James Gallagher: No Pressure
Mikhail Baryshnikov once said that ‘The more injuries you get, the smarter you get’ and that rings true for James Gallagher (7-0-0) who has overcome injuries to his LCL and PCL which required surgery. The ‘Strabanimal’ will now headline Bellator 196 in Budapest against Adam Borics as he aims to move a step closer to the featherweight crown.
‘It was probably one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done in my life, it was challenging in ways that I’ve never been challenged before’ Gallagher said, when speaking to SpitballingPod recently. It’s easy to forget about the trials and tribulations that an athlete goes through outside of a fight and it was interesting to speak to James and gain a further understanding of the torments that an injured fighter is subjected to. He continued to explain; ‘as an athlete that had everything at the tip of his fingers, for that all to just be taken from you in a single moment is hard. It’s very fatiguing on the mind, it can overwhelm you and run you down, and you need to just stay strong, listen to the doctors and do what you can’.
The injury happened just before Gallagher was set to headline his first card, in Dublin, Ireland of all places; ‘It was the worst fucking time that it could’ve happened at’ he admitted. Though it was a tough process to go through at the time, the Irishman is now sitting back and examining the positives that have transpired from the unfortunate situation. ‘I’m back training, I’m back feeling sharp and I feel like the rest has done me good’ he said, continuing ‘I really feel like this has done my mind a lot of good, I’m hungrier for it and I’m working harder than I was before. I’m still only 21, I’ve got the rest of my life ahead of me and I’m looking forward to putting in the work’.
While everything is running smoothly, there is often no need to take a step back and re-evaluate things, but an injury provided that opportunity for Gallagher and he now says that he’s ready to make the necessary adjustments – ‘I’m thinking about training different; when I was off, I wasn’t pushing my body but my mind was just thinking about it different, so now I’m seeing things clearer and I feel like I’ve just got a different approach to the whole game’.
The ‘Strabanimal’ will be hoping that his upcoming first headline slot will be the first milestone of many in a long and illustrious career, but he insists that being the first name on the poster won’t come with any added pressure – he rationalized this, saying ‘I was made under pressure, I’m like a diamond and then I just go out and shine. I really don’t give a fuck about anything other than going out and fighting. Why should there be any pressure on me to do what I love?’
The top dogs at Bellator are clearly putting a lot of faith in Gallagher being one of their main stars, as he has been put straight back in as a headliner, even after his last withdrawal; ‘That’s just the draw that I bring’ he insisted. As far as the 21 year old is concerned, this is just the first of many, as he told us ‘I’d say within the next year now you’re gonna see that I’m only the main event. I bring the numbers and that shows’.
Away from the brashness, the undefeated Irishman is as humble as they come; hard work has got him to where he is today and he’s appreciative of the recognition – ‘I’m honoured to be the main event, I feel like I deserve it, I feel like I’ve worked hard for it and I’m also thankful that I’m in this position. I feel that I’m ready now for this hype, and the pressure and the pedestal’.
The profile of Gallagher is clearly growing, we saw the young man at BAMMA 31 where he was being approached for pictures and introductions throughout the evening; when speaking on his growing profile, he admits that it can be a little overwhelming – ‘When I go back home to Strabane and walk into a restaurant or something and then the next minute people are standing outside waiting for me to come out, it’s just a bit weird. I just like fighting and people recognise that, I’m always gonna be thankful to those people, and take pictures and do whatever they want, it’s just the way I am’.
On paper Adam Borics is the sternest test to date for Gallagher, and although he brushes off that sentiment in saying that ‘I guess you can always say that the next one is the toughest one’, he then explained that the journey to getting back to fighting was harder than any fight itself. True to form, his prediction for the fight was a bold one and took no prompting – ‘I’m very confident that I’m gonna go in there and put him away in the first round’ he claimed.
This is a different stylistic match-up to what has been presented to James previously, but he actually thinks that will favour him; breaking down his opponent he said ‘I actually feel like the karate style (like his previous opponent Chinzo Machida possessed) is a lot harder to deal with than this style. There are loads of people that are upright kick-boxers, kind of like a ‘driller’ as I’d say – you can see each shot that he throws on the pads; it’s just repetition, whereas as a karate guy is a lot more unpredictable. This guy will be very predictable, but he’ll also be very crisp, I’ll be ready for every shot that he throws and I feel that when he throws a shot at me it won’t affect me at all, I’ll have the more effective strikes and then I’ll probably take him down and choke him in the first, the same as I do to everyone else’.
Gallagher says that he would like another three fights this year, but first he has to get past Borics on 6th April in Budapest; When asked about why he fights, he took a moment to pause and responded with clear passion saying ‘I feel like this is the only time that I can be me. I just love doing this and I feel so comfortable doing it, I feel like I’m not happy if I don’t have a fight coming up. I feel like this will always be a part of me and there’s nothing else that I’d rather do’. His goals are clear and he’ll look to make a statement here, he wants the world title around his waist and he said he’ll keep beating whoever is in front of him until he gets it.