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James Gallagher: ‘Heartbreaking’ Bellator Dublin main event exit has changed mindset

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James Gallagher

James Gallagher admitted that he was devastated to have to withdraw from his highly anticipated main event clash with Cal Ellenor at Bellator Dublin due to injury, but the situation has made the SBG bantamweight aware of how quickly his meteoric career could be taken away from him.

The news was announced two weeks ago with Leah McCourt being boosted up to main event status for her featherweight meeting against Judith Ruis for this weekend’s event.

“I’m heartbroken about it…I’m absolutely gutted,” Gallagher told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast.

“It’s one of those things where I kept trying to go with it… I think it was about three weeks altogether and it was that time to make a call. I was trying to stick to my diet while being on all these different forms of medication… these heavy pain killers so my mind wasn’t with it. My appetite was enhanced by all the medication and since I was just lying around the [house] I couldn’t really eat that much because I wasn’t exercising. It was a rough few weeks, I wasn’t even able to lift a bag – I couldn’t lift my gym bag out of my car never mind go to the gym.”

As soon as Gallagher was told by medics and his coaches that he would not be able to compete at the Dublin event due to the extent of his back injury, he completely geared himself towards recovery.

“It was a rough couple of weeks, and I was absolutely heartbroken to pull out, but when I was told [I couldn’t fight], I just completely changed my mindset. It was like, ‘Right, I’m out now, it’s time to get my back better, it’s time to relax on it and stay focused on the rehab,’ and that’s my goal. My goal wasn’t to fight then, my goal was to get my back better once the medics and my coaches said I couldn’t. Rather than focusing on trying to fight, I just focused on getting my back better. It was a lot easier once that call [to withdraw from the fight] was made. It was definitely a rough few weeks sitting on the sofa trying to keep motivated and train—not training obviously because I couldn’t actually train—but keeping that mentality and feeling good about myself… when I couldn’t lift a shoe off the floor.”

“It was heartbreaking,” he added when recalling when his withdrawal was announced. “When it got announced, I was back walking. I was back outside, back floating around and stuff like that, so I was able to take myself away for the day and keep focused. I started getting better very quickly once I rested up. So I was able to go from not doing anything, to putting on my socks, to being able to getting up and walk. By the time it was announced, I was in the hospital getting scans.”

Gallagher fired back at critics who accused him of constantly withdrawing from contests.

“The criticism I got online… it’s absolutely madness. If these people knew half of what I got paid, they’d be going, ‘I would still jump in.’ That’s how much I’m injured, if they knew how much I was getting paid I’d still be walking in there with a broken back – I would still jump in there!”

“They’re trying to pick me apart, but they can’t. I’m not in this game to be liked,” said Gallagher. “They can hate all they want, but I’m doing good now. See me getting injured there? It was good that it happened. It’s set my mind on a good path and it’s taught me to be so grateful for the position that I’m in and also how quickly this sh*t can be taken away from you. It’s given me a release where I’m training with a different approach. It nearly feels like a loss, without a loss. Going back I’ve got a good mindset, I know how lucky I am to be in the position where I’ve put myself.”

Although he’s only 23 years old, Gallagher explained how he has taken steps to ensure his future in MMA after already competing for 10 years.

“I’ve realized something… probably from the first time I headlined that Dublin show, it’s that your small, everyday habits create success. Those small little things you do day in, day out is what creates an overall success. It’s the same way with your body, them small little habits that I do every day is what enables me to put miles on the clock. Waking up eating healthy all the time, stretching, looking after my body… and pulling out when you need to pull out!

“That kind of thing and being smart with it, not being a f*cking idiot, like, ‘I’m a tough guy, I can fight, I can power on through this,’ because I’ve got another 10 years to do. I’ve just done 10 years and now I have another 10 years ahead of me. I’m thinking long term, that’s the key to it – thinking long term.”

Listen to James Gallagher’s interview on this week’s Eurobash. It begins at 13:00.