Bellator bantamweight prospect James Gallagher will look to continue his winning ways after bouncing back from a knockout defeat to submit Steven Graham in February.
It marked seven of eight career wins coming via submission for the Irishman, with six of those being rear-naked chokes. But don’t expect the same thing to happen to his Bellator London opponent Jeremiah Labiano.
Gallagher looking for advantages
Labiano will face Gallagher on the main card of Bellator London in a catchweight 140-pound bout on June 22. “The Kid” usually fights at featherweight, but will now have to cut an additional five pounds this week. He believes the only reason this fight is a catchweight is so that Gallagher gets any sort of advantage that he can.
“You know what, I can’t give you the real answer, but I think we all know what the real answer is,” Labiano told The Body Lock’s John Hyon Ko. “He wants any edge that he can get at beating me.”
“But he’s forgetting that I did most of my fights at bantamweight, at 135. So, you know, the 145  cut is going to be easy for me. It’s going to be nothing. But yeah, I was calling for featherweight the whole time. According to the matchmaker, he wouldn’t budge. He wanted to do catchweight so I said, fuck it, let’s do it. Anyway, it doesn’t matter.”
Labiano confident in his ground game
Many felt Gallagher was exposed in his knockout defeat to Ricky Bandejas last year. Bandejas stuffed the Irishman’s takedown attempts before dropping and eventually finishing him.
Labiano, too, believes there is not much in Gallagher’s repertoire once you take away the ground game. But even if they do go to the ground, Labiano is confident in his own jiu-jitsu skills.
“Nothing,” Labiano said laughing when asked what else there was in Gallagher’s game. “So even his ground game, I’ll give him that. But it’s kind of like, shit, if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing on the floor, it is going to be easy to choke someone out. Right?”
“I’ve heard people that grapple with him say he’s good. I’m not going to put that past him. I’m not going to just think I’m going to walk through the guy, but I train hard. My background is jiu-jitsu, I am a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Been a black belt since 2014. I’ve been training since, you know, 2008. So I can’t see him jumping on my back and just choking me out like he does. So it’s just crazy the way he’s saying ‘oh, I’m going to strangle you.’ He’s not going to strangle me.”
Instead, Labiano plans on knocking “The Strabanimal” out and then remaining at featherweight. A win over a prominent name in Gallagher could also put him in position to be in Bellator’s upcoming Featherweight Grand Prix.
“I think I’m going to be staying in featherweight. I hope after I knock his ass out, I’m going to be in that featherweight tournament for that million dollars.”