AFTER suffering a frustrating year of injury, which had left him unable to fight, Strabane’s James Gallagher is set to return to the octagon at Bellator 204 on August 17.
The unbeaten ‘Strabanimal’ will step down from his usual featherweight to make his bantamweight debut against Ricky Bandejas, who has a 10-1 record.
“Moving down a weight is 100% a good move because I’m very strong for my size and by dropping down it means I will have the size, the strength and I’m very good too, so there are no disadvantages,” he explained.
“[Bandejas] is just in the way of me being world champion. He’s just the middle man between me and my dreams and no-one on the planet is going to stop me.”
And should the 21-year-old extend his run to eight wins out of eight in South Dakota’s most populated city, Sioux Falls, he has been promised a home world title shot by Bellator chiefs.
“I’ll get the world title shot in Dublin at the end of the year or the start of next year,” he confirmed.
“It would mean everything to do it at home, it’s the reason why I took this so seriously, to be world champion.
“I feel I can beat anyone, I feel I’m the best in the world, I feel I’m world champion already and unless someone proves me wrong I’ll continue to believe I’m better than the rest of these guys.”
Gallagher’s return to the cage is long-awaited. He suffered a serious knee injury in October, while preparing to face Jeremiah Labiano in the headline bout at Dublin’s 3Arena in November, following his emphatic demolition of Chinzo Machida at Madison Square Garden last June.
After undergoing surgery and rehabilitation, he was feeling ‘sharper than ever’ ahead of his initial scheduled comeback against unbeaten Hungarian, Adam Borics in Budapest in April.
However, he then suffered a fractured hand in training, which forced him out of that bout and that injury has kept him out of action until now.
“I’m as fresh as a daisy and I actually think the injuries have been a good thing,” he mused. “Yes, it was stressful with the knee, but now I know, having come through that, how strong I am mentally – that nothing can get in my way.”
FULL STORY IN TOMORROW’S STRABANE CHRONICLE