestimate him — especially when it comes to his ground game.
“I’m hoping they either don’t figure it out or they don’t get good enough to stop it, one or the other, because it’s going well for me right now.”
Tune into Bellator 188 to see if “The Assassin” Jason Radcliffe can be the first fighter in Bellator to figure it out and slow John Salter’s roll.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Lahat vs. Labiano” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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