Modestas Bukauskas returns to UFC Apex with 'bulletproof' mind two years after nasty knee injury put him in 'dark place' | The Sun

MODESTAS BUKAUSKAS has no fear about fighting at the UFC Apex tonight – despite suffering a potentially career-ending knee injury in his last visit to the venue.

The Baltic Gladiator will be back in action in Sin City for the first time since having his left knee brutally blown out in his 2021 showdown with Khalil Rountree Jr.

Bukauskas was cut following the defeat – his third on the bounce – and went into a “very dark place” during his long and arduous road to recovery.

But recover he did – mentally and physically – to become a two-time Cage Warriors light-heavyweight champion and seal a successful short-notice return to the UFC against Tyson Pedro in February. 

Bukauskas developed a "bulletproof" mindset during his rehab, which is why he has no trepidation about returning to the scene of one of the lowest moments of his life. 

The Lithuanian-born Brit told SunSport: "I'm completely bulletproof mentally now. I've been through so much.


Bukauskas reveals he battled out of ‘dark place’ to seal second UFC stint

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"I don't necessarily think it's numbness [that I have], I just think it's more wisdom.

"Those situations and those really hard and deep darkness moments almost brings that darkness out of you.

"Like I say, red lightsaber, blue lightsaber. The red lightsaber is now in full utilisation. It was literally kept away in a dusty closet and never really being used.

"And now, because of all these experiences that I've had, it's made me, mentally, a much tougher person.

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"It's made me more of an aggressive person in terms of my fighting and wanting to show out a little bit more.

"It's made me a bit more fearless. Sometimes a pretty bad situation can be the best thing that's happened to you.

"And I truly believe that those things that happened to me were setting me up for what was to come.

"For all the glory and all the success that was about to come, it was just setting me up for that.

"For me, this is almost my chance to rewrite the script and to change history. The last time I've gone to Vegas, it hasn't really gone well.

"But now, it's a chance to completely flip it. 360 degrees and up on its head and get an amazing victory in Vegas."

Bukauskas felt like he had a point to prove ahead of his Perth punch-up with City Kickboxing's Pedro.

And he still has that mentality going into his UFC on ESPN 47 clash with Zach Pauga – despite taking out one of the most highly-touted 205ers outside of the top-15 last time out.

He said: "I'm still out here to try and prove a point. I showed one good fight and that was on short notice.

"And it's like, 'Oh bloody hell, you did good.' But there are still people wondering where the potential is and how high is.

"And people are wondering, 'What can this guy really do?' And this is my chance to really show that.

"A lot of people are thinking, 'These skillsets are still left untapped within the cage within the UFC. So how good is he really?'

"Well, I'm about to show you lot what I can really do. I'm going out there with the same mentality, the same warrior spirit of conquering lands and invading other countries."

Many thought Bukauskas' decision win over Pedro would earn him a fight against a more recognised name in the stacked light-heavyweight division.

The booking, however, wasn't a surprise to Bukauskas – who asked to fight Pauga by name.

He revealed: "It was actually one of the names I put forward.

"I put forward to my manager a couple of different names, a couple of different potential matches that we could have had.

"But at the end of the day, you've got to pick them off one by one and you've got to take your time."

Taking his time is something, with the benefit of hindsight, Bukauskas wishes he'd done in his first UFC run.

"I rushed in[to things] in my last UFC run," he admitted. "I fought Jimmy Crute in my second fight.

"I fought Michal Oleksiejczuk, who had a lot of experience, and Khalil Rountree Jr – again – a lot of experience.

"You've got to take this fight game as a business as well."

Bukauskas' request to face Pauga was by no means a suggestion that he thinks he can easily dispose of his fellow Cage Warriors alum – although that's what he's planning to do in emphatic fashion.

"He's very talented and he's very well versed in every area, but I'm just better," Bukauskas said of Pauga. "This is my chance to go out there and show that I am better.

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"I just know that in my heart and my soul. I've been in this game longer… I'm the younger man but I've been in this game longer and I'm a better overall MMA fighter.

"I'm gonna go out there and be ferocious and be vicious and put it on him. I'm gonna get the finish."

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