The “Strabanimal” James Gallagher believes he is unstoppable now, having overcome his demons and emerged victorious is his Bellator debut.
Gallagher revealed afterwards that a tumultuous four-month period prior to his fight with Mike Cutting mentally pushed him to his limits.
However he rose to the occasion at Bellator 158, dominating his opponent en route to a unanimous decision victory.
The 19-year-old KHK MMA featherweight was immediately critical of his own performance, and promised there was much more to come now he had gotten the debut out of the way.
He said: “It’s been a tough, tough road the last four months and now that I’ve overcome that I feel like I can take on the world. I’ve beaten myself now I can start really beating people.”
Although he didn’t divulge the specific problems he had prior to his first Bellator fight, he had previously revealed his battle with depression and self-doubt in a candid interview.
Despite being such a young age, he joined KHK MMA and his talent was recognized by Bellator after only three professional wins.
And Gallagher has already attracted the attention of some big names in the sport, who have expressed their admiration for the Strabanimal who hails from Northern Ireland.
“This morning we were having breakfast and Royce Gracie pulled a chair over and started having breakfast with us, it was crazy,” he said. He gave me some advice, told me some stories and told me he’s a big fan of mine. This is the man who started it all, I am blown away by it. I’m enjoying it, rolling with it all. But at the end of the day its performances that count and finishes – and they will come.”
Gaining the respect of UFC hall-of-famer and Brazilian JiuJitsu legend, Royce Gracie, speaks volumes for Gallagher’s ground game, which despite being unable to get the finish, he was able to display to the world at Bellator 158.
His slick transitions and multiple submission attempts were very pleasing to the eye and drew applause from even legends of the sport such as Tito Ortiz and Fedor Emelianenko, who both made a point of congratulating Gallagher.
Despite being unhappy with his inability to finish, Gallagher was philosophical in defeat and realizes he’s still a student in the sport.
“I am happy I got a win on one of the biggest stages in the world. I know in my mind that I am capable of way more so that’s a major positive,” he said. “I’m only 19 and I still have a lot to learn in this game. Now it’s time to start racking up the wins.”
After the fight Gallagher revealed that a Dublin Bellator card is in the works and he will be headlining this event when it materializes.