Bellator 244: John Salter Eyes Fight with Douglas Lima for Vacant Middleweight Belt

John Salter has long been flirting with Bellator’s middleweight title. A standout grappler who has come on strong in the promotion after an early stint in the UFC, Salter came the closest he’s been to gold in what was a title eliminator with Rafael Lovato Jr.

Lovato went on to defeat Gegard Mousasi for 185lb gold after submitting Salter in their meeting at Bellator 205. But health issues forced him to vacate the title. Lovato may actually be forced to retire due to a rare brain condition.

In the wake of that news, the plan was for Mousasi to face welterweight champ Douglas Lima for the vacant title. The coronavirus pandemic then forced the promotion to abandon those plans, at least for the time being.

Enter Salter (17-4), who faces Andrew Kapel this Friday at Bellator 244. He knows that once again, he’s circling a title shot. “I hope I stand at the top of the list. I know with COVID going on, there’s several guys that can’t get in and fight,” Salter said during the event’s media day this week. “I hope that puts me, especially with that going on, right at the top.”

Kapel isn’t a household name, but he is the man who upset King Mo Lawal, in what was Lawal’s retirement fight. With that in mind, Salter knows he’s a dangerous foe, especially since a win would drop him back down in the rankings.

“He’s got a lot of fights, he knows how to win. This is a fight that I’ve got to treat just like I’m fighting for the title,” Salter admitted. The Alabama-born fighter also has to keep in mind that with a win, he could slip into the fight with Lima.

“I think that’d be perfect. I think it only makes sense, we can’t let the title sit vacant forever,” said Salter. “Me and Lima fighting for it makes a lot of sense. I know he wants to stay active too.”

With Mousasi potentially the odd man out due to travel restrictions, it’s certainly a possibility. But Andrew Kapel is up first.

Kapel, who is 35, spoke of retirement in his chat with the media on Wednesday. Salter, who is the same age, told Cageside Press that the end of his career isn’t on his radar yet.

“I want that title. I’m not looking at that. If I ever say that [I’m going to retire], my wife’s not going to let me,” Salter joked. “I plan on fighting for the title, and keeping it for a while.”

Bellator 244 takes place this Friday, August 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main card airs live on Paramount Network and DAZN.