James Gallagher interview: I am the biggest draw in Bellator, my rivals know it and can't stop talking about me
The 22-year-old bantamweight, a teammate of UFC star Conor McGregor, has designs on becoming the biggest star in mixed martial arts and returns to action at Bellator London on June 22 to take on Jeremiah Labiano.
Before an emphatic victory over Steven Graham in February, Gallagher’s meteoric rise was briefly halted after a surprise defeat to American Ricky Bandejas at Bellator 204 last August where he suffered a first round KO defeat.
Given his occasionally brash persona, some fight fans and fighters alike chose to revel in his defeat – with some of the abuse bordering on vicious.
The backlash he faced has left the Tyrone native to conclude he will simply never be accepted in the world of MMA – but he is happy to embrace the hate.
“That’s the way it is, I am good with that,” Gallagher told Standard Sport. “It’s my job, and I know I’m doing it right, I don’t really care what people think.
"I’m not trying to shut anyone up or prove them wrong. I’m just doing what I’m doing, they have got their opinion. They are wasting their time.
“Why should I be bothered when I’m doing something I love every day? Why would I listen to someone who has never moved out of their mother’s gaff?
"Why would I listen to someone who has never done anything for themselves in their lives? They don’t have a f****** clue about fighting.”
Adored back home in Ireland, Gallagher is one of the most talked about names in Bellator and remains confident of racking up win number nine when he takes on Labiano at the SSE Arena, Wembley.
“He can cause me problems, but he can’t cause me any trouble,” the Irish fighter said of his opponent. “Any problems, I will figure them out very quickly and I’ll solve them.”
For better or for worse, he remains a constant subject of conversation in Bellator’s bantamweight ranks.
Darrion Caldwell ruled the division for two years - before losing his belt to Kyoji Horiguchi on Friday at Bellator 222 at Madison Square Garden.
But whoever holds the strap, Gallagher insists he remains the promotion’s golden ticket despite his tender years and having just nine fights under his belt.
“I’m only 22 and still learning the game and these people [the rest of the bantamweight division] are talking about me as if I have been around 15 years. They can see the stress I put on them and that I have something they want.
“They can say this and that but at the end of the day, statistics can’t lie. How come I’m the biggest draw in Bellator? How come I get the most views? How come I get paid more than these people?
"It doesn’t add up, I feel like they are all lying through the teeth and are not saying what they actually see. They are just saying what they think people want to hear.”
Bandejas, the man who briefly paused Gallagher’s inexorable rise before suffering a loss of his own to Juan Archuleta in January, recently told The Irish Mirror he would jump at the chance of a rematch in Ireland.
Things move quickly in MMA, however, with Bandejas suffering defeat to Patrick Mix at Bellator 222 on Friday night. And who did Mix immediately call out? James Gallagher.
Insisting he is not in the business of chasing losses, he has already made his peace with that career-first defeat and has his eye on other prizes.
“He [Bandejas] got beaten in his last fight – I want to go up. There are guys coming off big wins that I might want to fight next so why would I want that?”
So what about fighting the winner of Caldwell vs Horiguchi? “I’m up for that. I’m not here to chase a loss, I got back in the gym a few weeks after that fight and I chased that loss in the gym and improved my skill set and improved what went wrong. That’s when I chase losses and turned that into a win.”
Gallagher’s immediate focus is on Labiano however and as is his wont, he will go out to fulfil his own expectations of himself and not anyone else’s.
“I don’t need to rush anything, I don’t need a big finish or anything like that,” Gallagher said of his upcoming fight in the capital.
“I am going to enjoy it and put on a good performance I am happy with, not one other people are happy with. I’ll do something that makes me happy.”