BY SEÁN P. FEENY
A WELL-known Tyrone Mixed Martial Artist with close ties to Donegal will this weekend make his long-awaited return to cage when he makes his adult amateur debut.
On Saturday night, April 26, James Gallagher (17) will step into the cage as part of the Cage Contender Promotion at the King’s Hall Complex in Belfast.
James, who has a lot of family in Donegal, fights out of the renowned Straight Blast Gym (SBG) in Dublin, will be making his debut against Ballymoney’s Alex McCooke.
Having spent the last two years concentrating on his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training, the Strabane teenager said he is very excited about his return to the cage.
“I’m looking forward to fighting; it’s been over to years since I last fought in the cage, but that’s not going to make any difference to Saturday.”
James has spent the last two years training full-time under the guidance of Coach John Kavanagh as well as the mentorship of fellow SBG team mates, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rising stars Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson, and current UFC The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) competitor Cathal Pendred.
He said: “My training is always the same, if I have a fight or not, so I haven’t changed anything when in the gym day-in, day-out, so I am always ready.”
James’ coach, Irish MMA stalwart Kavanagh has kept watchful eye on his young protegé not allowing him to step back into the cage until he came of age and he only had one piece of advice for James ahead of this weekend. “Ahead of my debut, John told me just to go in, stay relaxed and have fun and do what I do,” he said.
James, who will be sponsored by Irish clothing company one2fightwear this weekend, has not given his upcoming opponent on the Cage Contender card much thought and instead focussed on his own game.
“No I don’t look into them (opponents). I know he comes from a judo background and has had a couple of fights, but that’s about it. He’s not going to change what I’m going to do on Saturday, so I don’t look into it,” the confident young teenager said.
Mixed Martial Arts has gained huge momentum over the past two years and with an affable Strabane teenager on the rise in the sport, local interest has also risen sharply. James said: “I have lots of support coming from my hometown of Strabane and also also my club SBG, it’s so satisfying to know that I have the support am so grateful for it.”
For further details on the event and ticket information log onto www.cagecontender.com, join them on Facebook ‘Cage Contender’ or Twitter @CageContender