Leandro Higo uncertain if James Gallagher will show up to fight at Bellator Belfast

Leandro Higo and James Gallagher finally meet for Bellator when the company returns to Ireland for a show in Belfast on March 22. But the Brazilian talent will only truly believe it’s going down when he sees “The Strabanimal” with his own eyes during fight week.

Higo and Gallagher were expected to meet before, however the fight never came to fruition. The matchup has only been officially announced once by Bellator, but Higo claims he signed three prior bout agreements to face Gallagher before the SBG Ireland product pulled out of the proposed bookings.

Now, Higo said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast, he’s traveling to enemy territory and fighting one way or another, whether it’s against Gallagher or any other Irishman that steps in on late notice.

“My coaches told me, ‘Man, he pulled out three times already against you, not to mention his other opponents,’” Higo said. “He’s always hurt, there’s always something going on. It seems like he only fights when he wants to. I still don’t believe it. I’ll only believe it when we get to fight week. But even if he doesn’t fight, just throw any other Irishman in there, anyone from Ireland, because I’m ready for war.”

Gallagher moved back up to 145 pounds in his latest Bellator fight to win a split decision over James Gonzalez, so Higo agreed to cut 10 less pounds to face him at featherweight. According to the Brazilian, one of his previous bouts with Gallagher was originally agreed for 135 pounds before Gallagher allegedly asked for a catchweight.

“He has always pointed at me saying I didn’t make weight [before], and then my manager said, ‘Leandro, just agree to the catchweight, he’s going to pull out,’” Higo said. “Sure enough, he withdrew some time after because of an injury. But I think he’s coming stronger and better now that he doesn’t have to cut weight. And I’m fine, too. I wont cut too much weight for this fight. Depending on my performance, I’ll fight at both divisions.”

Higo said Bellator approached him with the idea of fighting Gallagher in Belfast, but the promotion ultimately settled for Gallagher vs. Jeremy Kennedy instead. With Kennedy now promoted to a title bout against Higo’s teammate, Patricio Pitbull, in the co-main event, the door once again opened for him to face Gallagher.

“I was already training at 60 percent, because he pulls out of fights a lot, and I was alert that he could fall off, and I take the Jeremy Kennedy fight,” Higo said. “I was about to spar on a Friday when my manager called asking how much I weighed, and I knew right away there was a short-notice fight on the way. He didn’t even ask if I wanted it, he just said the date and opponent and I took it.”

Higo choked out Nikita Mikhailov in his most recent Bellator bout in August 2023, rebounding from a decision defeat to Danny Sabatello. Higo was on a three-fight winning streak over Darrion Caldwell, Ricky Bandejas, and Shawn Bunch prior to that, and he hopes to return to his winning ways in Ireland.

Gallagher has been victorious in nine of 11 fights under the Bellator banner, losing only to Bandejas and future bantamweight champion Patchy Mix, but Higo thinks he’s overrated.

“I don’t have much about him as an athlete,” Higo said. “But the things he says, he talks so much about everybody that everybody has turned against him. He’s the most called-out fighter in Bellator. Not only me, everybody [calls him out] because of the things he says backstage and on Twitter, stuff like that. But I think he talks too much and delivers too little. But I think he’s a complete guy, has a good background, and he mixes his karate with takedowns and jiu-jitsu, which is his strongest weapon. He always fights the same way.”

Higo said he’s anxious to fight in emery territory to “silence a lot of people” inside the SSE Arena in Belfast, and he vows to finish Gallagher inside three rounds.

“I don’t see this fight going the distance,” Higo said. “I’ll either knock him out or submit him, but I’ll probably just submit him. That will taste better because we’re both grapplers, so I’ll show him my jiu-jitsu is superior and I’ll send a message to the rest of the division that I’m back.”

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