ONE OF Ireland’s hottest amateur MMA prospects, James Gallagher this week landed in Las Vegas where he joined forces with his UFC idol and teammate, Conor McGregor at his lavish ‘Mac Mansion’ training base.
The 18-year-old Strabane native has set his sights on following McGregor’s path to the top and he’s certainly been making the right noises on the Irish mixed martial arts scene since his first fight five years ago.
Known by the rather brash nickname, ‘The Strabanimal,’,Gallagher appears to have picked up more than just his fighting skills from the straight-talking McGregor, but he backs it up with substance.
Like his Straight Blast Gym International (SBGI) teammate, McGregor, he’s quickly growing a reputation for his unwavering belief and making bold predictions ahead of his contests. And like McGregor - he’s making a habit of getting it right!
‘Down in one’ has been his mantra and he’s followed through with brutal first round stoppages - a rear choke stopping Eamon Clinton in a lightweight bout at Chaos Fighting Championships 14 in the Everglades Hotel last February and his latest coming against Alex Kravstovin at UXC Fight Night 3 in Belfast last Saturday night.
Three days later and Gallagher was on a flight to ‘Sin City’ where he is currently rubbing shoulders with McGregor ahead of the upcoming International Mixed Martial Arts Federation’s World Championships (IMMAF) which take place from July 5th to July 11th.
That of course is the week leading up to the biggest UFC fight of the year - McGregor’s world featherweight title fight against champion, Jose Aldo at the UFC 189.
Therefore, it’s a fantastic opportunity for the supremely confident Gallagher and he’s determined to make the most of it. In fact, Gallagher predicts he will be taking in the McGregor v Aldo fight as the newly crowned IMMAF world champion as he bids to put the North West of Ireland on mixed martial arts map.
“I love training with Conor,” enthused Gallagher. “I’ve been training with him for around four years now before he was in the UFC and he always said that we are all going to be world champions and that it’s just a matter of time.
“And I believed him four years ago and kept working and now he’s fighting for the world featherweight title on July 11th and he will win it.
“It’s such an honour to be heading to Las Vegas to be a part of his training camp.”
Gallagher flew out on Tuesday for his 10 weeks training camp in Vegas and posted a picture on his Twitter account relaxing in a hot tub with McGregor. But despite the city’s famous attractions, he’s adamant he’s not there to ‘mess around.’
“I’m so grateful to be a part of it and I’m looking so forward to hitting the gym and putting in the work. Every one sees Las Vegas as fun and games but we ain’t playing here. We are going to put in that work and win world titles.”
In typical McGregor-like fashion, Gallagher talks the talk and walks the walk. He vowed to made light work of his opponent at UXC last Saturday night and he backed it up by forcing a first round submission.
I see myself as being one of the top professionals in Europe and knocking on the door of the UFC by the end of 2015.James Gallagher
Never one for modesty, Gallagher is constantly striving for perfection. Brushing off praise from his peers after his latest fight, he claimed he wasn’t best pleased with his performance having been caught by a stray punch.
“It’s perfect to head out win to Vegas after a win but it wasn’t the perfect win. I’m after perfection in the game. I’m trying to perfect every area of my game. You can guarantee a finish when I fight. I come and I put the guys away each and every time.
“People look at it as a bold prediction but, in my eyes, I’m stating facts. Each time I’ve said I’ll do it in one, I do it in one. Every time I fight I come out on top with my hand raised.”
McGregor’s Right Hand Man
Gallagher was taken under the wing of highly respected coach, John Kavanagh who runs SBG gym in the Concorde Industrial Estate on the Naas Road, Dublin when he was just 16 years old.
And the Strabane man, who boasts a seven straight victory record since teaming up with the Dubliner, claims he feels an air of invincibility since joining forces with McGregor’s right hand man.
“John is like a big brother to me,” he explained. “I am so grateful to have him. Knowing I have him as a coach makes me feel invincible. The way he coaches is an art in it’s own. He’s unique at what he does and I’m very thankful to be apart of the SBG team.”
He enters the IMMAF world championships next month with a terrific record of 14 wins from 17 amateur fights, jumping between featherweight and lightweight.
He’s unbeaten in seven since joining forces with SBGI and he has aspirations of turning professional by the end of the year.
“I see myself as being one of the top professionals in Europe and knocking on the door of the UFC by the end of 2015,” he said confidently.
First he must show what he can do on the world stage at the IMMAF championships and he’s excited about the challenge.
“Yes it’s a big competition but it’s no different than fighting in front of 20 people in a hall. Competition is competition no matter where it is or what it’s for. I probably will be nervous walking to the cage but competition excites me, it’s what I love to do. I know I will win.
“I plan on sitting as a world champion watching my teammate become world champ. It’s inevitable. We get out what we put in and no one puts in more than us.
“After I come back from Vegas my plan is to turn pro. I know I can go to the top. I know I’m going to the top and there’s ain’t no one going to stop me!”