Modestas Bukauskas traces his return to the UFC to a photo with Jon Jones.
In 2019, Bukauskas trained with the current heavyweight title challenger and declared he would win the light heavyweight title in Cage Warriors, his then-promoter. Jones gave his stamp of approval.
Then Bukauskas won the belt. He figured it was a sign to start writing down things in order to will them into existence.
“So I just started like, ‘OK, well hold on, let me get a white board,’” Bukauskas said on The MMA Hour.
Four days after beating Tyson Pedro at UFC 284, Bukauskas is beginning to believe in the power of that whiteboard, even if it’s record, at best, seems 50-50. He is the owner of a bonus-winning knockout in his 2020 UFC debut, which he predicted by promising his bonus to his parents. He is also the owner of a three-fight skid punctuated by a horrific knee injury, which led to his unceremonious release from the promotion.
A chance short-notice fight in Australia gave Bukauskas another chance in the UFC, and he took full advantage by upsetting a hometown favorite. In no way was it the way he thought things would work out, but he’s grateful they did.
“From everything coming true, everything started not coming true, basically,” he said. “From my dreams coming true to getting crashed down, passion burned in front of me. So now [that] everything is starting to happen again, it’s like a mystical thing, but I feel like everything obviously happened for a reason in order for me to succeed.”
There are more items on that whiteboard. Back in the UFC by 29, which came true. His new record of 14-5, cemented after his decision over Pedro. There are still a few tasks to tick off, the biggest of which is to be UFC champ by 31.
He’s got two years to go, but he’s not giving up.
“These these are things that I have in my head, [and] I’m working toward that,” he said. “I have the records written there. Obviously, the top ones are more like my long-term, but I’m gonna have to rub some of that stuff off, and the bottom ones more for like short-term kind of stuff.
“It’s just something to keep it in the forefront of my mind, what is that I want to achieve, what do I want to do and just keep it running through my head constantly.”
Being back in the UFC, Bukauskas felt like all of his struggles were worth the pain he endured. He learned of his UFC release via the Twitter account UFC Roster Watch instead of his manager. His knee required two surgeries after its complete destruction. He flirted with alcohol abuse in recovery. But his faith kept him in the fight.
“I think all the things that happened to me, like the really hard times, hard times, we’re all just part of god’s plan,” he said. “In order for me to become a UFC champion within the next couple of years, I had to go through all of this, because I tell you what bro, when I was in that cage in front of almost 15,000 people, I loved it. I even watch it back on the video, just me walking out of my hands out, I’m just like I’m here, you know what I mean? Like this is this is the moment I’ve been waiting for.
“Playing my entrance music, I felt very in the moment, and it felt absolutely amazing – I’m ready to fight. These are things that I didn’t feel before, so I feel like this rollercoaster had to happen this way, so I’m just grateful. As crap and s*** of the time it was, I’m grateful that happened this way, because I wouldn’t have learned the lessons needed in order to be where I am now, and I’m by no means finished.”