Modestas Bukauskas (15-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) will be voyaging into enemy territory for a third straight UFC bout.
“The Baltic Gladiator” is set to take on undefeated light heavyweight prospect Vitor Petrino (9-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) in his home country of Brazil at UFC Sao Paulo on Nov. 4.
Bukauskas, since returning to the UFC, defeated Tyson Pedro in Perth, Western Australia and Zac Pauga in Las Vegas. Bukauskas will take on Petrino in Brazil, where the crowd is known for getting behind its home fighters, serenading visiting fighters with “Uh vai morrer!” chants. That translates to, “You’re gonna die.”
“‘You’re gonna die,’ yeah. I think it just adds to the fight and intensity that I’m going to bring,” Bukauskas told MMASucka. “I’m usually the underdog or the away town guy. It’s no different in this case.”
Bukauskas noted Petrino is a rising young talent and expects the crowd to be “really behind” him. But he’s learned to embrace that.
“You win the crowd, you win your freedom, as they say in gladiator fighting,” he said. “This will be the same sort of effect. You win the crowd by beating their hometown guy. You win the crowd by putting on an amazing performance. When you can literally silence the crowd, that is a whole other level of satisfaction and ticking off another box on the bucket list of things to do in MMA. To silence a hometown crowd, that’s very exciting for me.”
Bukauskas said he knows the crowd will be hostile, crazy and he’ll be greeted by a chorus of boos. But he said he was “very fortunate” to have gotten a taste of that in Australia when he fought Pedro.
“Everyone was booing me when I was walking out in Australia. I know it’s not to the extent to what it’s going to be like in Brazil, but it’s sort of a feeler of what’s to come.”
The card will mark Bukauskas’s first time fighting in Brazil but his second visit to the country. Bukauskas, 29, trained at Team Nogueira when he was 21.
“You can imagine it was a crazy experience, but it was very needed. As part of my MMA growing process, that was a great trip. I did get friendly with a lot of the guys toward the end of the trip, which is good, because you have to earn their respect in their gym, especially when you’re an outsider. I’m looking forward to going back out to Brazil again.”
While Bukauskas hopes to silence the crowd with his work in the Octagon, he doesn’t plan to antagonize them. “Not at all,” in fact.
“Some people try and force things,” he said. “Some people try and push certain things or a certain persona. I’m not like that. I respect every country. I respect everyone I’ve come into contact with. Of course, I’m going into war against this guy. I’m not going to be throwing any nice tea parties with my opponent, because we’re going to war. Afterward, there is respect, but at the end of the day, the fact that their crowd is getting so madly behind their athletes for this sport is a beautiful thing. Let them. Let them enjoy pumping up their hometown guy. To almost take the energy away from their guy and put it into myself. As hostile and as crazy as it’s going to be, I thrive in this. I enjoy it. I use that as my own personal energy. I believe this is going to give me power coming from above. From the gods. This is going to give me even more strength. I love that the fans are so involved with this sport. It just means this sport is going to be growing to an even higher extent.”
Bukauskas said Petrino is young, very explosive, strong and possesses a good striking base. He acknowledged Petrino has been practicing mixed martial arts for a very long time. He added that both he and his foe have prowess in the stand-up.
“He seems to be pretty well-rounded but still very raw. He will be making improvements to his game as I’ve done over the course of the years of my career.”
Bukauskas questions how much improvement Petrino could have had since he fought Marcin Prachino in July but expects the Brazilian to make some adjustments.
“He’s a very powerful striker and very aggressive, especially when he’s on a high, he’s on a high,” Bukauskas said. “Being in his home country, if you let him start off on the right foot, he’s going to carry his energy even more. It’s going to be my job to be able to dampen the flame very quickly and early in that fight. I’ll have to put it on him from the get-go, otherwise, he’s going to use the energy to his favor.”
Bukauskas believes he possesses the better overall skill set, however.
