Get to Know Lightweight Justin Salas Josh Davis May 23, 2011 UFC Grudge Training Center’s Justin Salas is one of the most talented and exciting fighters that you have never heard of. Salas currently holds a career record of 8-3 and is the Fight to Win lightweight champion. Salas grew up in Wyoming where he spent his youth wrestling. Salas earned himself a wrestling scholarship and went on to compete for the University of Wyoming. After his collegiate career was over, Salas needed something to fill his drive for competition. He moved to Colorado and began to train in Mixed Martial Arts at Grudge Training Center. Since this move, he has become one of the most talented lightweight fighters out there. Salas recently sat down with The MMA Corner to discuss his career as well as his current and future plans for the sport. The MMA Corner: What got you started in Mixed Martial Arts? Salas: I have always been intrigued by mixed martial arts and as a wrestler it was something that I wanted to do. I used to watch it and think about how intense of a feeling that must be to go into a fight a like that. I did not really ever expect that I would do it, but once I started to actually do it I am gravitated to that stuff. It is kind of like you verses them and you have to put it on the line in front of the fans, the crowd and everybody else. It is something that I have always enjoyed doing. The MMA Corner: What made you turn pro so quickly? Salas: Some of my old wrestling buddies were getting into fighting and Leister Bowling, one of my good friends and wrestling coach, called me up and asked me if I wanted to fight. Being a former wrestler I thought sure, I can fight, no problem. Leister asked if I wanted to fight pro or amateur and I said “who will pay me the most?”, so I went pro immediately and that is really how it all started. The MMA Corner: How do you keep everything balanced between your day job as a personal trainer, training as a professional fighter and your personal life? Salas: That is one of the hardest things for me and it is one of the things that I am working on. Being here at Grudge Training Center has helped me a lot. Being able to be around people like Shane Carwin, who has a full time job, and see how he carries himself and to see how he goes about doing things has really helped me. I am pretty lucky though, as far as my job being in a gym. I am always in the gym and I want to center my life around fighting so I am always training or coaching. So I balance it by keeping my profession around my passion. I feel pretty lucky, I am definitely blessed, I am not getting rich but I am getting to live and follow my dream everyday. The MMA Corner: Your last fight was in July, since then you have had two scheduled fights that were cancelled, how do you deal with these long layoffs? Salas: Well, I was getting focused for this next fight when it fell through, which is disappointing but I still have many things that I need to work on. That is why I stay so focused, because I still have so many holes in my game. I feel like my game is growing everyday and I am getting excited about it, seeing how things are coming together for me, but I also look at the areas where I am lacking and have holes. So I use these layoffs to focus on these areas. Instead of thinking “oh man I have this long layoff”, I look at it like luckily I have this long layoff so that I can train and plug up some of these holes. They allow me to make sure that I am 100% prepared and I can put a little extra stamp on that victory. To me, these long layoffs are a positive. I think for some people that can be negative because they get lazy but for me, I have so much to train still these layoffs are positive. The MMA Corner: You are the current lightweight champion for Fight to Win promotions, what does holding and defending that championship mean to you? Salas: It means a lot to me. It shows that I can show up for a big fight and I can win on the big stage. It shows that I can be a professional and train hard and show up when there is something on the line. I felt good when I won the title, I felt that I performed good and then fought a tough kid in Matt Simms and defeated him when a lot of people doubted me. Those are the type of fights that I want. I want to be in there against tough opponents because I am looking to go to the next level and the only way for me to do that is by defending titles and winning other titles. That is how you get to the next level and I want to show those guys that I am ready for that level. The MMA Corner: It is still early in your mixed martial arts career, how quickly do you want to get into one of the bigger organizations? Salas: Obviously if the opportunity presents itself then I am going to take it. I think that I am ready to move up to that next level but I am not in too big of a rush. I attempted the Ultimate Fighter thing once and I almost got on but didn’t and I had a little bit of a let down, but it was brought to my attention by some that I know and trust that sometimes people get on the show or get their opportunities before they are ready and they can not take advantage of them. Things happen for a reason and I will be ready when my time comes. So I am not in a rush but I am definitely working towards that and I think I am close to turning the corner. With a couple more big name fights and some more exposure, I think I will get there. The MMA Corner: Where do you see your career in the next five years? Salas: In five years I see myself in one of the big organizations fighting for titles, contending and putting on great fights for all of the fans across the world. The MMA Corner: When your career is over how do you want to be remembered? Salas: I want to be remembered as a fighter with a lot of heart; a guy who never quits. I want to be a role model for all of the athletes back home in Wyoming because there are not many professional sports there and I want people to be able to look up to me and know that I worked hard. I want to be a positive role model and some one to look up to. So I am always going to train hard so that I can achieve that. I don’t want to be remembered as a lazy guy or someone that wasn’t willing to work hard. The MMA Corner: If you could fight anybody who would it be and why? Salas: I would like to fight Frankie Edgar. He is the champion of my weight class and I think that I could hang with him. I want to test myself. I really look up to him and like the way that he fights but I want to test myself and I want to fight the best and right now that is him. When I am training and I am thinking oh I could catch Frankie with that or would this work against Edgar. So I’d say I’d like to fight him. The MMA Corner: How do you feel that training at Grudge Training Center has helped your career? Salas: One of the biggest thing is the structure as well as the confidence. We can come in here and we have coaches that can tell us things that we can’t see and we can trust that these coaches know what they are talking about because they are producing champions. So because of that, we can take out some of the uncertainty that you might have if you were freelancing and training with a bunch of people that you did not trust. To have coaches and a team atmosphere is what builds champions, you have to have people that you can trust. It allows me to grow as a fighter. It also allows all of us to get better because we are all here as a team working together to make sure that we all get better. You know we can’t take days off because we always having somebody training for a fight and we all need to be there to help that person. It is a true team and these guys have helped me get to where I am. The MMA Corner: What are your goals as a mixed martial artist? Salas: I definitely want to be a world champion. I wanted to grow as a person and build character. I want to see the world and to be able to do some things that I might not have been able to do if I wasn’t a fighter. I just want to let my life take its course and where I am supposed to end up I will. This is what I like to do and I will do it for as long as I can. Even after I am done fighting I will still be in the gym. A few more title defenses and some victories over a couple more big name fighters and the name Justin Salas will become a household name. Salas has both the drive and talent to be successful in the business and once his opportunity comes, expect Justin Salas to kick down the door and seize the moment.