Darrion Caldwell claims that James Gallagher turned down an opportunity to fight him for the bantamweight title on Aug. 17, and for that reason, the 135-pound king is headed to featherweight in the hopes of setting up a title date with Patricio Freire.
Undefeated Gallagher is confident that a win over newcomer Ricky Bandejas — the SBG fighter’s first bantamweight assignment as a professional — will set up a date between him and Caldwell in Ireland.
According to Caldwell, a real contender needs to emerge at bantamweight before he returns to defend his title. “The Wolf” believes a win over Noad Lahat in their featherweight clash at Bellator 204 will propel him into a 145-pound title shot against ‘Pitbull’ Freire, giving him an opportunity to fulfill his double-champ aspirations.
“I want to win this fight here and then fight Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire, become a double weight champion and then go back and defend my title,” Caldwell told MMA Fighting.
“The bantamweight division needs a legit contender. I think I need to back off for a while and let them fight among themselves, let a new challenger emerge. Honestly, the 135ers are disappointing me, nobody wants to sign on the dotted line for a fight. I feel like it’s time to take my talent to a new weight division while those guys get better.”
Caldwell believes he would have received an immediate featherweight title shot from Bellator had Freire not commited to a fight so close to the Dakota event.
“I just want to fight ‘Pitbull’. I think I would have been fighting him straightaway, but he happened to have a fight booked around the same time as me. I ready to set this thing up, but first things first — Noad Lahat on August 17th,” he explained.
“He’s gonna get the best Darrion Caldwell the world has ever seen. Noad poses a lot of different threats to any of the guys that I’ve faced before. He has a different way of grappling that I’m going to have to watch out for — he likes to throw guys, he likes to get his hands on people and choke them out.”
Although Bellator has given Caldwell no guarantees in terms of his featherweight title hopes, he thinks he will be undeniable following his main event tussle with Lahat.
“Does Bellator have to give me a guarantee? Is that something they want to see right now? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t think it’s up to me or up to them — it’s up to the universe. I might not have a guarantee, but I know I will fight Pitbull within a year.”
Caldwell isn’t certain that Gallagher will pass his first test as a Bellator bantamweight against Bandejas. As far as he’s concerned, the SBG fighter should have jumped at the chance of fighting him on Aug. 17.
“Do you think he’s going to beat Bandejas?” Caldwell asked of Gallagher.
“I don’t think that’s a guarantee. First things first, we both gotta take care of business on August 17th. All I know is, I want to go for the 145 title after I get this victory. Maybe [Gallagher] will win his fight, and maybe he does want to fight me after that, but he didn’t want to fight me in August 17th. He’s coming down in weight class, but for what? I really feel August 17th is going to show everyone why I should be fighting ‘Pitbull’ and not James Gallagher.”
Although he underlined that he doesn’t think “The Strabanimal” is a “joke”, Caldwell doesn’t think he the young Irishman has what it takes to be a champion.
“I don’t think Gallagher is a joke. He has beaten some pretty decent guys; some guys that I didn’t think he would beat, but he just doesn’t have that it factor. When I say, ‘it factor’ I mean the whole process that led him to this moment. I don’t know what he’s done — maybe you can go back and do some research and tell me — but I just don’t know,” said Caldwell.
“If you go back and look at my career, you’ll know that I’ve always improved. Even in high school, I ended my career as a national champion. In college, I ended my senior career as a national champion. I reach the top at every level that I go to and I can’t say the same thing about James Gallagher. You’ve got to put a lot of things in perspective. I don’t know if this guy has what it takes to be a title contender, and he’s got a huge fight ahead of him where he’s going to have to prove that.”
“He’s not a champion,” he added.