On a night of many incredible performances, one man from the small town of Strabane, Northern Ireland lit up Madison Square Garden in New York City.
#JamesGallagher put on a clinic against Chinzo Machida in the co-main event of the #Bellator180 fight card last evening. Gallagher secured a takedown early, then forced his way to the back of the Brazilian who simply had no answer for his slick jiu-jitsu. After a brief struggle, Machida was powerless to resist the rear-naked choke and Gallagher had the submission win inside the first round.
Speaking exclusively to Champions.co after the fight, Gallagher dedicated his victory to the people back in his hometown of Strabane and thanked them for their support.
"I can't put it into words--I looked around and the whole place was just singing 'Ole, ole, ole,' and I was just looking around like, these are people that have come from my hometown and they've worked so hard, the same way I did to win, doing their jobs just to be able to come over and see me," Gallagher said. "It's not cheap to come here. They came all the way to support me and I can't thank these people enough. These are the people that motivate me and that's why I went and sat on top of that cage. I wasn't celebrating up there. I was just looking around, taking it all in and using it for inspiration. It's made me want to work an awful lot harder. I'm going to bring that title back to my hometown."
The SBG man was delighted with the biggest win of his career, but he vowed complacency wouldn't settle in.
"I'm higher than the Empire State Building," Gallagher joked. "I feel amazing, but I'm just getting started. This has been a goal of mine to win on the biggest stage and I've worked my whole life for something like this. Now I've came and done what I said I was going to do and now I'm going to go back and do a hell of a lot more. I'm going to go back, put in that work."
Plenty of fans and media after the fight were lauding Gallagher for a near flawless display, but the man himself said there was plenty to go back to the gym to work on.
"When people win on these stages, they think, 'Now I'm going to go and celebrate, I've made it,' but that's not me," Gallagher said. "I could easily go do that. I'm 20-years-old, but I'm only getting started. This motivated me now to go work a hell of a lot harder. I'm going to go straight back to the gym and work on the mistakes I made in that fight. Some people might not think there were many because I put him away so fast, but I can think of loads in my head. Some of the things that I did I wasn't so happy with and I rushed a few things. Now I'm going back to fix them and improve them for the next fight. The same way that I improved the mistakes from my last fight. I Improved them all and I came out and did better."
Seconds after securing the win, Gallagher rose to his feet and bowed in front of Machida several times. He explained that he was showing the Brazilian the respect he deserved.
"He's been doing martial arts longer than I've been living and I went in there and I beat him," Gallagher said. "I think he deserves so much respect and I wanted to show him my respect and tell him thank you for giving me that opportunity to progress in my career. I'm only young and I just wanted to thank him. He got me to that next stage and if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here. I just wanted to thank him for stepping in there with me and sharing the cage with me. We put on a good fight and it was an honor to fight someone from the Machida family. His brother is a legend and was an idol of mine when I was younger because I came from a karate background. I just wanted to give him the respect that he deserved."
With the win, Gallagher will now return to Strabane to celebrate the win with his father and the rest of his family. It was a job well done, but according to Gallagher this is just the beginning.
"I'm feeling proud," Gallagher said. "I'm feeling proud for me and I'm feeling proud for my team. Most of all, I'm proud for my family who got me here. I'm sitting here now and whatever comes next I'm going to work my bollocks off. I'm going to let them bring opportunities to me now. I'll go back to my family, enjoy some time with them and get back to the gym."
What a week. The man from Strabane came, saw and conquered in New York City.