Julius Anglickas proves that old adage about the next fight being the biggest fight is alive and well here in 2019.
The rising light heavyweight prospect’s last fight was for a title in LFA, a smaller and well-regarded mixed martial arts promotion known to catapult fighters into bigger worlds. Anglickas, from St. Louis by way of Long Island by way of Lithuania, won that championship in February and now is days away from fighting for a UFC contract on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”
“Big things could happen from that because if you’re champion, you either defend it or you go somewhere bigger,” Anglickas, 28, said of winning the LFA title. “I was hoping I won’t have to defend it. Hopefully I can go somewhere bigger, and that’s what happened. There’s an opportunity to do that. I feel this one is even bigger than that LFA belt, just because it’s almost guaranteed like I do well, all right the contract is yours.”
Anglickas (6-1) will face Karl Reed (3-1) of South Carolina, and if he wins the bout in a manner that impresses the UFC president, he can earn a contract to compete in the sport’s most recognized promotion. Through the first seven episodes and 34 bouts on this season’s “Contender Series,” 23 fighters were signed to the UFC.
Pressure? Sure. Nerves? Kinda. The toughest thing he’s had to deal with thus far in life? Not exactly.
Anglickas emigrated to America one month shy of turning 14. It was 2005, and his mother already was here, having left Lithuania five years earlier and settled in Southampton. Anglickas and his older brother, Gabe, were raised by their grandmother during that time. When they moved here to live with their mother and new stepfather, they spoke no English.
“We had the chance of hearing it, but we never had the chance of saying it,” Anglickas said. “I could understand what people said, but I would be like a deer in the headlights when I would have to say something back. Just, ‘Uh, uh, uh, I don’t know what to say,’ so I’d just start smiling.”
Anglickas began his American education as a freshman at Southampton High School. He remembered his friend trying to convince him to join him on the wrestling team. But, in Lithuania, basketball was the thing, fueled by the country’s Olympic success (bronze medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000).
“No, no, no, you no play basketball. You lift people up, slam them down. You wrestle,” Anglickas recalled his friend saying. “I’m like, ‘This is interesting.’”
Still, he tried out for the basketball team. He was cut after the first day. (His brother made the team.)
Teenagers of Anglickas’ size and strength don’t go unnoticed by coaches, though.
“The basketball coach said we got this really big kid, he can’t shoot, but why don’t you try and see if he can come wrestle,” former Southampton assistant wrestling coach Sean Zay said.
Anglickas never wrestled before. Never even saw it. Didn’t even understand what getting pinned was about and why it was a loss.
“Once he started, he was hooked,” Zay said. “He was just really, really strong, just a tough kid. He lived a bunch of miles away, would run to school early in the morning and rip open the weight room and go work out. He was just an animal.”
In a nice, good-kid way, Zay made clear.
“We went to a couple of tournaments where a girl gave him her phone number,” Zay said. “He’s like, ‘What do I do with this?’”
Anglickas, a 215-pounder, was a two-time place-winner in the New York state wrestling championships, finishing fifth in 2008 and fourth in 2009.
He wrestled at Brockport, then went to Missouri Baptist. Anglickas then earned a master’s degree in physical education from Lindenwood. Anglickas had studied karate while in Southampton and was aware of MMA, but it didn’t become a thing until after college. Before MMA, Anglickas won the Golden Gloves in St. Louis on just a few months of boxing training.
“We of course discouraged him at every opportunity we had,” his stepfather, Anthony Maglione, said.
They support him now, of course. They just haven’t seen him fight live, be it in person or on television.
“She’s nervous, I mean, I’m still her little kid,” Anglickas said of his mother. “She doesn’t want to see me get punched.”
Maglione said they watch the fight in the morning, “if he wins.”
He has won all but one fight so far. Tuesday’s bout brings the biggest stakes yet. It will be a unique fight. “Contender Series” bouts take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The crowd is minimal, the atmosphere subdued. Just the type of setting to heighten one’s pre-fight nerves.
“I love training, I love working out, I love competing. I do hate the last two weeks, especially right before the fight when it’s nerves kicking in and you just want to throw up,” Anglickas said. “But I feel that situation is needed just to check my own self how I am as a person.
“I feel it’s a must for me, as a man, to keep doing this. I need to learn how to fight. I need to see how I’m going to react to this. I need to know how I am under pressure in tough situations. The competition side is there, but also I feel it’s something I should do.”
Dana White's Contender Series fight card, Aug. 13.
Light Heavyweight: Herdem Alacabek vs. William Knight
Welterweight: Brok Weaver vs. Devin Smyth
Women's Bantamweight: Shanna Young vs. Sarah Alpar
Bantamweight: Tony Gravely vs. Ray Rodriguez
Light Heavyweight: Karl Reed vs. Julius Anglickas