“I live in the middle of nowhere, literally in the woods. It’s like freakin’ Hogwarts out here,” Modestas Bukauskas says, his accent resembling that of a north Londoner, relatively than a Lithuanian.
“There’s a bit near my house with no signal, and right before I was about to drive in there, my manager gives me a video call. It was late at night, I freakin’ swerve to the side of the road, completely disregarding that there were about two cars behind me. My manager goes: ‘Bro, you’re fighting in Australia in two weeks – in the UFC.’ I literally broke down into tears.”
It was as if the Lithuanian-born Briton had entered a mirrored actuality; one 12 months earlier, Bukauskas had been shedding tears over a name from his supervisor, however the information was altogether much less constructive. In late 2021, the event was that Bukauskas had been lower by the UFC. Sitting at residence recovering from a severe knee harm, and reflecting on a 3rd successive defeat, Bukauskas had in reality seen the information on Twitter earlier than his supervisor might even verify it.
In the 12 months that ensued, Bukauskas was out of the Octagon, however he was nonetheless in a cage.
“The amount of pain and struggle, drinking in bed…” The 29-year-old cuts himself off. “Just so many hard f***ing memories, having to go through the deepest and darkest times. I don’t remember a time when I was acting myself. It just seemed like I was in a picture with no colour. Everything was black and white. Mentally, I was broken. I had a lot of things to fix before I could even move forward.”
First to be mounted was the knee. Then, someway, Bukauskus was certainly in a position to transfer ahead.
At first, it might need appeared like transferring backwards. In 2019, earlier than becoming a member of the UFC, Bukauskas had received and retained the Cage Warriors light-heavyweight title; after leaving the UFC, he turned down different affords and opted to return to the London-based promotion. Perhaps, unknowingly, Bukauskas was shining the glass of that mirrored actuality. Within two months, and two fights, he had as soon as once more secured Cage Warriors’ light-heavyweight crown.
And then got here the decision – on the facet of the street, on the opening of the forest, in the midst of nowhere.
“I was absolutely elated,” Bukauskas tells The Independent. “After I got off the phone with my manager, I was playing some, like, war music in the car – a remix of the Witcher video-game music – full blast for the last five minutes back to my house. I was screaming with just… fierceness. I got home and felt kind of dizzy, it was weird. I didn’t feel like I was there.
“I went upstairs to tell my step-mum, and she was kind of worried, because I was almost out of breath. Then my dad was chilling in bed after a hard day, and he was like (Bukauskas taps into a Lithuanian accent): ‘What the hell do you need to get me out of bed for?’ I brought them downstairs and told them, ‘We’re back in the UFC,’ just hugged them and broke down in tears again. Over the last couple of years, that’s probably one of the happiest moments I’ve had, just me with my family, hugging each other in our sitting room.”
Bukauskas’ father, particularly, understands the struggles that the game entails. In the Eighties, earlier than the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Gintas Bukauskas realized to struggle on the streets of occupied Lithuania, earlier than occurring to work as a blended martial arts coach. Gintas introduced his household to Britain when Modestas was three years outdated and first launched his son to fight sports activities two years later.
“I just remember vividly that he would show me some kicks, some moves,” Modestas recollects. “At that age, you’re just like, ‘That looks cool! Look at that kick!’ Literally about a week into showing me some stuff, he goes (Bukauskas dips into that Lithuanian accent again): ‘Okay, now you must train hard.’ My childhood was thrown into strict regime and training. There was kickboxing, sambo. I kind of branched into different sports later – county-level tennis, I went to high school in the US for a couple of years and played basketball and American football – and I took a break from full-on martial arts from 12 to 18. But as a teenager I still became a four-time British kickboxing champion.”
Bukauskas’ father was there by means of all of it, and he was in his son’s nook when the 29-year-old’s journey introduced him again to the UFC this February, as Bukauskas took on Tyson Pedro on the Australian’s personal turf.
Fighting in Perth on two weeks’ discover, Bukauskas emerged as a call winner in opposition to Pedro over three rounds, greeting the revelation of the judges’ scorecards with a roar of reduction within the RAC Arena.
“This is where everything can start to make a solid story,” Bukauskas says. “It’s by no means finished, we’ve got many more things to do, but I’m starting to build a proper comeback story.”
Bukauskas may stay off the map, however he’s now firmly again on the UFC’s.