STRABANE MMA star, James Gallagher believes he’s got everything in his arsenal to become the ‘greatest fighter of all time’.
The 20 year-old Gallagher, a stablemate of UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor at SBG, continued to live up to the hype with an impressive first round submission win over Chinzo Machida at Bellator 180 in Madison Square Garden.
It was a near flawless performance against his veteran Brazilian opponent who is 20 years older, as ‘the Strabananimal’ stretched his professional record to 7-0 with a trademark rear-naked choke in their featherweight bout.
Never short in confidence, Gallagher insisted it was a ‘proud’ moment as he flew the flag for his hometown on the biggest stage and claims he’s determined to follow in the footsteps of the great fighters who have graced the famous New York City venue down the years.
“It was unbelievable getting a win,” said Gallagher afterwards. “I’m 20 years-old fighting in one of the most historic venues in the world. Just to think Mohammad Ali has been here, Mike Tyson and all these guys - I just feel like I’m following in the footsteps of the greats.
“And it just felt right. I’ve been working towards this since I’ve been 13 years old when I had my first fight in St Pat’s Hall in Strabane and now I’m fighting in the biggest shows in the biggest arenas and I’m getting the wins. Not only am I getting wins but I’m making statements by putting these guys away.
I’ve got time the mindset, the skill-set and the youth. I’ve got everything to be the greatest fighter of all time!James Gallagher
“I just feel on top of the world. I feel motivated, I feel hungry to go and get more wins and more success and become one of the greatest.
“I want to show everyone that I’m going all the way and carrying the name of my hometown, Strabane, with me. It was a proud moment for me.”
In his post-fight interview Gallagher took a swipe at Bellator Featherweight champion, Patricio Freire who tweeted about the possibility of a title bout inside Croke Park.
“Tell him to come on – try it,” Gallagher responded. “Tell him to bring his belt with him, because I’m going to take it.”
Gallagher shrugged off comparisons with ‘The Notorious’ McGregor, claiming; ‘they don’t make them like me.’
“I’m only getting started. I’m different. I’m not the same as anyone. I’m from Strabane and they don’t make them like me.
I finish every one of my fights with a choke and tell them I’m going to do it. If you listened to what I said all week it’s exactly how it played out.
“I’ve got time the mindset, the skill-set and the youth. I’ve got everything to be the greatest fighter of all time!,” he said boldly.
Gallagher looked the real deal once again and started confidently as he went in search of a takedown. He landed a strong punch which cut Machida open before looking for a rear naked choke hold, forcing Machida to tap-out with 2:39 left in the first round.
It was a brilliant performance but Gallagher reckons there’s room for improvement and insists he’s hungrier than ever for success.
“It could’ve went a lot better. I got hit with a few shots and maybe one grazed me. It was nothing much but I made a few mistakes in there that I’ll want to go back and work on.
“When I won and ran and jumped on top of the cage I wasn’t celebrating. I just took a look around and heard all the people from my hometown who flew all the way over and all the rest of the Irish American people who came out to support me and who have worked hard in their jobs to save money to come all the way over here and support me.
“I looked around and heard them all singing and cheering for me and I just took it all in and used it as motivation to get back to the gym and win more fights and become one of the greatest ever of all time.
“I feel I put a lot of pressure on him from the start. I don’t think he was expecting me to be as confident on my feet as I was. I went in and cracked him with a shot and split him with the first shot I hit him with.
“You have to take your hat off to the man.
He’s been doing martial arts longer than I’ve been alive and that’s why I got up at the end and bowed to him and his brother and showed him the respect he deserves and thanked him for stepping in there with me and giving me that opportunity to show everyone what I’m capable of.”