In speaking with Joseph Salas there is an unmistakable air of calm resolve that typically is absent in speaking with a fighter in the infant stage of their professional careers. Often, thoughtfulness and introspection is overshadowed my youthful exuberance and the brashness of youth. Not so with Salas who speaks in genuine tones with a resolve that far surpasses his 29 years on the planet. One gets the feeling that it take a lot to make the even-keeled Salas lose his cool but that is not to say he is devoid of emotion. In fact, in discussions surrounding his burgeoning MMA career, Salas sounds downright giddy at times.
Of course, Salas has reason to be excited as the Houston-born, Dallas raised fighter is set to make his third professional fight, his first in North Texas, fighting this Saturday at XKO 15. Salas’ first fight in front of his hometown fans is no easy task as he sets to do battle with highly regarded fighter Casey Hudson. Though Saturday will make only his third professional fight, Salas’ time in the fight game has been well spent in preparation for a career in fighting.
Fighting out of George Prevalskey’s Boxing & Muay Thai, Salas is no stranger to cage fighting having had an exceptional amateur. Though, folks in North Texas may be unaware given Salas was forced to fight out of state as an amateur due to lack of options here in the Lone Star State.
“That’s the thing. A lot of people don’t really know about my credentials in the DFW because I never fought in the area as an amateur,” explains Salas. “As an amateur I had to take a lot of trips to Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and maybe like two fights in San Antonio for the TAMMA organization. That’s about as close to home as I ever got. I had a lot of out of state fights as an amateur.”
Salas aptitude for the fighting arts was apparent early on and it wasn’t long before he started collecting hardware as an amateur including the TAMMA Featherweight MMA and Kickboxing titles along with featherweight titles in Kansas and Missouri. But to say his journey as an amateur was easy would be a lie.
“Yeah, that’s definitely for sure,” says Salas. “I took my first fight after about a month of training. I won by decision but I didn’t do anything spectacular. My second fight, I took it against a guy who had been training for a couple of years and I caught a little beat down.”
“You’re not getting paid and then I have to cut weight and drive like seven hours starving half to death. It’s torture, but it’s part of the game.”
Fortunately for Salas his family was there every step of the way to provide the needed support for a fighter having to navigate the pitfalls of prize fighting career. Salas’ family note only provided support, but motivation in the cage and it’s what he credits to his ability to be successful even when forced to fight in hostile territory. Salas’ family support has meant everything to the young fighter.
“I mean even when I traveled out of state my parents were always supportive and followed me,” explains Salas. “So I’ve always had somebody there watching me and in the back of my mind I know someone is there to watch me. Actually, I’ve grown accustomed to it. My first two pro fights were out in California and my parents flew out there and watched me. I think that’s great. I like having them there to provide that extra push for me when I’m in the middle of fighting. I’m thinking, ‘My mom is watching me, I’m not going to lay down.’”
“I don’t think I would have made it this far without my family’s support,” Salas continues. “It’s a grind. Obviously, you are not getting paid as an amateur and as a pro you’re getting paid a little more than nothing. If you have someone to watch your back it goes a long way. When you’re fighting, it’s one on one, but you have to have someone support you. I mean, my family has been more than supportive. When I was in California to turn pro, I saved a little money and moved out there, I wasn’t planning to work. I just wanted to go out there and train day in and day out to prepare for a pro career. If I came up short of rent, or food, or whatever, my parents were there to back me up. It’s always in the back of my mind, that I have someone there to back me up and that goes a long way.”
In addition to his family’s unwavering support, Salas credits his two-year exodus to the MMA epicenter that is Orange County, California for his confidence and experience as an MMA fighter.
“I was in Orange County, training with Team Oyama,” Salas details. “I trained with them for about a year and a half. I moved back home less than a year ago and this is my first fight in about a year. It wasn’t like I was going to move out there forever. I just wanted to go out there to train for a year, but I ended up staying for about two years which was great for me. Out there in California, especially at Team Oyama, there’s a ton of guys to train with. I came out from there with a lot of experience. The muay thai out there, you can just tell it’s years above the rest of the country.”
Team Oyama is one of the sports most revered MMA gyms boasting an incredible roster of fighters including rising prospects Shane Del Rosario and Giva Santana. Salas speaks of the training he received out in California as crucial to his eventual success as a fighter but living in the Golden State is not cheap as Salas would find out. Fortunately, fate would shine in Salas’ favor.
“Luckily I had a friend, we trained at the same gym, he had moved out there six months before so luckily I got in contact with him so I didn’t have to go out there cold, not knowing anybody,” said Salas. “I was lucky I had someone to help get me through it; a sleep on the couch sort of thing. I was blessed to have someone to lean on because it’s not cheap, especially in Orange County.”
Being a fighter is often a series of humbling experiences. It is the desire to learn and never repeat such experiences that set fighters apart. Salas is no stranger to such experiences, whether it is being broke and crashing at a friends place in California, or taking an amateur fight against an opponent he was not prepared for, such dues have been paid.
Having paid such dues it is no surprise as to why Salas seems cool and confident entering into this, his third professional fight. Casey Hudson is a rising prospect in his own right and come XKO 15, this Saturday, Salas seems ready for his challenge.
“For the last year and a half [Team Oyama] worked on my wrestling,” explains Salas. “It’s not my calling but it’s definitely a big factor in the game right now. It’s definitely going to help me out with Casey, who is a pretty legit wrestler.”
Backed by his family, Imperial Fight Management, and Honor Fight Gear, Salas seems excited about making his hometown debut Saturday night.
“I like to put on a good show,” assures Salas. “I know he’s going to try and wrestle me down to the ground but I’m prepared to keep it in my game and it’s definitely going to be an entertain show.”