When Julius Anglickas graduated from Lindenwood University in 2015 with a master’s degree in teaching, he had a choice to make: embark on a run-of-the-mill career, or try to make a living doing something he loved while he still could.
He chose the latter.
Over the last several years Anglickas, a 2009 Southampton High School graduate, has parlayed a successful run as a collegiate wrestler into a career as a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.
In his second fight on the Bellator circuit — considered just one level below the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) — Anglickas, 29, defeated Alex Polizzi by unanimous decision on November 5 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Anglickas is now 2-0 in Bellator fights, and is 9-1 overall in his career.
The victory was another step in the right direction for Anglickas, who has his sights set on making it to the UFC, the ultimate goal for any MMA fighter. And while he acknowledged that he is still working toward that goal, Anglickas said he is in no rush, happy to remain on the Bellator circuit for the time being, particularly if he can re-negotiate his contract, a common move for fighters as they pick up wins that build their resume.
The UFC has had its eyes on Anglickas for awhile, and surely will continue to monitor his progress after his most recent win. On August 13, 2019, Anglickas won a fight in the UFC’s Dana White Contender Series, considered a sort of “try-out” for the UFC. The victory in that series did not immediately lead to an offer of a contract from UFC, so Anglickas signed with Bellator. A few days later, UFC offered a contract as well, which Anglickas had to decline since he had just signed with Bellator. The Bellator contract is for four fights or 16 months, whichever comes first. After that, Anglickas can decide his next move.
Simply having those kinds of options, and making enough money to pursue the sport full time, is an opportunity Anglickas appreciates, especially considering he was largely unfamiliar with the sport until a few years ago. He was, by his own description, a “good” collegiate wrestler, earning a spot on the SUNY Brockport team after a high school career as a Mariner that included two top-five finishes at the New York State Division II Tournament. He bounced around during his collegiate days, leaving Brockport for Missouri Baptist, and then transferring to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.
By his final year at Lindenwood, Anglickas had used all his athletic eligibility, and was looking for a way to keep competing and staying in shape. He credits Alp Ozkiliz, a native of Turkey and graduate assistant at Missouri Baptist, for encouraging him to start working out at St. Charles MMA, the gym he still belongs to and trains at today. Anglickas didn’t see much of a competitive future for himself in wrestling, and had tried boxing as well, with some success, but didn’t feel a real spark until he settled into MMA.
“It was almost like a new toy to play with,” he said of the sport. “I’d been wrestling so long, and I was excited to do something a little new. It’s so tough and crazy, and I wanted to be part of it. It was a bit more of an extreme thing that I wanted to be part of.”
Based solely on appearances, Anglickas fits the bill of an MMA fighter. He’s a physically imposing specimen, standing at over 6 feet tall, with a square jaw, clean shaven head, and the kind of extreme muscle definition that makes it clear staying in shape is his full time job.
But his appearance belies a more gentle nature, at least outside of the cage. He speaks like someone trying to assure he won’t awaken a sleeping infant, is unfailingly polite and self-effacing, and makes a point of how much he appreciates the support of sponsors like Hill Street Boxing in Southampton. He makes a point of visiting there whenever he comes home, saying he’s happy to work out there and talk to clients who follow his progress.
There’s no trace of the bluster and bravado typically associated with people who make a living by hand-to-hand combat with other human beings. Rather, Anglickas comes across as someone who simply loves to compete, and is dedicated to the process it takes behind the scenes to do it well, from training hard and vigorously studying film of his opponent to eating right and getting enough sleep.
That preparation paid off in the win over Polizzi, whose strength is in his wrestling skills rather than striking techniques.
“I knew he was going to be a wrestler, so we prepared very hard for that,” Anglickas said. “We did a lot of sparring in practice, where everyone would shoot in on me and try to take me down. We did a lot of sprawling drills. It worked out perfectly, and I couldn’t have been happier.”
Anglickas has made a name for himself as a striker, but he said the fact that he was also a successful collegiate wrestler seemed to fly under the radar. He called on those skills in his most recent fight, saying his ability to successfully sprawl and avoid his opponent’s attempts at takedowns can be attributed to his wrestling training.
Anglickas will surely be recounting the details of the fight over the next few days, after returning home to Southampton on November 9 for a two-week stay. During that time, he plans to train at Hill Street, where he said he always appreciates hearing from the gym’s staff and members who support him and follow his fights. He will also spend time with his mother and step-father, and his father, all of whom live on Long Island. (His older brother, Gabe, has moved to California with his wife).
Anglickas also always receives a warm welcome from Schmidt’s Market, where he and his brother had their first jobs after emigrating to the United States as teenagers from Lithuania. Anglickas remembers being just 14, speaking no English, and stocking shelves alongside his brother at the food market. Slowly but surely, he found his way in the new country, learning the language and developing a passion for wrestling, joining the Mariners team after initially expressing an interest in basketball.
While it wasn’t initially clear where Anglickas would apply his natural athleticism, he’s always found his way in that regard, and it’s something he hopes he can continue to do for years to come. Anglickas said he has no plans to retire from a sport that is admittedly tough on the body, pointing out that fighters in heavier-weight divisions like his own can often keep competing a bit longer than those at lower weights.
“The power is the last thing that leaves,” he said. “When you’re a big guy, you can be a little bit older. The speed might go away.”
Anglickas said he’d like to keep competing for another decade, provided, as he said, “the motivation is still there.”