Boston Salmon was the first fighter to win a UFC contract on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Nearly two years later, he’s finally making his promotional debut.
If Diego Sanchez is the Original Ultimate Fighter, then maybe we should be calling Boston Salmon the Original Contender. On the inaugural episode of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in 2017, Salmon fought in the third bout of the evening, defeating Ricky Turcios by unanimous decision and earning a UFC contract in the process. While Kurt Holobaugh would also earn a contract later in the evening, technically, Salmon’s win came first.
Remember that for your MMA trivia nights. And another bit of trivia: of all the fighters to win contracts on the Contender Series, Salmon (6-1) has gone the longest without setting foot in the octagon. In fact, he has not fought since winning his way into the promotion.
It’s a timing issue more than anything, Salmon suggested. “I had that long layoff with the knee injury. Then finally had an opponent, Khalid Taha, then he pulls out. So here we are, April 13, fighting.” They were originally scheduled to fight in November, and in a rare instance of the organization keeping things together, will finally get their chance at UFC 236.
The Oahu, Hawaii native originally came to Vegas in 2008, attending UNLV (University of Las Vegas, Nevada) with hopes of excelling at football. When that didn’t work out, he went into boxing. Collegiate boxing didn’t work out, but Salmon carried on in the sport, even fighting Errol Spence, who would go on the make the Olympic team in 2012. “Lost to him, fought in a few tournaments that I won. I was helping one of the professionals getting ready for one of his fights, and I broke my hand. I got surgery, after that process when I was cleared to train again, I thought about MMA.”
Starting out at a TapOut gym, Salmon made his way to Xtreme Couture. With talents from the UFC, Bellator, and other top promotions, that led to the Contender Series spot. Which will finally pay off in at UFC 236.
“I was the first one to get a contract with that series, and I’m the only one who hasn’t fought from that series as well,” he told Cageside Press this week.
“It’s exciting to see top level athletes performing to get contracts with Dana White and the UFC,” Salmon said of the show. And it made for a different kind of experience. “All that adrenaline, all that emotion. It’s just like walking up to the gym one day, and you’re fighting here, at Xtreme Couture, with maybe fifty people just watching. You don’t have any music, you’re live. To me, it felt like I was sparring or something.”
“A different feeling, for sure.”
Sizing up opponent Taha (12-2), who previously fought for RIZIN, Salmon noted “he’s a little shorter than I am. I believe he’s about 5″6. He’s a lot bulkier. But I don’t think size should be a problem. I’m a really big bantamweight, I believe, and I believe I’ll have the size advantage in this fight.” Although Taha made his UFC debut at featherweight, that was a short notice bout, so Salmon isn’t overly concerned.
“I want to say we had at least three different opportunities to make it to the UFC,” Salmon said in regards to his career prior to the Contender Series. Each fell through. “The opponents didn’t agree, or it didn’t work into our favor.” Once again, it was timing.
However, while under the RFA banner, with a fight booked, Boston Salmon took a call from his manager, who said, “I got a bigger opportunity. I got good news for you, and I got bad news for you.” Salmon assumed the worst, that his opponent had pulled out. “No,” was his manager’s reply. Rather, “we’re going to pull you out from that fight. You’re going to fight for Dana White on the Contender Series.”
Salmon had no idea what that was. Once he learned it was fighting at the TUF gym, against an 8-0 opponent, with a UFC contract on the line, Salmon’s response was “f*ck yeah! Sign me up. I want that contract. That’s kind of how it came about.”
The rest was history. “I was the first show, and the first guy to win a contract for Dana White to get into the UFC.”
Salmon will hope history repeats itself when he takes on Khalid Taha at UFC 236 on April 13 in Atlanta, GA.