The fighters on the card at ONE FC: Return of Warriors come from a diverse range of backgrounds, but perhaps none has a more unlikely life story than American light heavyweight Jake Butler, whose bout with Indonesia’s Antoni Romulo will be the first of the night.
After being educated at an Ivy League university he seemed destined for a career in finance but instead of taking the path which had seemingly been prescribed for him Butler decided to embark on a dramatically different journey,
“I graduated from Princeton University with a degree in economics. Most of my class ended up working in finance in New York and initially that’s what I did. But I soon realised I wanted to do something else with my life,” he said.
Butler was a standout wrestler during his school days and continued to excel in this sport at university, captaining the team at Princeton and competing at the NCAA Division I level, the pinnacle of college wrestling competition in the US.
Whereas college athletes who excel in sports such as American football, basketball and baseball have the opportunity to compete at a professional level after graduation there are no lucrative contracts waiting for wrestlers.
For someone like Butler, who had been a successful wrestler since the age of eight, this left an abyss in his life which even a lucrative career on Wall Street could not come close to filling.
He missed the training, the camaraderie and the thrill of competition and when an opportunity arose to potentially pursue a similar dream in Singapore he seized upon it, “I heard that Asia’s number one martial arts academy, Evolve MMA, was looking for a wrestler to join the team, and I immediately contacted ChatriSityodtong the owner to apply.
I was invited to Singapore to try out for the fight team and fortunately I was successful.”
Butler went from a career in finance to becoming a full-time fighter rubbing shoulders with world champion coaches and training partners. He was following his heart and pursuing his dream but that doesn’t mean that life in Singapore is easy.
“On the Evolve fight team there are world champions in boxing, muay Thai and [Brazilian jiu-jitsu], and there is even an Olympic wrestler, Heath Sims. Everyone is in fighting shape all year round, and it can be difficult to keep up with training partners who have so much experience, but when you are in that type of environment you learn very fast.”
After a few months training, Butler was signed by Asia’s biggest MMA promotion, ONE Fighting Championship, who hoped the American would bolster its light heavyweight division. He will be making his professional MMA debut on February 2 in Malaysia and has been preparing intensively,
“My training schedule is long and gruelling! I train twice a day, six days a week at the Evolve MMA Fighter’s Program. The mornings are usually focused on MMA and we do some grappling, BJJ, wrestling, and straight MMA with the afternoons more focused on striking and muay Thai. I also have to get in two to three strength and conditioning workouts a week with a much needed rest on a Sunday.”
After graduating from Prince-ton and cutting his teeth in the world of Wall Street, Butler is no stranger to studying hard and the value of hard work. He has even more incentive to put the hours in now because he knows that at the end of it all he will be fighting another man in the ONE FC cage and there can only be one winner.
Although wrestling is a very physical sport it seems almost genteel in comparison to MMA. It would be understandable if Butler was nervous, particularly as ONE FC : Return of Warriors will be broadcast all over Asia by ESPN Star Sports. But he says he has no regrets about his change of career
“I don’t miss the financial world and I don’t see myself going back there because I love martial arts. I’m lucky to have the chance to learn from the best trainers in the world, it’s an honour to be a member of the Evolve MMA team and I’m very happy with how my life has turned out.”