Anthony Taylor on Gallagher: “What can a boy do to a grown man?”

The opportunity to travel to Dublin and silence thousands of Irish fans whilst raising his own profile by defeating one of Bellator’s young stars was not one that 27-year-old Anthony ‘Pretty Boy’ Taylor could turn down.

“I got the call from Bellator about a month after I started harassing James Gallagher,” he told SevereMMA. “They said ‘Mr. Taylor, you’re going to be in the co-main event against James Gallagher, how do you feel about that? I was like ‘hell yeah, let’s get the job done, let’s put my name on the map.’”

‘Pretty Boy’ had been scheduled to compete under the Tachi Palace Fights (TPF) banner in November, but withdrew once he was made aware of Bellator’s interest in matching him against Gallagher. Taylor was complimentary of TPF’s professionalism, and emphasised how he appreciated that Richard Goodman (TPF owner & matchmaker) had offered him an opportunity to appear on a TPF event. Taylor is now signed to a multi-fight deal with Bellator, and is planning to stick with the promotion that treats him “like family” for the foreseeable future, with plans to take his MMA career on a ‘Pretty Boy Tour’ around the world in 2017.

James Gallagher is the man threatening to derail Taylor’s tour plans when the two featherweights meet on Friday in the co-main event of Bellator 169. Gallagher will have thousands of Irish fans backing him, he’ll also have one of the smartest coach in the sport in his corner, and has momentum on his side thanks to an extensive amateur record and undefeated pro record. Has Taylor been brought in as an easy match-up as Bellator look to build up the young Irishman? Taylor doesn’t believe that to be the case.

“Coming into this fight against James… it’s just me getting in the way of James, at least in the eyes of the Irish fans. I don’t look at it like he’s bigger than me or that I’m bigger than him, I just look at it as an opportunity for me to make a name for myself… I’m going to get that W and show I’m a challenger in this division.”

Insisting that the pressure is solely on his opponent, Taylor told Severe MMA: “I’m not worried, the pressure isn’t on me, the pressure is on James.”

Gallagher, who moved to Dublin to live and train with John Kavanagh when he was 15, has been placed in a co-main event in only his second fight with the organisation. The American believes that the extra pressure added on the SBG fighter will impact his performance.

“He is in his hometown; all of that emotion will be going through his head and his mind, all those doubts. I want to go in there and break him; I want to let him know what it is to be real.”

After questioning how his Dublin-based opponent will handle the pressure, Taylor looks at the physical capabilities of the two fighters and believes that Gallagher is at a disadvantage.

“He is a boy, he just turned twenty, what can a boy do to a grown man with grown man strength?” Taylor asks. “I know what I need to do!”

Taylor, a likeable character, manages to stay on the right side of the confidence or arrogance argument, even when he insists that he is the strongest 145lber in MMA. As of Monday evening, his weight cut was going to plan, and he is confident that he has been able to retain his power during his fight camp.

The featherweight acknowledges that Gallagher is a fan favourite in Ireland and that Bellator have big plans for him, but Taylor doesn’t believe that the 20-year-old is there on merit.

“He already has a name to himself because of his coach, would he be in Bellator without John [Kavanagh]. He has a 4-0 record, who cares?” Taylor asked. “Lots of people have a 4-0 record. I feel he gets easy treatment because of his coach.”

Taylor insists that he does respect Gallagher for the work he puts into training and because he is stepping into the cage “to get hurt,” but doesn’t hide the fact that he dislikes Gallagher as a person. The Team Bodyshop MMA fighter sees ‘The Strabanimal’ as an opportunist who doesn’t appreciate Irish fans. Their dislike for one another was visible when the pair had words at the Bellator 169 open workouts earlier this week.

“He comes off as a straight jerk. He thinks he can beat everybody because he trains under John [Kavanagh]. He talks about how he can beat AJ McKee (a 21-year-old featherweight signed to Bellator with a 6-0 record), one of my teammates; AJ would crush him within in a minute,” Taylor stated.

“He thinks he is better than everybody because his coach trains Conor McGregor. He talks about how his striking game is better than anybody else’s, and how his ground game is better. He undermines everyone.”

“I get it, he is a kid, he just turned twenty, he doesn’t understand the maturity you need when you’re in the spotlight. He doesn’t know how to handle that. He has been spoon-fed, when you’re not used to working for things on your own… you come out different.

A finish in 27 seconds on his Bellator debut raised Taylor’s profile and he sees this bout as the perfect opportunity to really make a name for himself in the Bellator featherweight division. Mentioning the buzz around Gallagher on social media, with 30,000 followers on Instagram account, he also believes that Gallagher isn’t as close to the sport’s biggest star as he says.

“He talks about how he is better than everybody because he trains at SBG with Conor McGregor. He doesn’t even train with Conor McGregor, look at his Instagram, how many pictures are there of him actually training with McGregor?”

Taylor burst out laughing when he spoke about Gallagher’s patriotism: “He’s a fraud!” Taylor exclaimed. “He talks about how he is Irish and he is fighting in front of his home fans, bro, no, your ethnicity is Irish, but your nationality is British. You’re from Strabane, Northern Ireland, bro, you’re British. You’re British.”

Stepping into the 3Arena to face a hometown boy doesn’t faze Taylor, he is prepared to be booed by the majority of the crowd, but believes that a substantial number of fans will be backing him.

“I’m expecting the arena to be packed full of James Gallagher fans, but I’m also expecting a lot of ‘Pretty Boy’ fans, I guarantee it,” the 27-year-old declared. “People know that he is trying to be like Conor McGregor, he is a wannabe, he doesn’t have his own path, there are going to be a lot of people who want the upset to humble him.”

Wrestling is Taylor’s bread and butter, and he believes that training with black belts on a daily basis nullifies any threat Gallagher’s jiu jitsu offers.

“I know how to shut down jiu jitsu. There is nothing he can do that I haven’t seen in camp. We all know he can strike, but we all know that he shoots when he is in trouble, he’s going to shoot and get caught in a guillotine.”

With an underwhelming amateur record (5-7), and having lost his pro debut, Taylor comes into the fight as the underdog. Whereas Gallagher went 15-3 as an amateur and is undefeated (4-0) as a professional mixed martial artist. The views of media members and fans don’t faze the Californian, he is confident enough to predict how long the fight will last.

“I’m going to go in and take him out early, I know I can take him out in 45 seconds, but that isn’t a fight, I’m going to let him stay in there for less than 2 minutes and then I’ll take him out.”

Taylor, at one point, held a 5-2 record as an amateur, but personal problems and not taking his amateur career seriously enough led to 5 successive losses. He asks not to be judged off his amateur record, but that fans and media look at his last performance, which he says was the first time that he prepared properly.

“Judge me off my last fight. People are so caught up in the negative side of what I do; they don’t understand the positives or look at what I’m doing right and where I’ve improved.”

By Jeevan

Owner/Editor of Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.

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