The long list of former Cage Warriors world champions successfully transitioning to the UFC at the first time of asking, continued last week – as the promotion’s former light heavyweight kingpin, Modestas Bukauskas scored an opening-frame knockout in his long-awaited debut under the promotion’s banner.
The Lithuanian striker met with Andreas Michailidis at UFC Fight Island 1 – following the removal of original opponent, Vinicius Moreira, and defying his own second-round finish prediction, Bukauskas scored a barrage of elbow strikes, Travis Browne-esque – leaving Michailidis unable to continue into the second round.
After a volley of seven or so elbow strikes, Michailidis had slumped to his knees, and as the klaxon sounded, referee Dan Movahedi separated the two, with Bukauskas watching on as the Grecce native failed to make it to his feet, before falling through the Octagon door as it opened. Failing to respond to Movahedi’s instructions – Michailidis was deemed unable to continue.
Speaking with MMA Power Hour recently, the 26-year-old questioned the Octagon door narrative and insisted Movahedi’s decision to call the fight, was the correct one.
“When the round ended – because I heard the bell had went (sic), I know I’d landed some pretty devastating elbows, Bukauskas said. “I think even after the first one, he dropped to the floor and that’s why I kept on going with it. I was like, ‘Ok, I wanna see if I can try and finish him’. When the round ended, I thought, ‘Ok, I didn’t land enough to put him away’ so, I guessing he’s gonna get back up to his feet, but he was like completely dazed. He laid on the floor, and you know, Dan Movahedi asked him to stand up three or four times and he didn’t stand up.“
“You know, there’s a load of people saying – putting this emphasis on this (Octagon) door being open, but I don’t understand what the hell that has to do with the fact that the opponent did not stand up straight away,” Bukauskas explained. “If you’re trying to lean against the cage, it means you’re not fit to fight, and you’re not ready to go. Dan Movahedi done an amazing job he said exactly what it was. He said, ‘They’re all legal blows’, and he told him to get up. To be honest, I was ready to go to the next round, and I’m like, ‘Ok, now I’m going to try and finish him properly in the second round’ because I thought he would stand up. He looked completely out of it. I felt bad for my opponent because he didn’t look like he was all with it when I saw him afterwards. Like I say, I hope for a speedy recovery for him.“
Wednesday night marked a seventh straight win and seventh straight finish for Bukauskas – that earned him a Performance of the Night bonus, which he revealed he had given to his father. In terms of keeping that finish rate sky-high, the Gintas Combat trainee plans on doing just that.
“Not only am I trying to make as much money as possible, and help my family – like with this first bonus especially, it meant a lot to me to give it to my dad,” Bukauskas revealed.”I managed to fulfil that wish and fulfil that dream, and that was a big deal for me. I’m going to try and stack up as many of these bonuses as possible to help not only myself but my family, my friends, stuff like that. I wanna be able – for all of us to rise up together. Listen, I’m going out there to finish guys. I’m not going out there to – if I can keep this streak going with all these finishes and stuff like that, it makes me a more entertaining fighter. I’m going for the finish, I’m not going just to win rounds, and win points. I’m going to finish my opponent, and I think that brings more entertaining and exciting fights, and that’s what I’m aiming for every time I go out there.“
Returning from ‘Fight Island’ majorly unscathed – apart from a bursitis injury which flared up pre-fight, Bukauskas has earmarked a potential return as early as the promotion’s next trip to Yas Island, pointing to Khamzat Chimaev’s timely turnaround opposite Rhys McKee this weekend.
“I actually came into the fight with bursitis, which got infected a little bit but then it started to kinda calm down before the fight,” Bukauskas said. “I seem to have a bit of problem with coming into fights, not at 100%. That will heal up – it’s already starting to heal up. Like I said, I’ll be back to full strength by next week and I’ll be ready to get back into training and stuff like that. I’m just going to take a week off to rest and recover, really let my knee settle down and stuff.“
“Listen, I’m ready to fight on the next ‘Fight Island’,” Bukauskas said. “I talked to my manager, I said, ‘Listen, as soon as they can get me in a fight and as soon I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.’ You see Khamzat Chimaev literally just got a quick turnaround fight for himself against Rhys McKee – shout out to him (McKee) on getting signed to the UFC. That’s exactly what I want, I want a quick turnaround. I want to improve my skill set and work on things and stuff like that. I’ll be ready to fight again whenever they have the next ‘Fight Island’ all set up and ready to go. I’m ready to make a statement and put on spectacular performances.“
In terms of potential next opposition, Bukauskas dropped a couple of names, including fellow debutante, Roman Dolidze, as well as originally scheduled opponent, Moreira.
“Yeah, like I said – to be honest, I never really have anyone in mind,” Bukauskas told. “Like I said, I’m just trying to work up the ranks – trying to improve and slowly work up the ladder and get to the top of the UFC. I’m trying to get toward that title shot, I’m trying to win the title. That’s the big dream and goal I’m trying to work toward. I’m just doing whatever it takes in order to try and do that and just slowly work my way up, and just beat everyone – at the end of the day, I want to be known as the best fighter in the world, and you gotta keep picking people off.“
“Listen, to be honest – I was meant to fight Vinicius Moreira beforehand, I would love to still fight him,” Bukauskas explained. “He’s an extremely tough competitor – but I would also like to fight, Roman Dolidze. He had a very good performance, and like I say, I’d like to fight that guy – he just made his step into the UFC as well, and I think that would be an interesting matchup. I’m ready to take on whoever, whenever – sort of type deal and whatever steps are necessary to get toward that UFC gold, I’m just going to take the necessary steps towards that.“
Finally, Bukauskas had some praising and encouraging words for 24-year-old Ballymena prospect, Rhys McKee – who makes his first Octagon appearance as part of a four-fight deal this Saturday against the aforenoted, Chimaev in a short-notice clash. Like the Lithuanian, McKee joins a long list of Cage Warriors talent who made the Octagon transition.
“Massive big up to, Rhys McKee,” Bukauskas said. “Well done to him, he’s a very good fighter, very highly skilled. He’s been tearing it up on the Cage Warriors scene – tearing it up on every sort of big regional promotion out in the U.K. Look, it just shows how much Cage Warriors fighters that have gone to the UFC – that is the platform that you need to be winning and doing well at. It’s so highly recognised for guys in Europe.“
“Having to be patient at the same time, I know Rhys’ has had a lot of fights, so at the end of the day, you’ve gotta keep winning, keep winning impressively, go for the finish,” Bukauskas explained. “You’ve gotta create noise. You’re gonna be able to create noise on Cage Warriors, but it also depends on your performance as well. You’ve gotta make sure you’re entertaining as well, and you’ve got good management and stuff like that.“