The Next Big Thing: Julius Anglickas
This is the third chapter in an ongoing series called "The Next Big Thing", in which we profile one of the area's top up-and-coming talents prior to a big fight.
In May, 2012, it was a look at Andrew Sanchez before his pro debut. Chapter 2 looked at Finney's MMA's "Young Buck" Joaquin Buckley. Now it's a look at the raw but ready Julius Anglickas.
On Saturday one of the area's top talents makes that leap to the pros when Julius Anglickas walks into the cage for Shamrock FC: Blitzkrieg at the Lumiere Casino.
Anglickas' debut is coming off a stellar 2015 that saw him notch four wins (all finishes), a title at Fight Hard, and stellar success at the St. Louis Golden Gloves in winning his divisions. His list of accomplishments were later recognized by a KnukleJunkies.com voting panel, selecting him as the 2015 St. Louis MMA Amateur of the Year.
Physically he's a specimen. Tall, broad across the shoulders, and incredibly agile for someone of his size. He has the frame for a true light heavyweight.
Local fight fans have a feeling of genuine excitement about the future that awaits the muscular and menacing native of Lithuanian. Along with his obvious physical talents, competing in the historically-thin light heavyweight division has a big upside so says his coach Mike Rogers.
"I think his weight class is much easier to advance in," Rogers said. "I still think there are some great guys at 205, but it's easier for a heavier guy to get noticed than it is at 45 or 55. At 55 we have five guys in the room that are maybe good enough to go to the UFC or Bellator, but that weight class is so hard, there's guys like that in every room. He's got the work ethic of guys like Sampo and Alp and his weight class is a little easier. Hopefully it pays off."
Rogers, the founder and head coach at St. Charles MMA, has fostered the careers of Lance Benoist, Josh Sampo, and Alp Ozkliic, helping each make it to the UFC.
Anglickas is making his professional debut after only five MMA bouts. A lack of local opponents and five years of college wrestling has Rogers confident in his ability.
"There's not nearly as many people at his weight so it was hard to get the opponents." Rogers said. "He's really good. He didn't just have five fights, he had 7-8 boxing matches, won Golden Gloves. He had several jui-jitsu matches and wrestled in college so he's got a little more experience than just five fights."
The hard work has paid off and now the focus is full time on fighting.
"Last year I was successful because of how serious I took it." Anglickas said. "I was taught fighting could pretty much cost you your life. I was always trained hard and prepared for the worst. I think that is what helped me go above and beyond my competition. Now that I'm turning pro, that's a whole new level so I have even more of a job now."
As the saying goes, when one door closes another one opens, such is the case for Anglickas who decided to give wrestling a try after failing to make the basketball squad.
"I got into a wrestling because I got cut from the basketball team." Anglickas said. "I was doing basketball back in Lithuania with my brother. Then in high school I tried out, got cut, and I remember my teammate Chris Fisher said 'you don't do basketball you wrestling, you throw people' and I'm like 'alright cool, I'm interested', and that's how I started wrestling."
After wrestling in high school, Anglickas would wrestle two years at the College at Brockport in upstate New York and then at Missouri Baptist here in St. Louis. It was at Mo-Bap that Anglickas met Ozklilic, who was helping with the wrestling team there. The spunky flyweight who fought four times in the UFC, becoming the first Turkish-born fighter to compete for the organization, encouraged that he try out MMA training at his stopping grounds, St. Charles MMA. Anglickas' family (both Lithuanian natives who now reside in New York) were initially skeptical of this new hobby.
"At first my family thought I was going through a phase or something," Anglickas said. "As I had more and more fights they realized I was really getting into this. At first it was scary for them, but now they see I'm doing it safe and I'm putting work in. They support me now. My mom was scared to watch me in wrestling, fighting might be a heart attack for her."
Anglickas recently completed his Master in Physical Education from Lindenwood University and has put finding a more stable career on hold as he focuses on fighting.
"I wanted to start my MMA career once I had finished my master's," he said. "I now have more time to train and compete. Now that I have my degree I'm happy, nobody can take that away, but I'm not really rushing into getting a job. I want to compete while I still have my youth. I don't want to just enter the job market and regret not competing when I'm older."
Fellow Lithuanians Marius Zaromskis (Dream welterweight champion) and Rose Namajunas (UFC strawweight contender) have had great success in MMA, something that has helped motivate Anglickas.
"Hopefully I'll get to throw my flag out there on the big stage and get to represent Lithuania one day." Anglickas said.
You can see Anglickas this Saturday as part of Shamrock FC: Blitzkrieg at the Lumeire Place Casino or live on internet PPV when he faces Eric Crittendon (6-6).
Photo courtesy of Bob Barton Photography