As an economics graduate from one of America's most prestigious universities, Jake Butler, had the world at his feet. With such impressive credentials he could have easily found himself a lucrative job in the financial sector, but instead he has decided to dedicate himself to competing in mixed martial arts (MMA).
As well as having an aptitude with numbers, Butler has always been an exceptional athlete and was a decorated college wrestler who competed at an NCAA Division I-level and captained the wrestling team at Princeton University. After successfully completing his course he entered the workforce, but couldn't quite bring himself to give up competitive sport in order to lead a conventional life,
"I ended up following the path of most of my peers which was finance in New York City, but I burned out on that scene pretty quickly and at that point I started looking for ways to get back into competing. I had been interested in MMA for a long time but in university I was focused only on training in wrestling, after I finished and started to see a lot of wrestlers making the transition my interest grew."
Butler will make his professional debut on Feb. 2, 2013, but he is not starting off on a small scale regional show. His fight with Antonio Romulo will be the first of the night at ONE FC: "Return of Warriors," which is set for the 16,000 capacity Stadium Putra in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It is a long way from Wall Street and Butler's economics degree will be of limited use when he takes on the Indonesian, but he has been studying a skill set of a completely different kind and is ready to show that he has all the necessary qualifications to be a successful fighter.
"I believe that here at Evolve MMA in Singapore I have some of the best coaches in the world in Chatri Sityodtong, Heath Sims and the countless Muay Thai World Champions. I believe in them, and I am confident I will be prepared. I have been competing in wrestling all my life and I have a pretty good idea of the emotions and mental battles I will face leading up to the fight because I have been there before."
Evolve MMA is a state-of-the-art martial arts academy, which is the brainchild of Thai entrepeneur Chatri Sityodtong who, like Butler, comes from a financial background. He is a Harvard graduate who made millions on Wall Street before deciding that it was martial arts, rather than money, which really motivated him.
The two men have much in common and came to meet each other when Butler responded to an appeal for a top class wrestling coach to join the Evolve MMA Fight Team,
"I reached out to Kru Chatri, explained my situation and background. and after quite a few conversations he invited me to come to Singapore and try out for the team. I spent a few days training with the team, which was extremely difficult at the time because everyone on the team is in fighting shape year round. I spoke a lot with Chatri and the rest of the Evolve team, and was ultimately offered a spot on the team. I accepted immediately, and here I am."
When Butler was studying at Princeton he probably envisaged himself in a comfortable desk job but instead he finds himself training alongside fighters from Brazil, Thailand, Japan and all over the globe. The Evolve MMA Fight Team comprises world champions in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and boxing and Butler feels it is the perfect environment for him to make the transition from wrestler to mixed martial artist.
"As a training facility it is as good as it gets. As I said before, a lot of fighters have it difficult in that they need to balance full time work schedules with sporadic training schedules at multiple facilities. At Evolve MMA we all train as a team at the same time every day in the same place. We don’t need to spend time travelling to different places or juggling our schedules to fit in training because everything is already in place, we just have to show up ready to work."
Butler has given up a spot at a desk on the stock exchange for a place on one of the most competitive teams in the world and his working week has changed beyond all recognition as a result.
"The average week is very busy, with a lot of training and by Sunday, my rest day, I am completely exhausted. At Evolve MMA we are very lucky to have the training schedule we do because everyone on the Evolve Fight Team trains together twice a day at the fighter’s program, morning and afternoon. During this time we have no teaching responsibilities. We can focus 100 percent on training. Our work schedules revolve around the Fighter’s Program. Compared to most other fighters, we have it pretty good here at Evolve MMA. Everything we need is in one place."
Butler has signed with Singapore-based promotion ONE FC and is already being tipped as one of the most exciting light heavyweight prospects in the region. His skill set is highly unusual in Asia and there are very few fighters here with such a strong wrestling pedigree, but he is the firs to admit that he has much to learn.
"Prior to arriving at Evolve MMA I had done some training here and there, but it wasn’t really until I arrived in Singapore that I dedicated myself to it full time. There is so much to learn in MMA, and at Evolve our focus is on being complete mixed martial artist. I have worked really hard on my Muay Thai but I also spend a lot of time on wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Heath Sims is our head MMA coach, so he has helped me a lot on bringing them all together."
While the UFC has more than its fair share of NCAA division one level wrestlers there are few, if any, of them trying to make the grade in Asia and Butler believes that having survived and, ultimately, thrived in such an intensely competitive environment he has all the tools he needs to succeed in Asian MMA.
"College wrestling in the US is a big sport, and it is extremely competitive. To reach the top requires a full commitment and most start at a very young age and even prior to High School are fully committed to training and competing at very high levels. Very few, if any, top wrestlers in the US train in anything other than wrestling because it is a year-round every day pursuit. In my opinion, wrestlers are some of the hardest working and toughest athletes in the world."
Butler has had the opportunity to apply that work ethic to the sport of mixed martial arts and the results will be there for all to see at ONE FC: "Return of Warriors." This wrestling stud who graduated from one of the world's top universities has elected to dedicate his considerable talent to the sport of mixed martial arts and on Feb. 2, 2013, we will get a good indication as to whether the brave decision he made was, indeed, the right one.