For his first fight outside North America, middleweight veteran John Salter was matched up with top flight striker Claudio Annicchiarico at Bellator 168 this past December. The fight presented a clash of styles, and Salter took advantage of his overall MMA game to get a first round finish.
“Part of me wanted to stand with (Annicchiarico) and test myself, but once I got in there I started thinking I didn’t want to take any chances and just wanted to get it over with,” Salter told MMAWeekly.com. “And I wanted to go enjoy Italy. I put him on his back, finished the fight pretty quick, and enjoyed some time in Italy with my wife.”
One of the biggest differences for Salter fighting in Italy was how the crowd initially reacted to his win. What was initially very low key because a much bigger celebratory moment as he left the cage.
“I believe a lot of people over there are more into kickboxing than MMA, so it was real quite after I won, but when I was walking out the fans were incredible,” said Salter. “All the fans wanted to take pictures and talk, hang out and ask questions, so it took me about 45 minutes just to get back to the locker room, so that was great just seeing their excitement on that level.”
While it’s been over a half year since Salter’s win over Annicchiarico, he has been active, especially within the realm of his ground game.
“There were three times we were working on a fight and they fell through last second,” Salter said. “The last one was right before the ADCC West Coast trials, so I went in competed in that and defeated two black belts in the semi-finals and finals of that, and qualified for the ADCC world championships. So I’ve been staying busy.”
On July 14 in Thackerville, Oklahoma, Salter (12-3) steps back into the cage to face former Ultimate Fighter winner Kendall Grove (23-16) in a main card 185-pound bout.
“He’s a black belt on the ground, and being 6’6” that brings stuff in that other people can’t show you,” said Salter of Grove. “I believe I prepared with it by bringing in with guys with long reach, but you never know exactly with a guy like that, so I prepared for everything. I believe I’m a little bit better everywhere and it’s going to show pretty quick.”
With three wins in a row for Bellator, and five straight wins overall, Salter feels a championship bout could materialize with a victory over Grove. And while he’d like that fight to happen before the end of the year, he does have something to keep him busy in the meantime.
“I think after this fight I’ll be right in line for a title shot, and that comes available, I want to be ready and jump on it,” Salter said. “At least I’ve got something lined up in September with ADCC championship. I know I’ll have a week off after this, and then I’m right back into it preparing for the next thing.”