A new Afro-European promotion is launching on Saturday night from Dakar, Senegal and their inaugural event is headlined by an interesting light heavyweight bout. Laurynas Urbonavicius, who fights flames for a living outside of the cage, is hoping to use the show as a platform to increase his profile and prove that he is ready to climb the ladder towards the world’s major promotions.
ARES FC is headed up by Fernand Lopez - manager and coach to UFC stars like Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane - and the company’s aim is to expose the sport to larger audiences in France and Africa. Through holding regular shows in these territories, it is hoped that it will pave the way for bigger, more established MMA organisations to bring their events further down the line. That way, both the talent pool and viewing audience in the countries can be cultivated to allow the sport’s growth to continue for years to come. Urbonavicius (12-1) is delighted that the new promotion has trusted him to star in their first-ever show and is pleased with the deal his management were able to agree.
“Fernand Lopez approached us about flying down to Africa to fight on his new show so he can help educate sports fans in the region,” discussed Urbonavicius. “He offered us a deal that we couldn’t refuse so I’m very happy to be fighting for them. It’s a big honour to compete in their main event and I’m excited about having this opportunity.”
Urbonavicius always enjoyed combat as a child but didn’t have the ability to embrace it fully due to other aspects of his busy life. When he finished all of his studies, the Lithuanian committed himself to the sport and began training seriously in pursuit of being the best martial artist that he could be. He always wanted to achieve something to make him stand out from the crowd which was why MMA was the path he chose to go down. The 31-year-old fights out of Valetudo Academy in Vilnius, which is the capital of his home country, and believes he has put in all of the necessary work during this camp to achieve victory and make a major splash.
Standing opposite Urbonavicius in the main event is UFC veteran, Ildemar Alcantara, who has just signed a four-fight contract with ARES FC. The Brazilian is having his most successful run in years and hopes to continue that momentum on Saturday night. Alcantara (26-13) has competed against Albert Tumenov, Wagner Prado and Kevin Casey and represents the most high-profile opponent that Urbonavicius has fought to date. The man also known as ‘Captain Lithuania’ intends on adding to his six fight winning streak in Senegal and aims to display the striking skills which have led to the light heavyweight finishing 8 of his 12 professional victories due to strikes, in order to extinguish his adversary.
“I think that Alcantara is a dangerous opponent who has fought at the highest level,” explained Urbonavicius. “He has competed in the UFC so obviously I am expecting a tough contest. This is definitely the biggest fight of my life. Without a doubt, I know that I will come away with the victory but you will have to tune in on Saturday night to see how! I’m hoping this will be another step towards my ultimate goal of fighting in the UFC so I can make history.”
Current UFC heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic, is well-known for balancing his life between being the baddest man on the planet and looking after his community as a firefighter. This is a lifestyle that Urbonavicius can relate to somewhat because of the different roles he has to juggle between dodging punches in the gym and avoiding flames during emergency calls. Urbonavicius can see similarities between himself and Miocic in the way they view their differing roles and the privilege they both feel when they put on their safety hat as the sirens start calling.
“My job schedule for firefighting is 1 day of work for 3 days rest,” stated Urbonavicius. “Therefore, for 3 days I train twice a day and on my day away from the engines, I rest. However, if I need to train at any time I can do it at the fire station as we have mats and everything you would need there. My colleagues really support me with my MMA career and they always have my back. Much like Stipe, I’m a firefighter because I was born to do it. I enjoy doing good and helping people so even if I earn more from fighting, I’ll always work as a firefighter.”
ARES FC 1 will be available to watch all across the continent of Africa on Canal+ Sport and can be viewed in the US and Europe on UFC Fight Pass. Fans in the UK and Ireland can tune in on Saturday night from 7pm GMT while fans in the US can see how the action unfolds from 2pmET/1c.