One of the numerous up-and-coming fighters many fans may not have heard of is 28-year old Justin Salas. A decorated wrestler in high school and former D-1 competitor, Salas trains with one of the best camps in MMA and appears to be on the cusp of big things in the sport. Read ahead as Five Ounces of Pain takes a look at Salas’ past, present, and future…
Weight: 155 pounds
Team: Grudge Training Center
Background: Salas started out with a wrestling background competing for Division 1 school, the University of Wyoming. He was a two-time state champion and a three-time High School All-American. With no formal training he jumped directly into fighting where he has since settled in at Grudge Training Center and has won four straight. He is currently the Fight To Win lightweight champ.
What’s Next: A main event fight against UFC veteran Rob Emerson on January 29th for Full Force Fighting.
Near Misses: A fight in Sengoku with lightweight champion Maximo Blanco fell through, along with making it into the final rounds of The Ultimate Fighter Season 12 tryouts. A win against Emerson could finally put Salas on the national map.
Why You Should Be Watching: The wrestling standout has seen his skill set expand dramatically since finding a home at Grudge Training Center. Working with striking coach Trevor Wittman and the cast of standout fighters Tyrone Glover, Alvin Robinson, Tyler Toner and Christian Allen
Three Questions with Salas:
5OZ: What separates you from your typical wrestling prospect coming up in MMA?
JS: I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I come full blast. I have an exciting style, I don’t want to just take people down and hold them. I want to strike and bang. knees, big slams, scrambles, something everyone wants to see is action. I have a lot of action and a lot of heart and I think that is a good formula for exciting fights.
5OZ: A few years back you had a couple tough losses. Typically for a young fighter that could set their career back. What do you think kept you from faltering and actually coming back stronger?
JS: I think it goes back to my wrestling background, we are used to going through tough situations, in one season you may lose a number of matches but you don’t lose faith in yourself and that is just something that is drilled into wrestler’s heads. I was disappointed and I knew things weren’t looking to good after a couple of losses, but I kept that wrestler formula, continuing to work out keep getting better, put my time in and try to fix as many mistakes as I could.
5OZ: Where would a win over someone with Rob Emerson’s profile place in your career?
JS: The fight with Emerson is a big fight because he has a lot of UFC fights – he’s been at that level and had success. If I can beat a guy like him, put him away and finish him that just shows people that I’m at that level to compete with any of those guys in the UFC and that’s what I’m looking to prove and this is the next step for my career. But no matter what if I work hard it will pay off. But I would like to pay off now, I think I’m ready for that and we are going to find out.
Head Trainer at Grudge and Striking Coach Trevor Wittman says:
“What makes Salas stand out in the gym, is his ability to adapt. There are many wrestlers that end up having trouble adapting to the striking and submission aspect but Justin has a very unique way of always being one step ahead of his opponents. His biggest key to success is he is great at fighting his fight or ‘LEADING THE DANCE”. When he gets the opponent striking he is hitting the take downs, when you are defending the take down he is putting the leather in your face, etc. Salas’ athletic capabilities will take him to the big show. He has only been training with us a little over a year, and has been one of the most improved fighters from Grudge.“
Grudge Pro Team Grappling Coach and Black Belt Josh Ford says:
“Justin is real eager to learn, he’s not just a smothering wrestler he gets his hips into place, passes really well, and he ground and pounds really well. His skill set is great he has good stand up, great wrestling, good control on the ground, good sub defense. He is one of those special guys you can just tell he is going to do well, he excels at everything, and he takes everything in.”