Peter Queally is on top of the poster in his home town at Bellator 285, and he’s ready to welcome an MMA legend back to Dublin in a huge main event bout.
Queally takes on Benson Henderson in the headline matchup at the 3Arena, with a packed crowd expected to roar him on as he looks to defeat the former UFC lightweight champion.
“It’s so cool,” he told reporters during media day ahead of fight night.
“I’ve said this many times in interviews – it’s so cool to see myself on the poster, and to be on top of Yoel (Romero). I’m such a huge fan of his. I can’t wait to meet him and get a picture with him.”
The matchup sees Queally face one of the most decorated fighters of his career, and he’s relishing the prospect.
“I know the challenge that’s in front of me. It will be very difficult, but I’m down for difficult. I can’t wait,” he said.
“When I signed with Bellator, I told them straight away, I just want the hard fights.
“Especially with the investment they’re making in Ireland, I feel like I’m getting the respect I maybe wasn’t getting. It’s all going good for me.”
After travelling the world taking the type of fights many career-conscious lightweights would tend to shy away from, Queally’s career has taken a notable upturn since signing for Bellator, where his skills and his all-action fighting style have won him new fans to back up his raucous hardcore local support.
“I feel like I’ve had lots of great moments in my career. My last few fights have had great finishes,” he said.
“The walkout is just part of my identity now, and I’m very grateful to the Irish fans. I wouldn’t really have a career if it wasn’t for them, and I’m very grateful for it.
“If you’d have told me 10-12 years ago when I was sleeping outside in my car that I was going to fight Benson in the 3Arena, I wouldn’t have believed you. My family are very proud of me, and it’s time to just go out there and do it.”
The fight card for Friday night is absolutely stacked with big names. Joining Queally and Henderson at the top of the card are heavy-hitters Yoel Romero and Melvin Manhoef, while European stars Mads Burnell, Leah McCourt, Pedro Carvalho and Brett Johns are also set for action.
“It’s unreal. It’s amazing. This is the best show I think Bellator have put on,” said Queally. All it’s missing is James (Gallagher).
“We’ll do our best to carry it without him, but it’s a different feeling when he’s not here. It’s going to be a great show, and I’m ready for it.”
Queally knows he’s facing a worldwide MMA star in Henderson, but he said that all of the name value and recognition the American brings with him will count for nothing when they step out under the lights at the 3Arena, where the Irish fight fans back their own like no crowd on earth.
“I don’t consider myself the B-side here,” he said.
“We’re in the 3Arena, let’s not forget. Once the bell rings, he’s not going to be Benson Henderson anymore. He’s just going to be a guy in front of me.
“I’m going to go in there and try to kill him, you know what I mean? I don’t think I’ll be starstruck. I’ll try to enjoy it a bit more. I’ll try to embrace it a bit more and enjoy.”
If he’s successful, Queally could be lined up for another shot at the Bellator lightweight title. That could potentially mean a rematch with Brazilian nemesis Patricky Pitbull. The pair hold one win each over the other, but the most important victory – for the Bellator lightweight strap – came in their last meeting, where Pitbull handed Queally the first stoppage loss of his career.
It’s a fight the Irishman would be keen to run back.
“I’d like it to be Patricky again,” he admitted.
“In fairness, there’s a bit of a queue there. But I think if I win in a dominant fashion and some of the dominoes fall the right way, I think I could fight him next.
“I think he likes that fight too. I think he liked fighting here, or that’s the sense I got talking with him backstage. I think I could sneak to the title shot.”
Before any thoughts can turn to title shots or rematches, Queally first has to face Henderson. It’s a huge encounter, but one that the Dubliner is keen not to place on a pedestal as he keeps his energy consistent ahead of fight night.
“I treat every fight the same,” he said.
“There’s always tension, no matter where it is. That’s what I kind of look for, that first exchange, and then I usually settle in after that.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think it’s going to be a very unpleasant 25 minutes for both of us – but that’s fine for me.”