John Salter: Alessio Sakara Didn’t Do Anything to Deserve Bellator Middleweight Title Shot

By Tristen Critchfield Nov 15, 2017


If you’re not familiar with the exploits of John Salter in Bellator MMA, you probably should be by now.

The 32-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native has reeled off four consecutive triumphs within the California-based promotion, a streak that includes finishes of UFC veterans Kendall Grove and Dustin Jacoby as well as former Bellator 185-pound champ Brandon Halsey. All told, Salter has won nine of his 10 bouts since a 1-2 stint with the UFC in 2010.

Still, Salter seems to be flying under the radar in Bellator’s middleweight division.

“I think a lot of guys are getting pushed a lot more than me that haven’t earned it as much,” Salter told Sherdog.com “I keep thinking all I can do is keep winning. Hopefully I get another impressive win, and I’ll start getting pushed a little harder by the organization.

“I don’t know if it’s just politics, if it’s social media. I haven’t always been the best at my social media. I’m trying to get better at that now. Whatever it is, if it’s not that it’s out of my hands,” he continued. “All I can do is keep winning. Eventually I’m going to have to be recognized.”

Salter will look for win No. 5 in the promotion when he locks horns with Daniel Radcliffe at Bellator 188 in Tel Aviv, Israel. The card airs via tape delay in the United States Friday on Spike at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT. The booking was something of a lost opportunity for Salter, who was originally scheduled to face Anatoly Tokov, a Russian prospect with a gaudy 25-2 career record. Salter is taking a diplomatic approach toward the opponent change.

“I try not to think about it that way,” Salter said. “The only thing that was frustrating is it’s a different type of fighter. I was training for a specific type of fighter, and then it changes up. As far as the sport, it’s hard to go through a training camp and not get injured. I’m always expecting that’s a possibility.”

Salter is a little bit more outspoken, though, when it comes to the state of the rest of the division. He was an interested observer as Gegard Mousasi made his promotional debut against Alexander Shlemenko last month, and while the Armenian-born Dutchman emerged with a narrow victory, Salter thought the performance left a little to be desired – at least when it comes to potentially earning a title shot.

“If you look at it round-by-round and the way you score MMA, I definitely think Mousasi won. He won those first two rounds. You could’ve argued a 10-8 in the third for Shlemenko. But if you look at who just won the fight and did more damage, definitely Shlemenko did more damage,” Salter said. “I [initially] felt pretty confident if Mousasi comes in and wins that fight he deserves a title shot because of his career and the things he’s done. But after that, I’m not so sure. He struggled a lot in that fight. I know he got hit early. His technique went out the window and he was just in there scrapping after that.”

Rafael Carvalho, the reigning 185-pound king, will defend his title against Alessio Sakara at Bellator 190 in Florence, Italy, on Dec. 9. Sakara has won three straight – including KO/TKO wins over Joey Beltran and Brian Rogers in the Bellator cage – but he had been winless in his five bouts prior to that. Salter thought it was strange that Sakara was given the No. 1 contender’s spot but admits that he understands Bellator’s logic in doing so.

“I beat Kendall [Grove] — it was being built up like if I beat Kendall I would get a title shot, and that was taken away at the last second. I don’t think Sakara did anything to deserve a title shot,” Salter said. “It’s just to try and get Italian fans involved. It is what it is. I can’t spend a whole lot of time dwelling on it. I believe it’ll be an easy fight for Carvalho. I think he’ll hold on to the title and I think I’m the right guy to take it from him.”

Salter hopes that the new year brings him the type of recognition that comes with being a champion. In an ideal world, 2018 would include wins over both Carvalho and Mousasi.

“Hopefully 2018 gets started off right and I get a title shot,” he said. “If it’s true that Mousasi is gonna be out for a little bit with an injury then it would be perfect for me to go get that title, and then when he’s healthy, defend it against him.”

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