Modestas Bukauskas Expects To Make UFC Debut In Early Summer
By Ross Markey
Three weeks ago – the UFC signed their ninety-fourth fighter from European powerhouse promotion, Cage Warriors; an incredible statistic. That fighter – the reigning light heavyweight champion, Modestas Bukauskas.
The Lithuanian becomes the first mixed-martial-artist hailing from the Baltic state to sign terms with the promotion, after impressing hugely during his time with Graham Boylan’s, Cage Warriors.
The 10-2 finisher has amassed a staggering six-fight win-streak over the last two years – winning all six contests via stoppage. Recently, the Buckinghamshire based all-rounder recently sat-down with me and spoke about his future – as he begins his Octagon journey in 2020.
The 25-year-old light heavyweight agreed terms on a four-fight deal with the UFC, and expects to make his first Octagon walk this summer.
“As of right now, I’ve just been given, sort of guidelines as to when I will fight,” Modestas said. “Most likely it’ll be somewhere in the summertime. Just from what I understand, the UFC has booked out most of their fights, all the way up to the end of April, pretty much till May. I’ll be expecting early summertime – probably to get on a card somewhere. I don’t know where it’ll be, I don’t know exactly where it’ll be but I’m sure I’ll find out in the next coming weeks or month.”
When that premier walk arrives, Bukauskas will become the first Lithuanian born fighter to step foot inside the Octagon – a title the 25-year-old is extremely proud of holding.
“Being the first Lithuanian born UFC fighter to a four-fight deal is an absolutely amazing feeling. I feel very, very proud and I can’t wait to go out and make my country proud. It’s such a small country and now I have, pretty much, the whole country riding in a wave behind me and support has been absolutely amazing. I’ve had so many people message me and stuff like that and it’s been absolutely brilliant. Obviously, they hear that I do have the British accent and thinking ‘Oh yeah, obviously he’s got the Lithuanian name, and why has he not got the Lithuanian accent’. Obviously, I’ve been living in Britain since I was three years old.”
“To be able to represent my home country in the UFC – and to go down in history books, no one else has down that before. So now, when people look back, I could be part of a trivia question ‘Who was the first-ever UFC signed Lithuanian fighter?’ and that’ll be myself. Obviously, that in itself is an amazing feeling. We’re going to be working toward being the first-ever Lithuanian UFC champion. Athletes like Rose Namajunas has went on to become the champion but, she wasn’t Lithuanian born. For me, that would be a big thing – to make it to the top and do that for my country, to represent and make everyone proud. It’s obviously a massive deal for me. I’m very patriotic toward my country and to represent it well, especially with it being such a small country. To be able to go and do great things is something and really and willing, and something I’m ready to do.”
Joining ranks with the UFC was the ultimate goal for Bukauskas, and transitioning to the promotion in the footsteps of some of the sport’s biggest names is something the 25-year-old is awe stuck with.
“Being part of such an awesome array of fighters, moving from one of the probably the biggest promotion in Europe, to the UFC, obviously is a huge honor. There are so many amazing names that have moved forward – and to be known as some of the best fighters in the world coming from Europe, you’ve had to have been on Cage Warriors and done well there. For me to be part of that lineage of top European talent means a lot – that’s already one of the MMA life goals that I’ve hit and I’ve achieved.”I’m extremely grateful and I’m extremely thankful and I’m just looking forward to the future and promoting – and doing Cage Warriors proud as they’ve given me the platform to go and show my talent.”
Bukauskas joins a lengthy list of former Cage Warriors champions which have made the leap across shores to the UFC – and attempts to follow his the beaten path and replicate his Cage Warriors success on American soil.
“There’s such a long lineage of amazing fighters coming from Cage Warriors – Dan Hardy, Michael Bisping, Conor McGregor all coming from Cage Warriors and then graduating toward the UFC. To be going down in history amongst those names really means a lot. They made it to the top in the UFC. That’s really what all the Cage Warriors fighters are expected to do – they’re expected to make an impact when they go to the UFC and that’s exactly what I’m going to do whenever I go and fight. Just to be named with those amazing stars is where I really start to create my legacy.”
The Gintas Combat trainee revealed he had previously been contacted to join the light heavyweight ranks at Bellator MMA – but the pry from the UFC was enough for him to put pen to paper on a four-fight contract.
“I had already been asked to fight for Bellator after I had two pro wins or maybe three pro wins. It’s always been my goal to fight in the UFC. Even my manager asked me after I won the title if I wanted to fight in Bellator and if I was interested and I said, no. The only promotion I want to fight for is the UFC. Obviously, PFL, ONE Championship they’re all absolutely amazing promotions but if you look at where the top-level MMA started – it really started with the UFC. That was the promotion everyone thought of as being the biggest promotion in the world and it really still is today. That was where I was heading. That was what was in my mind – it’s a goal in my mind to fight for the UFC and nothing else. There may have been opportunities to go elsewhere but the UFC was the main goal in my mind.”
Bukauskas will compete in the light heavyweight division and with reigning champion Jon Jones defending the 205-pound crown against undefeated challenger, Dominick Reyes this weekend at UFC 247 – I got Modestas’ official prediction on how the headliner will play out.
“I believe that Jon Jones’ skill set is far too vast for Dominick Reyes. He’s amazing at wrestling, and obviously, me knowing what he’s like from training with him – this was like three years ago, I can only imagine his skill set has increased vastly since then. He’s had a new change of pace in terms of his career and in terms of his training so I can only imagine he’s gotten that much better. I can imagine it will be only worse for people now. His striking was already good, his wrestling is insane, his Jiu-Jitsu’s really good. And, Dominick Reyes – we’ve seen him get a couple of submissions but we don’t know exactly where he’s at in all the other areas.”
“He went to a decision with (Volkan) Oezdemir. I feel than Jon Jones will be able to neutralize his power because he uses his range really well. I believe (Jon) Jones could potentially finish him (Dominick Reyes). My official prediction is that he’ll probably TKO him in the third round. Obviously, I’m a massive fan of Jon Jones. Obviously, all respect to Reyes, he’s an amazing athlete. I believe Jon is going to be way too dangerous for him at this time.”