The first time new UFC signee Boston Salmon encountered Dana White, it wasn’t to fight for him.
Three years before Salmon ever competed in front of the UFC president, he helped park his car. The 25-year-old local has financed his professional fighting career for the last several years by holding jobs at the Palms’ valet and Encore Beach Club.
White came around to both spots on a few occasions, but Salmon never wanted to bother him.
“I had a little reputation, I felt like I was a prospect but I wasn’t one to go up to Dana White and be like, ‘Hey my name is Boston Salmon and I’m a UFC fighter,’” Salmon said. “I’m not like that. I want to showcase my skills and prove that I belong in the UFC. We had other guys taking care of Dana White, and I knew the opportunity was one day going to present itself.”
The opportunity presented itself Tuesday night at The Ultimate Fighter gym, where Salmon became the answer to a UFC trivia question. The bantamweight became the first fighter to ever earn a UFC contract off a bout on “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series,” a new show that will air on UFC Fight Pass weekly for the next seven weeks.
Salmon (6-1) dominated undefeated Team Alpha Male prospect Ricky Turcios en route to a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) that White couldn’t deny.
“This is actually the first time I got to see (White) one-on-one, so just that feeling of joy where I got to shake the big boss’s hand and getting presented that contract to be in the UFC, to be focused on my dreams to be world champion someday was amazing,” Salmon said. “It’s an experience I can’t even talk about.”
Featherweight Kurt Holobaugh, who knocked out Matt Bessette in the first round, also came away with a contract on the first week of the Tuesday Night Contender Series. The UFC passed on signing Tuesday’s other three victors — heavyweight Azunna Anywanu, middleweight Charles Byrd and flyweight Joby Sanchez — but they put themselves in better positions for future consideration.
Five fights per week are scheduled as part of the Tuesday Night Contender Series. Although White missed the first fight Tuesday — Sanchez’s unanimous-decision victory over Manny Vazquez — while traveling back from the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor press conference in Los Angeles, the plan is for him to be cage side scouting every matchup.
The show allows the UFC to discover up-and-comers and add extra content for its subscriber base.
“We’ve had the Fight Pass product now since the beginning of ’14, the end of 2013, so we have around three years of consumption data and have done countless surveys and fan symposiums and the No. 1 response is always, ‘We want more live, exclusive fights on Fight Pass,’” said Joe Carr, UFC senior vice president of International and Content.
It also affords fans the ability to familiarize themselves with fighters like Salmon. The Waianae, Hawaii, native moved to Las Vegas at 17 years old immediately after graduating from high school to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.
Salmon caught on with the team at Xtreme Couture, which also includes fellow Hawaiian and mentor Brad Tavares, and worked his way up the amateur ranks in Tuff-N-Uff. He excelled just as quickly after turning pro, winning his first five fights before losing a controversial split decision last September.
“The only problem I have is I work two jobs,” Salmon said. “A lot of fighters have that opportunity of training full time. With this contract, I can be a full-time fighter now ... I’m very happy and blessed to make this a full-time job, a career and it only gets better from here.”
Salmon will likely make his octagon debut before the end of the year. Competing for the coveted performance bonus money White awards every card sounds a lot better than splitting the UFC president’s tips — though he had no complaints in that department either.
“No matter what, if he comes in valet, he’s $100 in, $100 out,” Salmon said of White. “He’s always taking care of the industry.”