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LONDON – Just when you thought Bellator London fight week was going to pass off without incident, we were treated to some good old-fashioned news conference drama, courtesy of “The Jimmy Show.”
James Gallagher and Jeremiah Labiano are set to face off in a 140-pound catchweight contest at The SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday, and the pair exchanged some lively press-conference banter at the ODEON Luxe cinema in Leicester Square.
But, after an exchange between the pair up on the dais, the difference of opinion switched to a verbal skirmish between Gallagher (8-1 MMA, 5-1 BMMA) and one of Labiano’s entourage seated in the second row.
After one of Labiano’s group heckled Gallagher from the seats, the Irishman fired back at the man, who Gallagher believed was one of Labiano’s coaches: “You sit there and shut your (expletive) mouth.
“You’re a coach. Let your fighter do his thing. You sit and shut your (expletive) mouth. It’s not your job. You coach him, you train him. You sit there, and shut your (expletive) mouth. These people are brain dead, aren’t they?”
The bad blood extended to the faceoffs, when the two fighters exchanged more verbal barbs before Gallagher offered Labiano (12-6 MMA, 3-2 BMMA) a hand, seemingly as a handshake. And when the Irishman pulled it away and mocked the American, it seemed as if he had made the final statement as he walked off, laughing.
But Gallagher wasn’t finished and, after stepping off the stage, he approached Labiano’s team and a scuffle ensued as PR and security staff dived in to ensure tempers didn’t fully boil over.
Speaking to MMA Junkie after the incident, Labiano shrugged off the incident: “There’s two sides to the story. But for my guys, James walks by and starts running his mouth and we all know what happened from there.
“They had an exchange of words and, like I was telling everyone else, ‘You poke a tiger, you’re bound to get bit, right?'”
Meanwhile, Gallagher was rather more detailed in his assessment of what happened.
“I’m the kind of guy who, if someone doesn’t like me or has something to say and comes up and says it straight to my face and outright, I have respect for that person,” he said.
“Like, you have a set of balls. Even though I don’t like what you said. I just like people to have a set of balls, put it on the table and say what they feel. I have respect for that.
“But what I absolutely hate is cowards. Like a little (expletive) who tries to yap behind the scene but doesn’t want to be up there doing it for themselves. I’ve got no time for that fake kind of person.”
Gallagher said the incident did not negatively change his view on Labiano. In fact, he stated his respect for his opponent.
“During the whole press conference I felt sorry for Jeremiah,” he explained. “Solid fighter. He’s going to step up and fight. He’s not a fake. He’s not being fake up there. He’s put it on the line, he’s ready to go, he’s ready to fight. Respect to him.”
Likening Labiano’s coach to a bully who hides behind others when push comes to shove in the schoolyard, Gallagher said he approached the coach and said: “If you want to speak like a fighter, then be a fighter. Come on, if you’ve got a problem, let’s sort it out. If you want to be a fighter, then let’s (expletive) fight. Of course, he didn’t want to be a fighter because he’s a (expletive) coach. That’s his job.
“Sit there, shut your (expletive) mouth, train your guy and make him step up there and fight me on Saturday night. If he wants to fight, I’m open. Why didn’t he sign that contract when it was sent to his gym. Don’t let your student sign it if you want to fight. I’ve got no time for that.
“Walk up to my face and say something. If you’ve got something to say, walk up, be a man. But no, he’s hiding behind his student. Imagine someone hiding behind their student. I feel sorry for Jeremiah. His coach embarrassed him today.”
News | MMA Junkie