Highly-touted prospect Modestas Bukauskas spoke to Pundit Arena ahead of his first shot at Cage Warriors gold at tonight’s massive CW106 show in London.
Gegard Mousasi, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy, Conor McGregor.
All household names who had at one time or another fought under the Cage Warriors banner. All fighters who eventually used the platform as a springboard into the mainstream eye and eventually, greatness within the sport.
Cage Warriors has had a long and storied tradition of producing excellent fighters and tonight, at their biggest show of the year, Modestas Bukauskas looks to join that upper-tier of excellence by winning the promotion’s 205lb belt.
As a result, feeling the pressure of stepping into a pair of shoes once held by the former Cage Warriors light-heavyweight champion and future UFC champ Michael Bisping would, of course, be understandable.
Speaking to us here at Pundit Arena, however, Modestas displayed a quiet confidence in his ability to get the job done and establish himself as the promotional light-heavyweight king.
“Obviously being on such a momentous card fighting for a title that loads of fighters before like Michael Bisping and others held, it’s very prestigious. With that on the line, it just makes me even more excited and motivated to go in there and put on the performance of my life.
“In terms of nerves, I feel exactly the same, but I’m just more excited for this one.
“I needed experience and added wisdom. I feel like every fight I’m opening up my skillset. In terms of the work you do in training and what you can do there, I’ve still not shown about 50% of what I can do.
“Every single fight I’m growing in confidence, at handling that pressure so now, it just feels normal.
Marthin Hamlet is the man who stands between Bukauskas and his first major world-title, a guy who is something of a strong finisher in his own right – having rattled off four stoppages in his five pro-fights so far in his unbeaten career.
Although no doubt aware of the dangers Hamlet will pose, Modestas sees him more as the natural next step, given his own development.
“Obviously, he’s on a five-fight win-streak and he has got a lot of credentials from his wrestling career and stuff – which gels into his MMA career and he has a good team around him.
“I feel like this is the right opponent for me at this time. I feel like everyone opponent has been a step up from the last one.”
A four-fight winning-streak kicked off his pro-career before back-to-back losses against Pavel Doroftei and Ireland’s own John Redmond forced him to look at himself and his mentality going forward.
Citing a switch to 205lbs and exposure to the legendary Jon Jones as a catalyst for his newfound form, Bukauskas projected a real honesty of sorts about where and why he needed to change when he did.
“I went 4-0 initially when I started my pro-career at middleweight and then I ended up losing two-in-a-row. I just think mentally I wasn’t at the right stage to compete at that level.
“Skill-set-wise and physically, though – before I lost my first fight, I went out and trained with Jon Jones for a while and every day I was training with him in his camp for Ovince St. Preux.
“When you can see that you have the skillset, obviously it’s very disappointing – especially the second fight – but that’s MMA for you, so credit to my opponents for delivering.”
“Since then, I’ve moved up a weight-class – I’m now fighting at light-heavyweight. I’m much stronger, much more energised in my training sessions. Fighting at a heavier weight, I feel like I’m more powerful, more explosive.”
Cage Warriors 106 is not just one of the biggest shows in the promotion’s history, but it’s also one of the biggest European events of the year.
For Modestas, winning on Saturday night will provide him with concrete validation of what he already knows and solidify his place among the very best fighters on the continent.
“I 100% feel like I’m the best fighter on this roster and one of the best fighters in Europe. I know I can fight with the top fighters. All I need to do now is go out there and prove it, be confident, be myself, and just unleash everything I know I can.
“If I can do that, I know I’ll be able to put on a spectacular performance.”
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena