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James Gallagher is poised to make a run at a world title with a win in Bellator’s return to Belfast, Northern Ireland on Friday.

The SBG Ireland-trained native of Strabane fights the experienced Brazilian Leandro Higo in a featherweight clash; a fight which comes months removed from Gallagher’s return to the 145-pound weight class this past August after an extended run at bantamweight.

And while Gallagher says that the split decision win over James Gonzalez in Sioux Falls last year didn’t show the range of his capabilities in the cage following a two-year absence from competition, the 27-year-old says that Friday’s showing against Higo will serve notice as to his ambitions in the featherweight fold.

“I didn’t have that swagger back in myself,” Gallagher told MMA Fighting of his most recent showing in the Bellator cage. “But I did what needed to be done and got the win and that’s all that matters. Abso-f*cking-lutely, the swagger is back for this one.”

Gallagher’s last performance in the arena he fights in in Belfast on Friday also came at featherweight — a first round submission victory against Kirill Medvedovski — and he says that it is in this weight class he feels most comfortable, despite having come close to the summit of the promotion’s 135-pound division previously.

“It wasn’t until I had like seven fights that I went down to 135,” he said. “I’ve never been beat at 145. I think I’ve got about eight or nine 145 fights now, and they’ve all been wins. So it’s kind of like, go back to what’s not broken.

“I feel like I can focus on technique, sparring rounds, getting proper strength and conditioning training, and just feel a lot better,” he added of the differences between the two weight categories. “I just feel like I was injured every other training session [at 135].”

In Leandro Higo, Gallagher takes on a fighter with 13 submissions in his 22 wins. But the Irishman says that there are levels to this.

“He’s good at what I’m best at,” Gallagher stated. “There’s a difference. He’s good, I’m the best. He’s going to have no choice. I’m going to get on top of him, elbow him in the head, take his back and choke him. He’s going to have no choice — whether he welcomes it or not, that’s what’s going to happen. I’m going straight into those exchanges.

That’s exactly what’s going on. I’m going to go in and beat Leandro Higo and I’m going to fight for the belt next.”