One of the sport’s most accomplished competitors stands between John Salter and ultimate validation.
The Gym-O representative will challenge Gegard Mousasi for the undisputed Bellator MMA middleweight championship in the Bellator 264 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Salter owns an 8-1 record in Bellator and enters the cage on the strength of a three-fight winning streak. The 36-year-old last appeared at Bellator 244, where he dismissed Andrew Kapel with an arm-triangle choke in the second round of their Aug. 21, 2020 pairing. It was his 17th finish—seven by knockout or technical knockout, 10 by submission—in 18 professional victories.
As Salter fine tunes his game plan for Mousasi, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He rose out of the small-town south.
Salter was born on March 21, 1985 in Gardendale, Alabama—a city of less than 14,000 people on the northern outskirts of Birmingham.
2. Wrestling provided his avenue for escape.
Salter was a three-time state finalist and onetime state champion (2002) at Gardendale High School. He went on to wrestle collegiately at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, where he won a national title at the NAIA level in 2007. Salter’s skills on the mat made for a natural transition to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and ultimately mixed martial arts.
3. No plans are fool-proof.
Despite holding the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Shawn Hammonds, Salter has shown surprising vulnerability to submissions throughout his career. In fact, three of his four career defeats have resulted in his being submitted. Salter tapped to a guillotine choke from Dan Miller at UFC 118 on Aug. 28, 2010, surrendered to a guillotine choke from Reggie Pena at an Xtreme Fighting Championships event on June 22, 2012 and bowed to a rear-naked choke from Rafael Lovato Jr. at Bellator 205 on Sept. 21, 2018.
4. Consistency has been an endearing trait.
Salter has never suffered back-to-back defeats as a professional mixed martial artist. Meanwhile, he has enjoyed winning streaks of three (twice), four and seven fights.
5. He has struck gold before.
While the Alabama native has yet to capture a major MMA championship, he at least familiarized himself with the process on the regional scene. Salter laid claim to the Armageddon Fighting Championships middleweight crown when he put away “The Ultimate Fighter 3” semifinalist Kalib Starnes with second-round punches at AFC 6 on June 18, 2011.