“Who is going to be the better mixed martial artist? That is the question The answer is, I’m the best mixed martial artist,” he said. “I’m going to prove that on Nov. 4. I do believe it will be a barn burner. It will be a very explosive fight, but I will inevitably put on the volume and pressure, and I believe I will take the win.”
Bukauskas said Petrino has fought “good guys,” but added that Petrino has never fought anyone like him.
“I’ve learned a hell of a lot over the course of my career. I’ve been through the ups and the downs. He hasn’t tasted defeat yet.”
Bukauskas said Petrino has tallied up wins and gone 2-0 in the UFC.
“His confidence is going to be sky high, but any little notch in his armor, any little thing that puts him in a negative light is going to spill over massively,” he said. “It’s my job to go in and do that. Fighting in Brazil in your home country and being undefeated, that carries a lot of pressure, as well. As much as that gives him energy, it could also work against him as well. This is my job to put the pressure on him. I’ve got experience fighting very tough guys. I’ve got experience fighting a whole array of different fighters. I believe experience will be a massive factor that is going to help me to take this guy down.”
Bukauskas said he believes he will finish Petrino, as he always goes for the stoppage.
“I believe this will be a very explosive fight. It will be very entertaining for the fans. People will be on the edge of their seats for this one. You’ve got two very explosive guys. I do feel my experience will show, I will land that shot, and I will finish this fight.”
While Bukauskas enjoys fighting opponents in enemy territory, he wants a fight in his home country next. He wants to put on a dazzling show in the O2 Arena in London or a nearby venue next. He said the UFC has to get him on the next London card.
“To get me on the mic after this fight in Brazil after a massive win, and to call my shot to fight in the U.K., that’s going to be one big thing,” Bukauskas said.
He would like his next opponent to be someone higher-ranked than Petrino but not quite in the top-15. Bukauskas will have one fight left on his current contract after the fight with Petrino. His plan is to beat Petrino, win against another fighter in London, sign a new contract, and then get a top-15 light heavyweight.
“I made a mistake in my first UFC run of taking the big fight too soon,” he said. “I need to build my way up. I need to build up the confidence. I need to put on the performance I’m capable of, be explosive, be exciting, go out and take Petrino, go take out another guy who’s a prospect in the game, and then go toward that top-15. It’s very exciting stuff. But definitely next year, we’ll be breaking into the top-15.”
Bukauskas said he has not gotten a homecourt advantage fight in the UFC yet. He noted Pedro, who he beat in Australia, was hospitalized with a stomach bug after their fight in February that struck him the night before their fight, according to the UFC.
“Fair enough,” Bukauskas said. “But look, at the end of the day, people don’t look at what I had to bloody go through. I got there to Australia, which is on the other side of the world in comparison to me. The time difference is insanity. I got there on Wednesday at 4 in the morning, and I had to fight on Sunday at 10 in the morning. If people don’t think that’s not going to affect you, they’re crazy. If you want to look the odds stacked against me, I had a cold coming off of that plane with all that air conditioning. Having to change two flights as well was absolute madness. Coming out with the win there was crazy. Going to America, there were a lot of demons fighting in the Apex where I got my knee torn to shreds [against Khalil Rountree]. Again with the time difference and not being able to get there earlier. I would’ve liked to have gotten there more than a week early.”
Bukauskas said Brazil only has a four-hour time difference, so he expects to acclimatize better.
But he wants his home fight next. And he wants to hear the London crowd go ecstatic to “Talkin’ da Hardest” by Giggs.
“It’d be nice to have a crowd cheering for you as opposed to booing you. I think that would give me a completely different kind of energy. I’m all for the experiences. The whole experience of mixed martial arts. Obviously, I’m having the experience of having the crowd against me, but I also want to experience the crowd being for me, as well. Hopefully, it will get me more followers and more fans along the way as well. That is mainly due to having good performances, and that’s what I set out to do.”
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