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09th Feb 2017

SBG’s James Gallagher has been called out by arguably the most hyped prospect in MMA history

When hype trains collide

Ben Kiely

James Gallagher may have found the big name rival that could propel his career to the next stage.

Gallagher is set to take on Kirill Medvedovsky in the co-main event of Bellator 173 in Belfast on February 24.  ‘The Strabanimal’ will be looking to improve his pristine professional record to 6-0 in the SSE Arena, while his opponent will be hoping he to bounce back after suffering two losses on the trot.

The 20-year-old SBG fighter is one of Bellator’s top prospects, and they’ve been building him up accordingly. However, there is a new kid on the block whose hype train has more momentum, and his name is Aaron Pico.

At 18 years of age, Pico had won a FILA national championship in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, a Junior Golden Gloves championship, signed a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike and was snapped up by Bellator on a long-term contract.

Two years later, the man who trainer Bob Cook famously labelled “the greatest MMA prospect he’s ever seen” is ready to make his MMA debut and Gallagher’s dig at American wrestlers has him all riled up.

Pico, who’s on the home stretch of his recovery from a serious knee injury is eyeing up a July debut. As he told Bleacher Report, he has Gallagher in his sights.

“He wrote a cheque with his mouth, and now he’s gotta deliver. He says he can strangle all the American wrestlers, but I looked at his record, and he’s never fought one, so he doesn’t even know… He made comments about American wrestlers, well now, guess what? You’re talking to a real American wrestler.”

While Gallagher may be looking past fighting a debutant at this point in his career, Pico seems determined to make that fight happen. The location is irrelevant to him, he’s willing to duke it out with the Irishman in the lion’s den if needs be.

“For me, (Gallagher’s) the only thing on my mind. I’ll fight him in Ireland, I’ll fight him in L.A. The main thing for me is that we’re gonna get it, and we’re gonna make it big.”

Gallagher should feel thrilled that the target on his back is already growing at this rate, this early into his career. It’s a real testament to his performances inside the cage so far.