Sports

‘Strabanimal’ still undefeated

Thursday, 22 December 2016

‘Strabanimal’ still undefeated thumbnailJames Gallagher extended his perfect record in the profession fighting ranks after Friday’s win at Bellator 169 in Dublin.

AS James Gallagher's arm was raised in the third round of his Bellator 169 fight with Anthony Taylor, he was gushing with "pride and honour".

"I was blown away," said the Strabane man after the fight at Dublin's 3 Arena last Friday night, in which over 9,000 fans chanted his name and cheered after he got the better of American opponent Taylor in the final round to bring his professional MMA record to 5-0. "That's my crowd, I'm one of those people. We support each other.

"I felt nothing walking in, I keep it that way, and I just make sure I feel nothing. But after I win, I've never felt anything like it. That was the best moment of my life.

"I just stood there and raised my home country's flag in front of my own people. No-one's going to take that kind of thing away from me.

"This is the kind of thing I dreamed of and worked for. I'm just filled with pride and honour."

Gallagher, dubbed 'The Strabanimal', was co-headlining the Bellator event billed as his 'homecoming' in front of an adoring Irish crowd, and the rising MMA prospect did not disappoint his legion of fans with victory that underlines his credentials as one of the industry's most promising young prospects.

After a scrappy opening round, Gallagher was much improved in the second period.

"I was too calm in the first round," said the 20-year-old. "I was letting my shots go, keeping safe and tagging him. I felt like I chased him a little bit.

"And I went back in the second round and thought, "I want to put this guy away, I'm not going to decision.

"My coach came over and said, 'It'll up to you now to put him away. When he circles, cut him off, bang the leg kick. Take three and you'll get the finish."

Coming into the third and final five minutes, Gallagher knew he couldn't let the fight go to decision, and he eventually put the bout to bed after a drawn out submission.

"100 per cent, I was coming to finish. I didn't have that in the first round and I should have, because I'm well capable of doing it. I was too relaxed."

Gallagher's reaction at the bell said it all. The Strabane man was overcome with joy, hugging his father, Andy, and members of Straight Blast Gym coaching team, namely renowned coach, John Kavanagh, before embracing his family and friends in the crowd

"No-one will take that moment away from me. Those hours and hours of hard work. Those days when my body is absolutely in bits and I'm sore and tired and I just want to put my feet up."

After the fight James was still beaming with pride, and spoke of getting home to Strabane to enjoy the quiet life for a while.

"I live in Dublin now, I don't get to come home to Strabane much and see my family and dog. Those moments build up after a while. Now I'm looking forward to going home and sitting with my 'ma and da' and having a cup of tea in my hand and chilling out.

"Ruby's are hosting a party. I used to go to that place and blow a fortune buying people drinks, and now they're paying me!" he joked.

"Thanks so much to the people of Strabane. When I walk down the street in Strabane, all the people there, I'm one of them. I grew up in Carlton Drive, and now I'm packing out arenas. And that's just hard work. Hard work doing something I love, putting in everything I've got, absolutely everything.

"All that hard work, it hasn't paid off, it's paying off," he quipped.

Following the fight, a defeated Taylor was adamant a re-match was in order, but Gallagher quickly dismissed the claims of a fighter who labels himself 'Pretty Boy'.

"He's gone packing. He wants a rematch because he wants paid again. Bellator's not going to have him on the card. I'm after belts."

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