There’s always going to be some adversity you’re going to face, but I knew he was going to be really strong and it wasn’t going to be until later in the fight that I was going to be able to get my takedowns, which is what happened,” said Justin Salas of his win over Anton Kuivanen at UFC on Fuel TV 1 a couple weeks ago.
“For the most part, our game plan was to control the cage, get some takedowns, and strike with him. I kept grinding and I stuck to the game plan and it turned out like we wanted it to.”
For Salas, the win over Kuivanen didn’t so much bring relief that he’d made a successful arrival in the UFC, but rather stoked his competitive fires even further.
“It’s most definitely exciting,” he said. “I won my first fight, I got through healthy, I’m right back to training after a week off, and I’m ready for more.
“I’m ready to take on another challenge here in the near future. I want to be challenged; challenge myself and see what I’m made of. I’m at where I’m supposed to be. I’m in the UFC with one win under my belt and looking to fight another tough opponent – which is all there is in the UFC.”
Salas points out what set the table for his successful UFC debut was taking fights against the type of competition he faced last year.
“Being at 155, you’re going to face UFC level people before you get there because the weight class is so deep,” he said. “That’s why we (took fights against) guys like Rob Emerson and Joe Ellenberger, because I want to prove I can beat guys on that level.
“It definitely did prepare me and gave me the confidence to beat guys like that and know I can compete at the level in the UFC.”
Coincidentally, it was defeating the brother of the headliner on the UFC on Fuel TV card Salas debuted on that secured his deal with the promotion.
“When I beat (Jake Ellenberger’s brother) Joe, there wasn’t a guarantee because there’s never any guarantees, but I knew it would put me in a position to get noticed,” said Salas. “After I won that fight I felt like I was on the radar and real close to going (to the UFC).”
While Salas is eager to keep his momentum going, he intends to truly savor the position he’s worked himself into and enjoy every minute of it.
“I’m looking to fight as soon as possible, but really I’m just going to keep trying to evolve my skills,” he said. “Make some little changes and find out what’s working. If I take it one fight at a time and just enjoy the fighting, training, and opportunities I’m getting, I think good things will happen.”