Combate Americas presents “Combate13” inside Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Ariz., this Thursday night (April 20, 2017) featuring a LIVE fight card on Azteca America and ESPN Latin America, with a special replay on UFC Fight Pass. The main event sees a former UFC fighter looking to make his name against a powerful striker undefeated in the promotion.
Roman “El Gallito” Salazar (10-5-1) arrives in Combate Americas with something to prove following an unsuccessful three-fight stint in UFC. One of those situations was not his fault given Kid Yamamoto poked him in the eye at UFC 184.
Nonetheless, if he wants to be “the man” in Combate Americas, he’ll have to knock off Ricky Palacios (7-1), undefeated in all four of his promotional fights in “La Jaula” — the cage where Combate Americas fighters settle their differences.
Today, MMAmania.com talks to Salazar about his plans in Combate Americas to make a name for himself at the expense of Palacios and how thrilled he is to be fighting in pleasant circumstances.
“I’m super excited about this opportunity. I always love fighting in sunny Arizona, especially during this time of the year, no better time to be here. Come June we’ll be like ‘Why are we in the devil’s dungeon here?’ But for now it’s all good.”
That’s not the only reason Salazar is happy — he calls Arizona home and can’t wait to put on a show for all of his fans in Tucson on Apr. 20.
“I love fighting here in Arizona. I mean I have a pretty good following anyway. No matter where I’ve fought, all the way to Canada, Nashville, at Staples Center, wherever I was, people always came with me. I don’t know if it’s a Hispanic thing or a Mexican thing but everybody feels like the troops gotta come to support, which is always good man. It’s always flattering to get people following me and kinda jumping on this journey with me. But just the fact that it’s Tucson which is actually where I’m from it makes it that much sweeter.”
Salazar will also enjoy the sweet taste of redemption after a run where he feels he didn’t get the chance to show his skills and they offered him fights that would’ve been a bad idea to take.
“My run in UFC was obviously a little weird. It really kind of came to a close when Sean Shelby gave me a call and wanted me to fight Cody Garbrandt and it was on REALLY short notice. They ended up giving the fight to (Augusto Mendes) ‘Tanquinho’ because I turned that down, it was like a ten day notice. Nobody wants to fight Garbrandt anyway but especially on a ten day notice you know? I kinda got given my walking papers after that happened.”
Garbrandt’s original opponent for the Cowboy vs. Cowboy card was John Lineker, but Salazar’s name being in the mix to replace him was a fresh detail to me. After seeing how Garbrandt cold cocked his opponent you can’t blame him, but he still wants one second chance he didn’t get.
“Aw man dude I wanted that (Yamamoto) rematch so bad. When I got offered the ‘Chico’ Vera fight, that was originally supposed to be ‘Kid’, we didn’t sign any contacts or any thing but both of our sides had agreed to a rematch, and then ‘Kid’ got hurt again. That’s when they offered me Marlon Vera on that Nashville card, we were gonna fight in Nashville. That would’ve been awesome man. I still want that fight!”
In the end though there are no regrets for Salazar, who is looking at Combate Americas as the place to raise his stock value, making everybody (including them) pay more down the line.
“It’s just about going out there and showcasing my skills now and making sure that no matter who it is man (I’m) just putting a stamp on all of my performance and making it a bidding war to get my services. If I go out and do what I know I’m capable of with what I do in the gym, any one of these guys are gonna be lucky to have me on their roster.”
It sounds like if all things were equal though Salazar would still choose to stay where he is now.
“I love what Combate does, I love the way they showcase the Latin market, I love it that they’re so enthusiastic about showing the rest of the world what us Latino fighters do for the sport. It’s humbling and flattering to be able to showcase an almost 100% Latino card.”
Knowing just how tough Palacios is, coming into the main event with a four fight win streak and knockouts in 71% of his wins (five of seven), Salazar can’t wait to rise to his occasion.
“When they gave me his name I was all about it, I couldn’t wait to do it. I love challenging myself that way. It’s just an interesting concept to know who you’re fighting and with one slip up that could be the end of your night. You could just be counting stars or not remembering what happened to you. It’s an intriguing challenge to me just knowing that the kid has knockout power in both hands and he’s always looking to finish.”
Don’t miss Combate 13 on April 20 on Azteca America(replay on UFC Fight Pass) to see if he can solve that puzzle. Complete audio of our interview is embedded in the player above.
To check out the latest Combate Americas news and notes click here.