James Gallagher – Say Hello to the Bad Guy

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James Gallagher has never had any problem with ruffling a few feathers and Bellator booking him as the foe to the native Kirill Medvedovsky for their upcoming show in Israel on November 10 could be a stroke of genius.

‘The Strabanimal’ continued on his unbeaten streak in his Bellator debut back in London at Bellator 158 and his posturing throughout the fight week marked him out as a man to watch.

The 19-year-old was courted by what seemed like every featherweight in Europe to be the counterpart for his debut. During his ascension through the amateur ranks, Gallagher’s unwavering self-confident and flair for the extravagant put a massive target on his back, so he isn’t too bothered about being the bad guy in Tel Aviv in two months time.

In fact, when I ask him is he looking forward to it Gallagher bursts into laughter before answering the question.

“Look, I know it’s going to be heavy over there when me and him are doing face offs and the rest of it,” he said.

“That whole fuckin’ country is going to be against me. I’m going to just do what I do. This is me coming in to take out the hometown hero and I know I’m going to be good at playing the bad guy.

“Already I’m looking at this guy and I can see a little martial artist. He hasn’t faced a fighter, and I’m going to show him exactly what that is on November 10. I don’t want to just out-skill him, I want to break him.”

Although he is confident he will have his hand raised, Gallagher does recognize that the Israeli brings a stiffer test to the table for him. As far as he is concerned, higher caliber opponents bring out the best in him.

“Let’s be honest, not a lot of people knew who Mike Cutting was before my Bellator debut.

“This next guy seems to be a good fighter and I’m going into his backyard. So, a lot more people are going to expect a win from him. I feel like the bigger challenges that are put in front of me make me perform even better.

“This guy is a brown belt and I’m only a purple belt. Everybody thinks my strength is on the ground so this will be an interesting matchup. That brown belt is something that I want. He’s had a few Muay Thai fights too and I definitely want to make a name for myself as a good striker.

“I’m putting in a lot of work to make sure people will know that after this fight. I’m getting ready to put this guy away in front of his home crowd.”

Bellator 158 saw Gallagher go the distance for the first time in four professional tests. A massive amount of pressure was on the shoulders of the teenager in the lead up to the marquee event in London, and the relief was written all over his face as his hand was raised to confirm his one-sided decision win over Cutting.

Gallagher believes the experience of the big show will help him to no end in his next fight. After getting through the festivities of fight week for the first time, he knows what to expect, which he claims allows him to focus on his preparation more.

“I feel like now that I’ve fought for Bellator once, I know how the whole system works,” he says.

“Now I can just focus on my fight. I know what to expect from the fight week. There were so many people tuning in to see my debut and I feel like that’s given me a great experience. Nothing will be new going in for the second time, so I can just focus on my preparation.

“The last time with Bellator was the first time that I had to deal with so much media and the press conferences, things like that. I’m just trying to have fun. I know what’s coming and that makes it a whole lot easier.”

In the lead up to his latest fight announcement it was heavily rumored that Gallagher could potentially meet Chris Avila in his next outing. Although he said he hadn’t heard anything about the potential fight, he is open to it in the future.

“I like that fight,” he tells me. “I don’t think he stands much of a chance, but I think it would be good fun.”

@PetesyCarroll

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA's lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice's Fightland.