Rafael Lovato Jr. is ‘ready for anything’ jiu-jitsu rival John Salter brings at Bellator 205

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Bellator 205: “McKee vs. Macapa” comes to CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, this Friday night (Sept. 21, 2018), featuring undefeated Featherweight “Mercenary” A.J. McKee (11-0) looking to put on a show against “Macapa” John Teixeira (21-3-2) in Paramount Network’s main event of the evening. In the co-main event, a fight anticipated since Bellator 198 should finally come to fruition.

John Salter (15-3) is on a seven-fight win streak with two knockouts and five decisions. He’s not only looked like the man to beat at Middleweight, he’s almost certainly ready for a title shot with an eighth straight win. Rafael Lovato Jr. (8-0) was more than ready to face him in Illinois in April, but a medical issue forced Salter to withdraw, leading Lovato to notch his eighth straight win by submitting the previously retired Gerald Harris. Respect was due to Harris for stepping up to take the bout, but it was not the battle of submission aces the fans came to see.

Lovato recently spoke with MMAmania.com about seeing so many submissions at Bellator 198 in April and whether that could happen again in Boise — particularly in his fight with Salter.

“I doubt you’re going to see that many finishes in one night, especially on the main card. As far as my fight (though), you know it’s hard to say. I try not to put any one specific thing in my mind as to, ‘This is how it’s going to go.’ I’m just going to be ready for everything.”

In fact, Lovato sees the very real possibility that a clash of similar styles in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and ground game could result in a fight without a submission.

“You know both Salter and I are ground specialists, so he’s not going to fall into any silly traps or anything like that, and you know neither am I. It could be that our ground skills sort of cancel each other out, and the fight has to take place in other areas more. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m ready for everything, and I would love to get another beautiful submission for you guys.”

Salter and Lovato were on a collision course in April, but the issue that forced Salter out and caused this fight to move to Boise may actually put more pressure on Lovato’s opponent.

“We’ve basically been training for each other all year, you know he’s been on my mind all year. I still got to fight last time around (in Chicago) so if anybody has more of a weight on their chest it’s probably him (rather) than me being that he’s been sidelined the whole year.”

At this point Lovato is just ready to go out there, prove himself in Idaho, and take that next step toward achieving his Bellator goals.

“It’ll just be, ‘Okay, let’s check this off, let’s do it.’ You know the gameplan, preparing for this one guy basically the whole year, it’ll just be nice to finally play it out and have fun in there, and test myself against him and challenge myself against him. You know, get that victory and show everyone that I’m the No. 1 contender.”

That naturally leads to the question of “Mousasi vs. MacDonald” little more than one week later. And make no mistake about it: Lovato wants to be fighting for that world title.

“Yeah, I mean that’s my dream! In jiu-jitsu, my goal was to be a world champion, and solidify myself as one of the best of my generation. Now I’m doing my best to do the same in MMA. It’s my dream to be the Bellator world champion and get that world title in MMA, and hold that belt as well for as long as possible. Every fight I’ve consistently stepped up in level of competition. I’m not trying to have easy fights or anything like that. I want to evolve, get better, learn, grow, test myself, and climb my way to that title as quickly and cleanly as possible.”

There’s no clean road to the top, though, as Lyoto Machida just made it more bumpy. Does Lovato believe that if they both win they’d have to face off for that No. 1 spot?

“You know we’ve gotta just see how it plays out. I think another great finish, another solid victory (for me), especially over someone like Salter who’s ARGUABLY been deserving of a title shot longer than me, like longer than anybody in the division, that would really solidify myself. I mean Machida has the name (but) he still has to get past Carvalho, which is I think is going to be a very tough fight for him. We’ll just have to see how that goes. It could be a boring decision, and in that case neither one of them will get that title shot.”

That’s a good argument for whoever has the more exciting fight being next, but what if Lovato and Salter are so evenly matched that they wind up having the boring fight?

“I mean we’re all human, we all have our weaknesses, it’s just who is going to bite into the other person’s weaknesses first? Who’s going to make the first mistake and (their foe) be able to capitalize? I’m not saying I’m going to win this way or that way, I’m prepared for war. Salter’s been in there with some of the best in the world, he’s on a killer win streak right now, he’s finishing everybody. It’s not going to be easy, you know? I do think that I’m going to present some problems for him that he maybe hasn’t experience because he’s definitely had the jiu-jitsu advantage on everybody he’s fought thus far, and I’m not going to be easy to submit. He’s not going to just take me down and submit me. He might take me down, but he’s not going to just submit me easy.”

There you have it. “Lovato vs. Salter” will be the ultimate human chess match for Bellator 205 at the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, this weekend.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “McKee vs. Macapa” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.




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