James Gallagher using pain of first defeat as inspiration for Graham fight

James Gallagher from Strabane says world titles are inevitable

James Gallagher says he is using "the worst feeling of his life" as motivation for Saturday's Bellator 217 fight against Steven Graham.

The Strabane bantamweight is hoping to bounce back from the first defeat of his professional career when he and the US fighter top the bill in Dublin.

Gallagher was knocked out by Ricky Bandejas in August, but insisted he has learnt from the experience.

"My life unfolded in front of me after the loss," said 22-year-old Gallagher.

"I broke down. I was on the floor for about 45 minutes afterwards, I was in tears and couldn't stand up.

"It was the worst feeling I have ever had in my life, but I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to carry on and carry this motivation into the gym.

"It has meant I have less pressure on my back. If I had won I would have been fighting for a world title - it was heartbreaking to have that taken away, but it has made me a better person."

Gallagher, who is trained by Conor McGregor's long-time coach John Kavanagh, had won all seven of his professional fights before the loss to Bandejas.

James Gallagher in action against Anthony Taylor during a featherweight bout at Bellator 169 in the 3 Arena in Dublin
Gallagher's 2016 win over Anthony Taylor in Dublin is one of his seven pro victories

Having made his professional debut in October 2015, the Straight Blast Gym fighter is fully confident of beating Graham and then going on to win the Bellator bantamweight world title.

"I'm going to win this fight and I'm going to win the world title," Gallagher continued.

"I have got a buzz that I have never had before and nothing could be better for me right now. I'm not underestimating Graham, but I'm going to finish him on the floor.

"I'm going to figure him out in the first minute, be cautious, then break him in the second minute and finish him."

Kavanagh explained that a large part of his work with Gallagher has been on how he reacts mentally to the Graham defeat.

"It's always interesting to see how fighters deal with adversity, but James took it like the professional that he is," said the trainer from Dublin.

"He took it on the chin, recognised where he went wrong and we've made some changes to the training camp. I'm looking forward to him getting back on the win column on Saturday."

Top Stories

Also in NI Sport