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James Gallagher explains SBG Ireland departure, hopes to ‘set that example’ for how to approach career ‘correctly’

When James Gallagher faces Patchy Mix on Friday in the co-main event of Bellator 270, it’ll mark his first professional in-cage appearance since departing the gym he’s been closely tied to since the beginning of his Bellator journey.

After spending the majority of his career at SBG Ireland under coach John Kavanagh, the 25-year-old Irishman revealed Wednesday on The MMA Hour that he now fights under head coach James Krause and the Glory MMA & Fitness banner in Kansas City, Mo.

Gallagher noted that he still has a good relationship with Kavanagh and his former team, and that Kavanagh is still going to assist him at Bellator 270, which takes place at the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland. But ultimately he is content with his decision to train elsewhere.

“John Kavanagh is going to be in my corner on Friday night,” Gallagher said. “John’s got me to a world-class level. John let me live this and John was a big brother to me for years. Me and John are still very close and that, but James Krause is now my head coach.”

“I’ll always be a part of SBG. I no longer train there, as you could say. I live in Kansas City now and I no longer train there. I’ve got SBG tattooed on me and I’ll be an SBG member until I die, but I now train at Glory and I’m a part of Glory also.”

Gallagher said the genesis of his decision stemmed from a trip he made out to Kansas City in late 2020 at the urging of his nutritionist Tyler Minton. The brash bantamweight didn’t know what to expect, but he’d seen the successful results Krause’s team had been putting together in recent years and wanted to immerse himself in a new, uncomfortable situation.

As it turns out, the fit between fighter and gym and city was all a perfect match.

“I just fell in love with the place,” Gallagher said. “I really enjoyed it up there. And I’m 25 now, I’m still very, very young, but I’m also just becoming a man, maturing up, and I’m getting there, and I’ve realized that it’s really about the journey in this game. In a few years’ time, when everything is all said and done, I want to come out on top as one of the greatest ever. I’m not here to just put on a show and just ‘Jimmy show this.’ I’m just not here to do that. I’m here to do much more, and that’s the move that I needed to make to do that.

“I want to be known as one of the greatest ever. And yeah, I’m going to win belts and going to even be a multiple [time] world champion, and I’m going to do all of that and I’m going to have a crazy, crazy, crazy story. But for me, when I’m 40, when I’m 50 years old and 60 years old, I’m going to be on top. I’m going to be the MMA guy that has risen above everything, hasn’t squandered everything, hasn’t fallen off the radar, hasn’t lost their mind. I’m going to be the guy that’s going to set that example of how to do this correctly.”

Gallagher said the move was simply part of a maturation process that’s seen the fighter grow up and shake free of many of the distractions he entertained as a young prospect. With his girlfriend Victoria Gracie now pregnant with the couple’s first child, the focus in his new home of Kansas City is now singularly on his growing family and his career.

As an example of the changes he’s made in his life, Gallagher said his morning routine now consists of a 6 a.m. wake-up following by a five-minute cold shower and an hour of reading books before he even allows himself to look at his phone. Rickson Gracie’s autobiography “Breathe” and Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” are recent tomes the once book-adverse Gallagher has tackled. The most difficult thing to do is to get out of bed and be immediately disciplined, Gallagher explained, and he’s been encouraged by the progress he’s noticed within himself as he’s committed to the process.

“I don’t know what to say; I’m never shy to blow my own trumpet but I have to give myself a big pat on the back,” Gallagher said. “I took myself away from all the distractions, put myself into the uncomfortable, moved out there on my own. I really, really just did what everyone — anyone I see that tries to do this just sticks it for a camp then loses their mind, and they don’t stick the course. And I’ve really, really stuck the course, just to better myself as a person. And what that has done is it’s shown me that I’m just a true martial artist at heart.

“That’s what I am deep, deep, deep down. I am a true martial artist here to set an example for the future. I’ve got a kid on the way and I’m going to set that example for my kid and for my family. And that’s it, that’s my mission. That’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to strive for greatness, and for greatness you need knowledge, so I’m just trying to find out all the knowledge I can and just practice it every day.”

Gallagher will have his chance to show off the fruits of his labors on Friday when he faces Mix in front of his familiar Irish faithful in Bellator 270’s co-main event. Considering Mix’s status as a top prospect in the Bellator bantamweight division, the winner of Friday’s bout could very well be next in line to challenge the victor of Sergio Pettis vs. Kyoji Horiguchi, which goes down on Dec. 3 at Bellator 272 for Pettis’ bantamweight title.

If that opportunity comes, Gallagher vows he is ready.

“This is going to be special,” Gallagher said. “I’ve got a different energy. I’m feeling absolutely amazing. I’m maturing and seeing things differently and I’m really becoming a man, and I’m really, really seeing it and I’m really, really feeling it, and I’ve got a real confidence, mate. It’s different this time.

“[Mix] is definitely going to test me,” Gallagher added. “He’s definitely, 100 percent going to test me. I don’t know if it’s going to go 15 minutes but he’s definitely going to test me, he’s going to push me, and he’s going to make me shine. He’s going to make me shine. I’m the diamond, he’s just going to polish me. That’s who he is — he’s the dance partner I need in here on Friday night to show the world that I’m great. That’s what he is to me.”