James Gallagher: MMA will soon be all about me

Gallagher: In three years I will be the face of MMA (2:37)

Speaking in April, James Gallagher stated he will be the best fighter in MMA and also shared his views on training partner Conor McGregor's retirement. (2:37)

Bellator's rising star James Gallagher said he will soon be the face of MMA ahead of his return to face Jeremiah Labiano at Bellator London on Saturday.

Coming off an impressive first-round submission victory against Steven Graham at Bellator 217 in Dublin earlier this year, Gallagher said he is exactly where he deserves to be.

"When you're Irish and you fight, everyone's dream is to fight in the 3Arena, and I'm 22 years old and I sold it out," Gallagher said. "That's absolute madness -- I get goose bumps just thinking about it, but I deserve to do it. I worked hard for it. It's what I dreamed of all my life, and now here I am doing it. When everyone thinks MMA in three to five years' time, they're going to be thinking James Gallagher, and that's the way it's going to be."

Gallagher (8-1) said that Saturday's fight could be one of the toughest fights of his career. Labiano (12-6) will be looking to stop to the hype train. The pair were originally meant to fight at Bellator 187, but Gallagher pulled out because of a knee injury.

"I've got a lot of respect for him, he's a tough opponent," Gallagher said. "He's a solid jiu-jitsu black belt; he's fought some tough people. I feel like he is probably maybe the toughest fight of my career. I know I'm definitely the toughest fight in his career.

"I've studied him a lot, I can see his weaknesses. I'm going to break him up, bust him up bad and make him want out of there, and then I will give him his way out."

"The Strabanimal" isn't looking to slow down. After recently announcing he has signed a new six-fight deal with Bellator, he hopes to fight at least three times this year.

"I've got a big big deal from them," he said. "I'm very grateful, but it's what I deserve. It's going to change my life and also my family's life. Being able to invest in myself and invest in training, and I feel like it's going to get me to become the best in the world."

When it comes to his persona, don't expect the Irishman to change any time soon. The Bellator star says he will always stick to his roots.

"Everyone always wants me to be a certain way, but they never want you to be yourself, and this is what I'll strongly go against," Gallagher said. "I will always be myself; I will never change for anyone; I will never be how anyone else wants me to be because then it's not true. This is why I get a lot of grief because people don't like me being me, and that's the only thing I'm ever going to be. I will always stick to my roots and always be me."

Gallagher has trained at SBG in Ireland since he was 13 years old, alongside notable fighters such as teammate Conor McGregor. He has been with coach John Kavanagh since he was 15, and says there is any "army" of fighters from Ireland who are about to hit the pro scene.

As for McGregor and whether we will see him return, Gallagher feels that he shouldn't come back unless he gets what he deserves.

"This is a game where you stand up for what you believe in," Gallagher said. "He deserves the share in the company [the UFC] where he's at, and he doesn't deserve anything less. Deep down at heart, he's a fighter and he will want to fight again, but he shouldn't unless he gets what he deserves. Right now they don't have the loyalty or the respect for him. I hope he comes back and fights, but if he doesn't, best of luck in retirement."

Bellator London takes place on Saturday, headlined by middleweight world title fight Gegard Mousasi vs. Rafael Lovato Jr.