Over the course of his first four years as a fighter, former UFC middleweight John Salter had been consistently fighting, but since late 2013, he’s managed to only fight once.
The big issue for Salter was a neck injury, which compounded by other injuries has kept him out of action for large stretches of time.
“I believe it was in 2012 I injured my neck in a training camp for the XFC, and in the fight I made it a lot worse, and ended up having a herniated disc and several bulging discs in my neck,” Salter told MMAWeekly.com. “I finally came back from that and had a couple fights, and was competing in the Pan Ams in Jiu-Jitsu and hurt my neck again and decided to have surgery.
“I came back and fought Justin Jacoby and after that I felt like I pushed my body a lot harder than I should have and banged up a lot of other things, including some bad back issues.”
He initially believed he could push through his injuries, but after receiving advice to consider retiring, Salter decided to tone things down a bit and get his body right.
“Before my fight with Jacoby, my doctor told me I needed to think about not fighting anymore, but I never considered it, but after that fight, going through injuries and all that, I worried about it,” said Salter. “I think taking some time, and still training, but not training as hard as before or beating my body up all the time, I was able to overcome all that.”
Salter (11-3) returns to fighting for the first time in a year and a half to take on former Bellator champion Brandon Halsey in a 185-pound main card bout at the promotion’s June 17 show in Fresno, Calif.
“Halsey is a tough fight for anybody,” Salter said. “He’s extremely strong, is a great wrestler, and tough on top, but I do think in every aspect of MMA is going to be in my favor.
“I think I’m faster than him, I think the boxing and kickboxing will go my way, wrestling-wise I think we’ll neutralize each other, and I know he’s tough on the ground, but I’m a black belt that competes with world class black belts and hold my own, so that will be in my favor.”
While some people may see his bout with Halsey as merely a first fight back, for Salter, the bout means a lot more, and could lead to the biggest moment of his MMA career.
“Coming off an injury or a long layoff, it’s easy for everybody to look at it like I’m just coming back to fighting, but that’s not it, this is my career and this is the next step,” Salter said. “I want to show everybody that I’m still a high-level fighter and I deserve to be in the mix and fight my way to the title.”