As we all know by now James Gallagher won his Bellator debut in London on Saturday night. He got a unanimous decision, 30 x 27 on all judges scorecards.
Immediately after the fight I read all sorts of negative comments. "Mike Cutting isn't a top fighter" or "I wish James was given a better fighter" or "James is being fed bums just like MVP" and similar is was what I saw on social media.
I think people forget that James Gallagher was going into this fight just 3-0 and that he had only turned professional 9 months prior. I know he has a big following and a lot of justified hype but why should he be fighting top fighters yet?
No one complained about Gallagher's previous three opponents: Denis Ahern (0-1), Declan McAleenan (0-1), Gerard Gilmore (2-2). Truth of the matter is that they, just like Cutting, were on paper the right match-ups at the time for Gallager and his progression into professional MMA.
Gallagher is still learning the game. He is far from the finished product, although it's looking likely that he is getting there fast. It would make no sense for him to face a 8-1 pro at this stage for example.
I concede Cutting didn't perform or look great against Gallagher, but you can't consider that when booking the fight. In reality Cutting (7-5) had over three times the amount of professional fights as Gallagher and had a recent win over Nathaniel Wood (9-3). He was beatable but could also provide a tricky test, perfect for a fighter climbing the ranks like James Gallagher.
In the end it was a very uneventful fight manly due to Cutting's constant avoidance of Gallagher but the time the SBG fighter had in control he looked good.
So what did he gain from it?
Ok, Gallagher didn't get the finish but he gained so much more from this fight. The media boosted his profile, he got valuable experience in the cage (this fight lasting longer than his previous three combined), any debut jitters were eased out and he notches a 'W' in the Bellator featherweight division.
I am hopeful that he faces similar fighters for the next 5-6 fights, progressing through the game and learning along the way before pushing towards the top tier guys. After all he is just 19-years-old and what exactly is the rush?
However, I do believe that he was actually pushed by Bellator too soon. Just because he got the call up people expect so much so soon. Maybe if he stayed locally for a few more fights first people wouldn't expect 'top opposition' for him or if he was placed on the Bellator prelims as opposed to kicking off the main card.
You don't blame Gallagher or his team for this though as when a big show comes knocking, you answer.