Modestas Bukauskas recalls early pro days, eyes UFC debut on Fight Island

Modestas Bukauskas
Image via @modyb24 on Instagram

Being signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the dream of many fighters around the world. Modestas Bukauskas recently achieve that dream.

Back in January, Bukauskas’ management announced his signing with the UFC. Since then, though, the Brit hasn’t been able to step foot into the Octagon.

“I actually did have a fight booked”, Modestas Bukauskas told BJPENN.com. “I know a lot of people kept on asking me whether I was fighting on the London card, but one thing that people have to understand is that there’s quite a large roster and obviously they’ve had people booked to fight or they’ve been wanting certain people to be booked to fight in certain places. So, I actually had my debut set—like signed and sealed for May 16—I can’t reveal the opponent because the fight itself did not get announced because of the whole coronavirus situation. So yes, my fight got canceled due to the whole thing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get something rescheduled soon.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for fighters not only due to the lack of fights available, but the difficulty of training.

“I’ve actually not been doing too bad,” Bukauskas said. “It’s a lot tougher, especially when this is my predominately main form of income. In terms of training, though, being able to stay in shape and do stuff, it’s just given me avenues to be able to focus on different things. Not just in the training room, but also on myself as a person, studying things, studying fights, looking at other fighters in my division. I’ve got a gym at my house, so I’m still able to train [since] my dad is my coach. I’m very fortunate and grateful that I actually have an opportunity to be able to almost carry on as normal. I’m able to run more and do more cardio-intensive stuff, as well. I can drill and go over my specific movements with my dad and still do the pads with the strength and conditioning. As bad as the situation is, there’s always a silver lining, and it is definitely still a good thing to improve on things I didn’t have the chance to do so before.”

Before the coronavirus situation spread all over the globe, the Lithuania-born Brit used to train in London, where he live. Yet back in the day, when his professional career was just getting started, he moved overseas in order to improve his skills.

“During the year that I turned pro, when I was 21, I had a sponsor who was helping me with my training expenses and stuff like that. I had a trip to go and train at Team Nogueira in Brazil. I had an amazing experience out there training which was very good for my career. Then I went to Jackson-Wink before my second professional fight. They didn’t have as many fighters [as they have now] for one or another reason, and the facility was just being built, but I did get some very good training and I got to train a lot with Andrei Arlovski. Actually, the first time I went out there, he paid for me to stay in another week which I thought was absolutely amazing”, Modestas Bukauskas recalled.

Modestas Bukauskas and Jon Jones
Image via @modyb24 on Instagram

“[After that] I had three more fights, three more wins. So, I decided to go over there again but for longer this time, because I only [stayed] for three weeks that first time. So this time I ended up going for 10 weeks. At that time Jon Jones was preparing for his comeback against Ovince Saint Preux. I was exposed to a lot of amazing fighters, all different styles, and skill levels. It was amazing for my development. It definitely made me realize I can compete with the best of them, being able to do rounds and rounds and rounds with Jon Jones and create a friendship, have the coaches noticing me [even if] I was only 22 at the time, still very young and inexperienced. The main thing I loved was there was a lot of camaraderie. It’s almost like you’re hanging out or just chilling with your mates all the time and then you go and train so I like that sort of relaxed vibe. The friendships that you make also helps with the training, keeps your mind at ease, it keeps you in a good mind frame with training.”

Even if he’s now a UFC fighter, Bukauskas feels he has no need to go back across the pond and train at those facilities.

“My dad and I have developed a system of all my training sessions here in London so that I can get extremely high-level coaching in every aspect. Danny Batten down at BST Academy has really helped me with my development as a fighter especially with the aspects of getting back up to my feet, anti-wrestling, and stuff like that. I mean, you’ve got hundreds Gracie’s academies, Mill Hill BJJ, Legion Wrestling, and the boxing sparring is completely second to none out here in comparison to any other country or anywhere else”, he said.

“I’ve got my dad helping me with everything, with my strength and conditioning, and I’ve got amazing training partners. Right now, I don’t feel the need to go anywhere else because I have everything here. Realistically, until my training partners are no longer there… that will be the only reason why I need to sort of going somewhere else.”

Modesta Bukauskas and his dad
Modesta Bukauskas and his dad (photographer Dolly Clew, via @modyb24 on Instagram)

As mentioned above, Modestas Bukauskas hasn’t been able to make his long-anticipated debut, but his itch to fight hasn’t gone away. In fact, he’s campaigning to fight on UFC’s Fight Island.

“I had my fight booked for May 16, so I want to fight,” he said. “I’ve been preparing this whole time to be able to go out and fight, perform, and do the business. This is an amazing opportunity that Dana White has created for all of his fighters to still keep active, instead of taking maybe a year or half a year out. I’m in the absolute prime of my years, I need to make the most out of it, and show people what I’m all about because at the minute there’s still absolutely no noise about me whatsoever, so I want to go out there and make an impact, make a statement as well. I still want to fight and now having the avenue where fighters can fly over somewhere and rules, regulations, and safety is going to be all put in place for us to be able to compete, is absolutely amazing. So, of course, I would jump on the opportunity to fight on the Island.”

Even if it’s understandable for a fighter wanting to fight even in these rough times, bad things could still happen. In fact, just recently, UFC fighter Lyman Good tested positive to COVID–19. It has to be said, though, that UFC is planning to test all of his fighters prior to their respective bouts, but it also worth noting that tests can result in false positives.

However, that won’t stop Modestas Bukauskas.

“I understand overseas that this coronavirus situation is extremely bad. There’s been a lot of people affected and it’s a very dangerous disease and now obviously there’s been a UFC fighter who has had it and is good that he’s stepped up to say that. But, honestly and truly, it doesn’t really scare me to go out and compete on a completely isolated island, away from everything else. [Plus] Dana White’s safety procedures and protocols are going to be second to none. I mean, he’s the boss of one of the biggest companies in the world. So, obviously, he’s gonna do everything he can to put everything in place so that his fighters are safe and they can compete and do everything properly”, Bukauskas said.

“The situation is bad within the world and it’s not a good thing, we want everything to resolve and be okay”, he continued. “But at the end of the day, life has to go on. We fighters have to make money. Dana White’s providing entertainment to everyone. I think is a great opportunity to be able to resolve the problems that they’re facing in order to fight. Obviously you don’t have the coronavirus until you get it, but at the same time, I’m very confident in Dana White’s safety procedures.”

Fight Island or not, though, the former Cage Warriors light heavyweight title-holder, wants to fight as soon as he can.

“To be honest, I would like to fight the original opponent that I had scheduled for May 16. That is the ideal situation. But obviously, at the end of the day, whoever they give me I’ll be 100% prepared, I’ll be 100% ready. You have to adapt and overcome in that octagon. So whoever will be in front of me, I’ll be able to challenge the problem head-on, embrace the situation and go ahead. [I’m going to] weather any storm that is presented to me and become victorious.”

Who do you like you see Modestas Bukauskas facing for his UFC debut?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 4/24/2020.