As one of Ireland's most prosperous young talents, James 'The Strabanimal' Gallagher has been garnering a lot of attention on the Irish scene since he moved in with John Kavanagh to pursue his MMA dream on a full-time basis at the age of 15.
The Irish featherweight proved to be a prodigy on the mats, and he scorched through a number of jiu-jitsu tournaments before he fully dedicated himself to MMA. He tallied a record of 15-3 as an amateur and now boasts a record of 3-0 as a professional.
Despite possessing an obvious technical advantage in the grappling ranks compared to his previous opponents, it stilled shocked a lot of people when Bellator signed Gallagher. Then again, the polarizing SBG fighter has made quite a name for himself, and whether you love or hate him, he garners a lot of attention each time he fights.
Bellator hasn't thrown the 19-year-old to the wolves for his debut, but he still faces a considerable test of experience in London tomorrow night. Mike Cutting, 6-5, should be able to provide the Irishman with a stiff challenge, although Gallagher has been marked out as a clear favorite.
While he is young and somewhat inexperienced in the professional ranks, Bellator has provided him with a gigantic launch pad by allowing his debut to take place on this weekend's highly anticipated London card.
The fact that he has been given such a prominent place on the main card shows that Bellator has big plans for the youngster. Michael 'Venom' Page is a man that has been eased into life under the promotional banner, and Gallagher should find himself on a similar course given his age and how much of a promise he has.
The promotion is clearly excited about having Gallagher on their roster, and despite being relatively unknown in the US, 'The Strabanimal' was given control of their Instagram account in the lead up to the event. Even after he had stopped posting on behalf of the promotion, he still has featured more frequently than any other fighter in Bellator's final push on social media over the last few days.
Gallagher sat on the stage yesterday with the rest of the main card fighters at event's press conference, and after Scott Coker introduced him as "one of the best prospects in Ireland", he gave the gathered media a taste of what he brings to the table in terms of his marketing prowess.
"What's up, guys? It's good to be here," said the confident teenager.
"This is my first fight underneath Bellator. I'm 19-years-old, I come from Strabane. They call me 'The Strabanimal' because I'm a fuckin' animal," he roared to the assembly from the dais.
"I'm going to be proud to represent where I come from on Saturday night and I'm going send a message to the rest of the division that I'm not messing around."
Gallagher has been priming himself for the biggest stages in the world even when he was an amateur, and his delight in being part of the event's press conference was plain for all to see.
"Being at something like this is what I've always dreamed of. I come from a small town in county Tyrone and now I'm out here with legends like Lennox Lewis and Royce Gracie.
"I'm blown away by all of this, I can't put into words how I'm feeling. On Saturday night I'll let my performance do the talking for me. I don't feel like I need to sit here and talk when my performance will do that for me."
While many forecast a slow build for Gallagher, he maintained that he was ready to challenge for the title when the subject of his experience was broached at the presser.
"I had my first fight when I was 13-years-old," he explained. "This my twenty-second fight including pro and amateur. I feel like I have all the experience in the world. I competed in karate for a while and I competed in a lot of jiu-jitsu competitions.
"I'm ready. This is where I'm meant to be and on Saturday night I'm gonna prove why this is where I'm meant to be. I'm coming for the title."
After weighing in three pounds overweight, Cutting claimed that it was "kill or be killed" against the Irishman tomorrow night. Yet, his pre-fight premonition does not fill me with confidence.
"But I am happy wherever it ends up," he told MMALatest.com. "I have 100 percent confidence and faith in my jujitsu so yes I think that I will have an upper hand. As for stand up, you'll have to wait and see."
Gallagher's modus operandi has been to clinch his opponents against the fence, execute a single leg, transition to the back and secure a rear naked choke. While Gallagher's prowess on the feet is still a bit of unknown quantity, he has assured his fans that his work with Irish Muay Thai champion Cian Cowley will have him sharper than ever in the striking exchanges in London.