Winning nine fights in a row put Julius Anglickas in this advantageous position, but it took a lucky break for him to get the opportunity every fighter wants: a shot at the title.
Anglickas, a former wrestler at Southampton High School, will be the replacement fighter for Anthony "Rumble" Johnson in Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. Bellator made the announcement during the televised portion of Bellator 266 on Saturday night.
Johnson had to pull out of the fight with an undisclosed illness. It is not related to COVID-19, he said, but Johnson wrote on his Instagram on Saturday that he is "afraid."
"Really wish I could go into detail about how ill I truly am," he wrote . "Just know I need as many prayers as I can get and I’ll see you in 2022 God willing…
"Never been this afraid of anything in my life but I’ve remained strong with the support of friends and family."
"Not asking for anything but prayers," Johnson said in the text portion of his Instagram post. "See you in 2022 hopefully. This is gonna be a battle and I’m gonna have to dig deeper than I ever have before."
With Johnson out, Anglickas (10-1) takes his place in the tournament semifinal against reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov at Bellator 268 on Oct. 16 in Arizona. The winner of that fight emerges as the promotion's champion and faces the Ryan Bader-Corey Anderson winner at a later date for the Grand Prix title and $1 million. Bader and Anderson also are scheduled to fight at Bellator 268.
Anglickas already had been scheduled to compete at UFC 268 against No. 10 Karl Albrektsson (11-3), who now will face Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (18-6-1).
Anglickas, the fifth-ranked Bellator light heavyweight champion, is 3-0 since joing the promotion. All three wins were by unanimous decision, the most recent coming in April against Gregory Milliard.
Nemkov (14-2) has won eight in a row and is undefeated in Bellator at 6-0, with wins over Bader, Rafael Carvalho, Liam McGreary and two against Phil Davis.