Belfast Telegraph

Madison Square Garden debut to remember for Gallagher

By Peter Carroll

Strabane MMA sensation James Gallagher took just over two minutes to get through decorated karateka Chinzo Machida at Bellator 180 in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

Moving to 7-0 with the win, the 20-year-old immediately announced his intention to be Bellator’s featherweight champion by the next time the promotion hosts a show at the iconic venue.

“Look up there,” said Gallagher pointing to the images of Bellator champions that were propped up around the arena.

“The next time I’m here, my picture will be up there with the belt over my shoulder!”

Moments after Gallagher aligned himself with the title, Bellator’s featherweight champion Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire took to Twitter to take the young SBG talent up on his offer.

“I’ll fight you in Croke Park. Bring your daddy (Conor McGregor) to see you get beat up from the front row,” he tweeted.

It was a nearly perfect performance from the submission ace, who launched out of his corner from the first bell, showing a clear disdain for Machida’s reputation as a knockout artist.

Gallagher managed to force the action to the ground where he opened up his transitions with ground and pound. Eventually, ‘The Strabanimal’ trapped Machida’s arm as he took his back before finishing the rear-naked choke just beyond the two-minute mark.

Despite how easy he made the task look, Gallagher admitted that he felt the fight could’ve gone better.

“It could’ve went a lot better,” he said. “I got hit with a few shots. One or two grazed me, but it was nothing worse than that.”

Gallagher also claimed that he was following in the footsteps of the great prize fighters by taking his first win at the iconic Madison Square Garden venue.

He said: “I think about guys like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. I feel like I’m following in the footsteps of the greats. It’s my time now.”

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