Bellator middleweight John Salter returns on March 31 at Bellator 293, paired up with a young up-and-comer in Aaron Jeffery.
A former middleweight title challenger and UFC vet, Salter (18-6) is looking to snap a two fight skid. In MMA, we know what that sort of pairing often means: the young lion looking to prove himself against the older veteran, now looked at as a litmus test.
Salter, however, isn’t paying that too much mind.
“He’s proved himself, you know? I feel like he’s got some big wins, and he’s kind of where I was around that time, where he’s got a lot to prove, but he’s already showed that he deserves to be here,” Salter told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “That’s the nature of the sport, that’s how I came up. I had a lot of the same things, and this is how you prove yourself in the sport. This is how I prove that I’m still that guy, and how he proves that he’s gonna be that guy.”
Salter has been right there with those guys, his only losses in the promotion coming to current or future champs: Rafael Lovato in a non-title fight, Gegard Mousasi with the middleweight belt on the line, and future champ Johnny Eblen in his last outing.
“Yeah. It’s one of those things, I guess it’s a positive and it’s a negative,” Salter said, when asked about the company he has kept in Bellator. “I’ve lost to three champs, but being right there with them with those fights, like I said it’s the nature of the sport.”
“It sucks, but at least I’m not losing to guys that are chumps.”
Salter took time off last year to deal with some injuries that hindered his training, but ring rust isn’t a concern for him as he returns at the end of the month. “I’m still sparring with some of the best guys out there. We’re used to seeing punches coming from Chris Weidman, Chris Honeycutt, Jamie Picket, a lot of these guys are fighting at high levels. If I’m used to that, I’m comfortable with that, I don’t feel it’s going to feel any different out there.”
While he’s focused on the fight ahead and potentially getting back into contention, there’s another fight out there that John Salter would like to see champ Johnny Eblen in.
“I guess this probably isn’t the answer people probably expect, but I’d kind of like to see him fight Costello van Steenis. I really think that’s an interesting fight. I’d really like to see how that would go,” Salter told us.
“Van Steenis is so explosive, and he can hit you so far away, and he’s got so much power, you can’t walk him down. I could be wrong. He’s very explosive off the ground too, hard to hold down. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Eblen goes out there and puts him right on his back, holds him down, but I think van Steenis has all the tools to make that a very interesting fight, and I know Eblen’s not going to back off of anybody. So I think that would be fun to watch.”
As for Salter’s own plans, “right now my goal is just to beat Aaron Jeffery. We’ll get past this fight, we’ll sit down, see what looks right and we’ll go from there. Right now I’m just focused on this one fight.”
Watch our full interview with Bellator 293 middleweight John Salter above. Salter takes on Aaron Jeffery in Temecula, CA on March 31, 2023.