Cage Warriors light heavyweight champion Modestas Bukauskas, like most fighters, has the goal of competing against the best fighters in the world. With his most recent performance, there’s a strong chance that phone may ring to give him that opportunity he desires.
Bukauskas, in a fight many felt was a proverbial litmus test, finished Riccardo Nosiglia with a flurry of vicious elbows in the first round of the co-main event of last month’s Cage Warriors 111 event. The event took place at the Indigo at the O2 in London, England.
The 25-year-old Bukauskas captured the title at June’s Cage Warriors 106 event when he finished Marthin Hamlet Nielsen via TKO in the fourth round. Now 6-0 as a light heavyweight, Bukauskas admittedly felt he wasn’t getting the respect he deserved heading into his first title defense against a surging fighter like Nosiglia. The constant chatter amongst fans and media members forced him to step his game up even more which lead to him delivering the quick, dominant finish people had been waiting to see.
“I had a very tough opponent. He’s definitely my toughest opponent to date,” Bukauskas told The Body Lock. “Coming out with the win was obviously an emphatic feeling for me. It was very surreal because I had visualized everything, sort of like it did in my last fight and that’s kind of the thing I do now. It was like deja vu getting back in the cage and doing the job. I had pictured it ending in a different way but I wanted it to end by knockout and it did.”
Nosiglia looked to wrestle early in the fight, which was a strategy that surprised Bukauskas. Nosiglia had finished his last three opponents heading into his opportunity to have Cage Warriors gold wrapped around his waist and used a lot of striking on the feet to set up those finishes.
Around the midway point of the opening round, Nosiglia shot for a takedown and had the champion’s back against the fence. As the Italian prospect was trying to improve his position, Bukauskas could hear his father and coach yell out to him to begin throwing elbows — almost mirroring Travis Browne’s finish of Josh Barnett at UFC 168 in 2013. Bukauskas would land the brutal elbow strikes over and over again until Nosiglia was unconscious, leading to referee Leon Roberts calling a stop to the action.
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) November 22, 2019
For those who haven’t been locked in a cage with another human being fighting for the glory of victory, Bukauskas described the finish to help people live vicariously through him.
“Whenever those shots were happening, I didn’t even know that he was going,” Bukauskas explained. “At the beginning, I landed a couple that were not so hard, and then one clean elbow trying to get through his guard. He ended up giving me an opening and I remember hearing Leon Roberts say, ‘watch the back of the head’ — which weirdly enough, during the rules meeting, I had asked where the back of the head was. In training, me and my dad, we were working on takedown defense in the corner and he told me that if we get into this position, ‘throw some elbows to the head.’ In the corner [during the fight], I heard my dad saying ‘elbows, elbows, elbows’.
“After that one shot you could feel in the way that he was holding me that it was hard. When you connect with that one shot, and I started dropping one elbow, then two, then three, at that point I’m just trying to get him out of there. It was weird because you almost put all of your energy into striking as hard and as fast as you can. You really do feel like you’re almost in a nightmare and the guys are trying to kill you, so when those shots are landing you just want to keep going. You feel like you can’t stop and I didn’t know that he was completely knocked out until after when I went over to help him up.
“You may think it’s a pretty nasty thing to think, and then you see me jumping on the cage and doing all of my antics afterwards. But as soon as all of the emotions of winning had come true and everything calmed down, I was actually very worried about my opponent. I wanted to help him up and thank him for the challenge, but seeing him stumbling around like that and being an empathetic guy, I just wanted my opponent to be OK.”
With six straight finishes since moving up to the 205-pound division, along with winning and defending Cage Warriors gold, Bukauskas has put himself in a strong position to get that life-changing phone call from the UFC brass. As cliche as it sounds, timing is everything in this wacky sport that is mixed martial arts.
The UFC will be returning to London in March when the calendar shifts to 2020 and after the victory, Bukauskas was back in the gym just a few days later getting ready, getting sharper, and preparing for that phone to ring. Bukauskas is just getting started in this sport and with his recent resume of fight stoppages, along with being a nearly lifelong Londoner, he feels like the stars should align for an Octagon debut in his backyard.
“Obviously, you’ve got to see what the matchmakers are thinking but if you look at light heavyweights from Britain who are actually from London that are in the UFC, I believe I would literally be the only one,” Bukauskas said. “There are others from England and from Scotland, but I’m actually from London. In my view, I would sell highly to that crowd being from there and being from that town for pretty much my whole life.
“I’ve been living here for ages and I sound British, anyways. But with the three finishes against three top-level fighters, I think that’s… listen, there’s a lot of great light heavyweights out there, but they’re all getting signed and some guys are 6-0, 7-0. I’m 10-2 right now, 6-0 as a light heavyweight and I’ve finished three high-level opponents. It’s always been my goal to fight the best in the world and I feel like for me to show my skillset even more, I need to fight in the UFC.
“Of course I feel ready and let’s see if fate goes my way. It’s my job to train, get better, do my thing and hope that call will come.”