Modestas Bukauskas (14-5 MMA, 2-3 UFC) isn’t playing around ahead of his UFC light heavyweight bout with Zac Pauga (6-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) scheduled for Saturday, June 17 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
The Lithuanian-born Englishman said his American foe is a good fighter who he respects.
“But at the end of the day, I’m there to take him out, I’m there to tear him limb from limb and decapitate him,” Bukauskas told MMASucka. “I’m having to fly again to another country. I’m invading land, that is what I’m doing. I’m going over to other people’s territory and taking over their land.”
Bukauskas, since returning to the UFC after a two-fight return to Cage Warriors, is 1-0, dispatching Tyson Pedro via unanimous decision in Perth, Western Australia. “The Baltic Gladiator” has adopted a new mindset on how he views his UFC bouts.
“It’s just war, bro. It’s just battle. At the end of the day, what are we doing? We’re modern-day gladiators,” Bukauskas said. “Back in the olden days, people were fighting with freaking swords and trying to kill each other. Now, it’s a more civilized game. We’re out here with gloves and referees. In the olden times, people would invade other people’s lands, wreak havoc and slay everyone. I know that’s very brutal and primal, but that’s the history of the world. I’m going out to enemy territory once again. I’m going out to another country, and I’m looking to take over. I’m looking to destroy them. Obviously, it’s a sport, and after the fight, there’s the utmost respect and there’s honor. But before the fight, this is f—ing war. This is battle. This is no fun and games. I’ve been on the other end of fights where guys didn’t give a shit about me.”
Bukauskas was released from the UFC in 2021 following the Khalil Rountree loss, a fight in which he suffered knee damage after Rountree landed a sidekick to the knee. Bukauskas underwent knee surgery and found himself a free agent.
He responded with wins over Lee Chadwick and Chuck Campbell in Cage Warriors, winning the promotion’s light heavyweight championship for a second time.
“I get my leg f—ed up and all, but boo-hoo for [Khalil Rountree],” he said. “No one cares. This is a very dark sort of mentality, but that’s how it is. I was saying things like ‘It’s do or die,’ and in my whole sense of being, I wasn’t being that guy. Now I am 100% that guy. I’m fully embracing and taking on everything I’m speaking here. And sort of tap into my ancestry a little bit as well. Lithuanians have had to fend off enemy countries for decades on horseback with swords. This is no different. The way I see it, this is a modern-day war, and I’m going in there with that mentality.”
Bukauskas said Pauga is “very well-rounded” and proficient in all areas of the game, but that he lacks any one area where he stands out.
“In the short space of time he’s done MMA, he’s done an incredible job of acquiring a skillset in such a short space of time having done it,” Bukauskas said. “He’s played other sports, so the transition, I can imagine, wasn’t too difficult. However, not to say, I understand he’s skilled everywhere. But nothing really jumps out at me. I understand he’ll want to impose his grappling against me, but he’s got another thing coming if he thinks I don’t have good grappling. That’s fine. This is war. We’ll let them think what they want. The cage doors gonna close, and you’ve got to try and impose your will on me. It ain’t gonna be easy, and he ain’t gonna do it.”
Bukauskas, on the other hand, plans to use all the skills he acquired since his first UFC run and unleash them on Pauga.
“I’ve gone with this mindset of embracing and challenging the pressure and everything. I thrive in it a lot more now. I love it. I love being in stressful, crazy situations because it gives me energy. This is where I think I will thrive. I’m looking to put it on him from the first bell. He’s good. He’s good everywhere, but this is my chance to show the levels between me and him. So that’s exactly what I’m going to go out and do.”
Bukauskas will hold the reach advantage over Pauga – unlike when he fought Pedro. He anticipates it will be easier to find his range against Pauga and then impose his will.
“You guys will be witness to the wizardry that will occur next weekend,” Bukauskas said.
Bukauskas said Pauga will look to impose his own game plan, but he feels he is more skillful and dangerous and has seen more fighting styles than his foe.
“The Baltic Gladiator” has worked on countering anything he feels Pauga – or any opponent for that matter – can throw at him.
“As I say, I’m ready for anything, yeah? Guys can change their game plan and change their way of fighting in a split second. You’ve got to adapt on the fly and adapt in the fight. I’m ready for his tendencies and what he’s potentially going to look to do, but at the same time, I’m ready for whatever he’s going to throw at me. He can come out completely different. When I fought Khalil Rountree, he came out a completely different animal to his last fight. And same with me. For me, who would’ve thought I’d fight the way I fought Tyson Pedro coming back? No one. You’ve got to be ready for anything, and that’s why I prepare to be ready for anything.”
Bukauskas is also preparing for a violent, action-packed fight. But ultimately, he believes the clash will culminate in him finishing Pauga, whether it’s round 1, 2 or 3.
“I will go out there and I will finish him. I respect him. I respect his game. He’s a great athlete. I’m better. I’m going to show that. We’re going out to decapitate him in his home country. This is war, man. I can’t say it any other way. I can respect the guy as much as I want. He’s a nice guy, clearly. We can be respectful and friendly afterward. But up until that point, as I mentioned before, it is me trying to tear his head off.”
Bukauskas is eyeing a top-15 contender sometime next year. He is planning for three wins in 2023 – Pedro, Pauga, and another fighter – and then another win or two next year.
“I reckon five wins altogether, and I’m top-15.”
The UFC Vegas event is set to air on ESPN+.
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