James Gallagher Eyes Title after Signing “one of the best contracts” in Bellator


James ‘The Strabanimal’ Gallagher has never let his youth get in the way of his progression in martial arts. Taking his first fight at just 13 years of age, Gallagher reached another considerable milestone yesterday when he signing for Bellator was announced to the world.

Having lived with jiu-jitsu black belt and SBG head coach John Kavanagh since he was 15 years of age, Gallagher has embraced his privileged path for progression. He went through his first three pro fights like a knife through butter, finishing each opponent via first round submission.

According to Gallagher, the US organisation wanted to secure him based on those three outings since he took on pro status in October.

“They’ve been looking at me for the last couple of months,” says Gallagher. “They loved everything about me. They really liked my fighting style. John (Kavanagh) told me they were interested a while back and then we got the contract a couple of days ago. I’m delighted that it’s been announced now.”

I have to wait for a couple of hours to call ‘The Strabanimal’ as he makes his way home from Dublin, the same trek he’s made an uncountable amount of times as he journeyed to the Irish capital to sharpen his skills. There was inevitably some excitement the first time Gallagher made the trek down to SBG, but over the years, it’s become normal for the prospect.

The same can be said for his Bellator debut. Gallagher has been dreaming about fighting for one of the big promotions for nearly ten years, but now that it’s nearly here, it just feels like business as usual for the teenager.

“It’s going to be something else. This has been a dream of mine for so many years, but to be honest, now that it’s here it just feels normal. I’m looking forward to my first fight with Bellator and hopefully, it will be sometime around July.”

Bellator’s first trip to the UK is rumoured to be taking place in July, and although Gallagher has only heard whispers too, he believes it would be an ideal launch pad for his tenure with the promotion.

That being said, Gallagher will still have to overcome Limerick’s Sean Tobin at BAMMA 26 on June 4 if he wants to keep his unbeaten record going into his debut. As far as he is concerned, he’s “doing BAMMA a favour” by taking the fight, which he can’t see lasting outside of the first five minutes.

“He’ll be done in the first round too. He’s nothing. I’m doing BAMMA a favour by taking that fight. I don’t need to take this fight after signing with Bellator, but I’ll do it. They wanted one more fight from me, so I’ve given them that.

“Honestly, he’s a handy number for me. I’m going to put him away in the first and then I’m going to move on to Bellator. They haven’t told me anything, but I’ve been hearing rumours about a July card in London. Hopefully, that happens and I can try to debut on that card.”

The Irish MMA market is booming thanks to Gallagher’s teammate Conor McGregor. The Strabane man is certain that his popularity on the Emerald Isle played into his signing, and he is adamant that he will be the man to take the Bellator brand to the masses in Ireland.

“I think they want to get into the Irish market. That’s what their plan is. They’re going to try and build me up and get me on course for their belt. They’ll market me as the next big thing coming out of Ireland. I really feel like I’m the man for the job too.

“I’m going to go in there and smoke the lot of them, then I’m after that belt. Actually, never mind a belt, I want belts, just like Conor is going after. I want the whole lot and if they keep paying me, I’ll keep fighting.”

On the announcement of his signing one of the main refrains from the Irish MMA community, outside of the general excitement for Gallagher, was the fear that Bellator may rush him into top tier fights. Gallagher explained that he completely trusts Kavanagh, and it will be the celebrated Irish coach who makes the decisions on who he fights.

He added that because his contract is “better than the majority of fighters’ in Bellator”, he is ready to fight whoever they put in front of him.

“John’s the boss. He tells me who to fight and I get in there and do it. He knows what’s right for me. I’ll fight whoever he wants me to. Whether it’s guy with a 3-0 record like me or a guy that has had 300 fights, if John tells me to take it I’ll do it. I’m jut going to fight as much as I can, and I’m going to make lots and lots of money.

“My contract is better than the majority of the fighters in Bellator. That shows me that they have big plans for me. Whoever they want to put in front of me, I don’t mind jumping in. I couldn’t give a fuck really. I just want to grab the bull by the horns and get that belt. This is a full on deal, as I said, it’s one of the best contracts in the whole promotion. They’re not fuckin’ around, I can tell you that much,” he laughed.

The idea of having a target on his back is one that excites Gallagher. As he sees it, he may be a target initially, but after a few fights, he is confident that he will become a threat. The 19-year-old also insisted that he can see the Bellator title wrapped around his waist within a year of making his debut.

“I think (having a target on your back) is a good thing. It’s not so much becoming a target because I think they’ll see me as a threat once I’ve had my first fight. They can say whatever they want, but once I start putting people away in the first round like I plan to, they’ll say ‘oh fuck, he’s actually good.’

“They’ll be full of talk now that I’ve just signed. They’ll say I’m all talk and that I’m only 3-0. They’ll complain because I’m getting better pay, and they’ll probably say I’m getting handy fights no matter who I’m put against. They won’t be saying that when I take the game to a whole new level.”

“I can see the belt around my waist in the next year or year and a half. If I debut in July I’ll be looking to stay active. I want to fight five times in the first year. I’ll have that belt soon.”


Photo via: BAMMA/Dave Fogarty

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