Although not the year many, including Bellator light heavyweight Sullivan Cauley (1-0), planned for, turning pro and earning his first victory made 2020 worth it, in a way, for the big man.
Cauley, 24, is a training partner of the former Bellator double champion and current Bellator heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC).
“It was a long 7 months of fight cancellations,” Cauley told MMA-Prospects. “Three or four fights fell through, other periods where we knew nothing was going on. Most of my 2020 was working part-time, feeling as though I was wasting my career. We eventually got the call from Bellator, and I made it a dream come true, a performance I knew I could have.”
It took Cauley only one twenty-eight seconds to dismantle his opponent, Jason Markland (0-2), knocking out his foe in mere moments.
For the light heavyweight prospect, mixed martial arts wasn’t always the dream, baseball was the first love in the Cauley household. But given the option of college baseball or college wrestling, Cauley knew at heart that fighting was in his blood.
“I was a baseball player,” Cauley said. “I was also a wrestler… weird combo. I always wanted to prove I was tough. In college [at Arizona State University], I had the chance at baseball or wrestling, I chose wrestling because I knew I wanted to fight deep down. I just knew it would be something I’d regret if I went with baseball.”
As an amateur, the Arizona native went 4-2 — some would argue 5-1, with a questionable split-decision thrown in there, as well. Despite the difficulties of the past year, Cauley felt 2020 was his time to turn professional in the world of MMA.
“We’ve been ready to go pro, just waiting for it to line up,” Cauley explained. “With amateur fights, our team always took the toughest available fights because no one really cares about an amateur record, so ‘Why not test yourself?’ was the mantra,” Cauley continued.
“I’ve had boxing fights, Muay Thai, wrestling. We felt in every area I was ready to make the next step.”
Training with one of the top big men on the planet, Ryan Bader, was a major factor in his decision to turn pro.
“Bader is great,” Cauley began. “He’s a really great guy; he has been a good mentor and a great friend for me. He has dealt with everything I’m dealing with now, from agents, training partners, and media, all of it. He is helping lead me down the road.”
Not only is Bader a mentor for Cauley, but a good measuring tool on just how good Cauley can be in the division.
“One of my mental keys is sparring with Bader, and [taking] something away from it,” Cauley began. “I’m facing tougher competition in the gym [than most fighters do in pro fights]. Not many people, or any, are going to be better than Ryan Bader. I’m going head to head, daily, with one of the best.”
The 6’1″ light heavyweight, who wrestled under the acclaimed Arizona State University program, stated that he has another fight on his Bellator deal and is hoping for a February return.