Bellator 233: “Salter vs. van Steenis” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Nov. 8, 2019) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Two of Bellator MMA’s best Middleweights headline as John Salter (16-4) and Costello van Steenis (12-1) each seek to stick to their winning ways.
For the previously uncrowned No. 1-ranked contender Salter, snapping the six-fight streak of van Steenis is the ideal way to earn a rematch with champion Rafael Lovato Jr. Although he fell to Lovato late in the third round last time, the knowledge he gained from that experience could be enough to put a title belt around his waist. Salter looks past van Steenis to such opportunities at his own expense. Little known in North America before his Bellator debut, “The Spaniard” had quietly worked up an impressive resume of wins, finishing 75 percent of his fights (nine of 12) by knockout or submission.
Salter recently spoke with MMAmania.com about headlining at Bellator 233 this weekend and why exactly he’s been out of action for almost an entire year.
“You know what? I don’t really know. I’ve been ready to go, but things just didn’t properly line up sometimes. A lot goes into putting a fight together so, I would have liked to have fought before now, but I’m happy to be on this card and happy to be the main event. I’m just ready to go and get back in there.”
That sounds like a political way of saying “I wanted to fight, they didn’t give me a fight.” Now he’s finally getting his wish by facing a man currently on a six fight win streak.
“Costello’s a really tough up and comer. He’s hungry so I know he’s looking to take the hardest fights he can get. I think it’s going to make a great fight. He really wants to make a name for himself and I can understand that. I’m ready to go out there and prove that he’s not quite ready yet, but I think he’s going to have a big future in the sport.”
Salter is a first degree black belt with a history of impressive submission wins, but van Steenis has five submissions of his own, so Salter can’t take him lightly on the ground.
“Yeah absolutely. I think on the ground he’s going to be a tough guy. He’s not one of those guys that’s going to break when I put him in a bad position. He’s going to keep fighting through every position, and he’s going to throw up submissions of his own. So you know I’ve just got to watch out for it, but luckily I’ve got a great group of really high level black belts that I train with, and I’m ready for anything he can throw at me.”
With four victories by knockout van Steenis is equally tough on his feet, so no opponent facing him should assume he’s not dangerous everywhere — and Salter definitely isn’t.
“Yeah he’s got power, I think that’s the main thing. He throws a lot of volume and he’s aggressive. I think he’s got a lot of holes in his stand up I can exploit, but he has a lot of power so you can’t let him land on you. I think he showed that especially his last fight. He was in a really tough fight with a guy who was pushing him around a little bit. Any time you knock somebody out with your back on the cage it’s pretty impressive, so it’s something that I’ve got to watch out for.”
That impressive finish came against Mike Shipman at Bellator 223 and earned van Steenis this main event, but with seven knockouts on his resume, Salter can hit HARD himself.
“I always have the mentality of ‘Why show something if I don’t have to?’ I hope that everybody’s always questioning whether or not I can stand and strike or not, and when the time comes I’ll make sure that everybody knows it. This is a fight I’m going to have to use my stand up in. This isn’t a guy I can just go run through, put him on his back and submit him. This is one of those (fights) where I’m going to have to be well rounded and I think I’ll have a lot of surprises that nobody’s seen in a while.”
The city of Thackerville won’t be a surprise for Salter given he’s picked up two of his last three wins in this exact same venue. It’s getting to be a “home turf advantage” for him.
“You know I love fighting in different places, especially places that I haven’t been before, so a lot of times when I get that call that it’s gonna be the same place again I’m like ‘Aw damn!” But it’s a great crowd in Thackerville, I think I’ve earned a lot of respect there, so after the last time it almost felt like home away from home. I think this time I’ll have a lot of fans there from my last two times there, and I know that place very well so everything is pretty smooth.”
With performances like these at WinStar it’s not hard to see why.
In closing, John Salter is grateful for this opportunity and looking forward to ending a layoff that lasted far too long in front of an appreciative crowd — one he plans to be part of!
“Any time you’ve got ‘King Mo’ on a card it’s going to be pretty exciting. That’s a guy that always delivers something fun to watch. I think just like the last time I fought in Thackerville, I thought that was one of the best top to bottom cards that I’d seen. It was my first main event and I was out there in the audience for the undercard to watch fights. I think this is going to be one of the same things where I’ll get there early to watch some fights because there’s a lot of exciting things to see.”
While it may not have the hype of an event headlined by Rory MacDonald, Chael Sonnen, Tito Ortiz or Quinton Jackson, “Salter vs. van Steenis” is on paper a must-see event for a hardcore MMA maniac.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 233: “Salter vs. van Steenis” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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