FOLLOWING the announcement that James Gallagher would return to action as the headline act in Dublin on February 23, the ‘Strabanimal’ is eager to show he is back to his best after suffering a shock first defeat to Ricky Bandejas in August.
The 22-year-old Strabane native will take on Steven ‘Golden’ Graham at Bellator: Gallagher vs. Graham in Dublin’s 3Arena early next year as he aims to re-establish himself as a world title contender.
And while he admits his surprise first round defeat to Bandejas in Sioux Falls was hard to accept initially, it is something he has had to deal with and he has used it to improve his game.
“The way I accept wins, I also have to accept a loss – if I’m able to win, I’m able to lose. I just have to take it on the chin and move on,” he explained.
“For the first hour afterwards I couldn’t get myself together, but once I did it wasn’t that bad. I know where I went wrong, it’s a lesson learned.
“I knew what I needed to improve and I’ve gone and done it.
“I took my eye off the ball halfway through it. I could see I had him, but I didn’t give respect for that shot out of the back pocket.
“I felt I was one step ahead, so I tried to go for the kill, but I should have gone three or four steps ahead and then killed him. I went for it on the first step, he bounced back, clipped me and I went down.
“I made the move too early and that’s the name of the game. I was always the one who was a step ahead and this time I was a step ahead but I went 10 steps behind and that’s the way it is.”
Looking at his last fight philosophically, Gallagher admits that it was his own mistake that proved costly. However, with that lesson learned he’s warning the rest of the bantomweight division that he is coming back with a vengeance.
“I’m only 22 and I’m already in a great position in life in general and I get to do what I love doing every day,” he stressed.
“It leaves it that everyone is underestimating me coming off a loss, but that’s a dangerous thing because that loss has made be better than ever.
“I feel like I’ve got good opportunities there [at bantamweight] and going into the last fight I felt good there and it wasn’t anything to do with anything, I just messed up and that’s it.
“I should have kept my mind straight, it wasn’t a skill test, it was my mindset, which is easy to fix.”
Gallagher, who has seven wins and just one defeat under his belt. intends to show everyone his class in the octagon upon Bellator’s Dublin return on Saturday, February 23, when he take on Graham (6-3) in the bantamweight main event of Bellator: Gallagher vs. Graham at 3Arena.
Tickets went on sale to the general public yesterday (Wednesday) and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.ie and Bellator.com, as well as the 3Arena box office.
A FEATURE INTERVIEW WITH JAMES WILL APPEAR IN TOMORROW’S TYRONE HERALD