James Gallagher has had a rough six-month stretch.
For the second time over the past half-year, the Irish featherweight up-and-comer was recently forced to withdraw from a Bellator main-event bout after suffering a setback in training. In October, a knee injury took Gallagher out of action before Bellator 187. Then, earlier this March, it was a hand injury that derailed his Bellator 196 matchup against Adam Borics. And for “The Strabanimal,” the repeated disappointment has been frustrating to have to overcome.
“I have an old fracture on my hand, but I’ve also got a new one just slightly above the old fracture,” Gallagher explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “And now I’ve got this flipping thing here, you can see [the brace]. I think I’ve had this on for about three or four weeks, and I’ve got about another two or three left in it.
“I’ve had a tough run of injuries and I felt the best I’ve ever felt coming back from my knee injury, and then for that to happen, it’s just unfortunate. But I’m staying fit, I’m staying positive, and I’m going to ready for as soon as this [brace] comes off, I’m going to be ready to jump straight back in there and take whatever other show they’ve got coming up.”
Gallagher, 21, said in his social media post which announced the injury that he was targeting a return at Bellator 200, which takes place on May 25 in London, England.
That’s still the plan for the undefeated SBG Ireland product, who hopes to be cleared to return to training next month. However, Gallagher is unsure if he’ll get his wish.
“There’s definitely motions in the works and there’s definitely talks and stuff, but the card’s pretty full and that’s the problem,” Gallagher said. “So I’ll just be ready. That’s the only thing I can do. I’m just going to be training, I’m going to be ready for May, and if that doesn’t happen, I’ll just be ready for anything that comes up after that. My job is to fight. My job is to just be ready to fight. So I’m not here complaining like I deserve this and I deserve that, because at the end of the day you don’t deserve jack sh*t. No one does. You work for it and you get in there and you take your chances when the opportunity arises. And if my opportunity doesn’t arise, it doesn’t arise.
“But that would be nice, wouldn’t it, to get on that card? It’s just a big historic card, the 200 one, and it would mean a lot to me to get on it.”
Gallagher is one of Bellator’s brightest homegrown prospects. The Irishman signed with the promotion as a 19-year-old with only three professional fights and has since emerged as a legitimate name to watch, racking up a 4-0 record inside the Bellator cage. He picked up his biggest win last June in Madison Square Garden with a sensational first-round submission over Chinzo Machida, the older brother of former UFC champion Lyoto Machida. Bellator has since tried to capitalize on that momentum by placing Gallagher in a pair of main-event slots, however things haven’t gone as planned.
Now frustrated and simply eager to compete, Gallagher said Monday that he doesn’t care who he fights next. He joked that it wouldn’t even matter if it’s “a granny in the street.” The SBG Ireland product initially suggested a re-booked fight against Borics for Bellator 200, however Borics has since been matched against a second replacement opponent for Bellator 196, Teodor Nikolov.
Moving forward, Gallagher said he simply hopes to regroup as soon as possible and get back into the gym to prepare for whatever comes, regardless of whether it’s Bellator 200 or something else. He called his two injuries “freak accidents” and said he doesn’t believe there’s an issue with his training conventions.
He also isn’t worried about losing the momentum he gained from his standout performance at Bellator NYC. He’s still a baby in this game and he knows he has plenty of years ahead of him to accomplish the goals he wants to accomplish.
“I’m only 21. I’m young,” Gallagher said. “People don’t get into this game until they’re my age. I haven’t lost nothing. If anything it’s just built that fire up inside of me, it’s given me that time to grow as a person myself, so then the next time that I walk out and [fight in] these big shows in Madison Square Garden — the next time I fight in Madison Square Garden, you’re going to see an even more mature, better James Gallagher.
“Maybe if I was a 35-year-old man or coming to that age in my career, coming to the end, if I’d had those fights and had been on a run — but I’m just getting started.”