The success of the UFC has ensured that there are no shortage of North Americans in the top tiers of MMA but the vast majority train and fight in the country of their birth. The ones who venture East seldom merit a mention in the US media but there are a number of American and Canadian fighters making waves in Asian MMA.
With most promotions favouring local fighters the route to the top in Asia is tougher for fighters from overseas but there are a handful of North American fighters who have chosen to try and make a name for themselves fighting for promotions on the other side of the world.
Jon Shores is a US serviceman who has been based in Japan since 2007 and fights for Pancrase. He made his professional MMA debut in 2010 and won his first ten fights, going unbeaten for the best part of two years.
He is a member of Team Rodeo in Japan and according to this interview with Iron Forges Iron his strengths are punching and grappling and his weaknesses are kickboxing and wrestling. Although he suffered the first loss of his career against Japanese veteran Takumi Nakayama in his last fight his record remains UFC calibre and his next fight is on August 5th against fellow American Guy Delumeau.
Originally from Hawaii Delumeau has spent his entire professional career competing in Japan. He is based at the Shooto Dojo in Tokyo and boasts an impressive 16-6-3 record. He has done most of his fighting for Shooto but has also fought for Deep and Pancrase and holds a 2011 win over Issei Tamura, who subsequently signed with the UFC.
He is an English teacher in Tokyo and has been fighting in Japan his entire career, since making his professional MMA debut in 2006. His next fight will be an all American affair against Shores at Pancrase and it is quite possible that the UFC matchmakers will be keeping a close eye on it.
Vaughn Anderson is Canadian although he was actually born in Manila, and his record stands at 16-1-1. He recently won the PRO Fighting Heavyweight Grand Prix which even though the competition was not stiff was still a remarkable achievement for a fighter who could still make 170 lbs
Anderson has fought in Singapore, China, Taiwan, Macau, Guam and Abu Dhabi and has trained all over Asia. He was a long time training partner of Ole Laursen at the Legacy Gym but is now the MMA coach at the X'ian Sports Institute. His only loss was to outstanding Chinese fighter Ao Lin Hao who would go on to retire undefeated.
Mitch Chilson is originally from Seattle but he has spent his entire professional career competing in Asia, and is something of a superstar in Singapore. He has been a member of Evolve MMA since it was first founded and is a long term part of the fight team which has grown to become the best in Asia and now includes Shinya Aoki, Rafael Dos Anjos, Zorobabel Moreira and Leandro Issa.
His record stands at 3-1 and he fights for ONE FC, with the sole loss of his career coming at the hands of unbeaten Filipino Eric Kelly. Chilson has won Muay Thai titles in Thailand and is a blue belt in BJJ under Renzo Gracie, he has a big fight coming up next month when he faces another undefeated figther, Thailand's Shannon Wiratchai, at ONE FC: 'Pride of a Nation' in Manila.
Andrew Leone's long term future is at flyweight but the New Yorker has been very successful competing at 135 lbs and holds a win over Kyung Ho Kang, who is rumoured to have signed for the UFC. Leone was a successful wrestler at high school in the US and is renowned for his ground game having studied BJJ extensively under black belts Adam Kayoom and Rodrigo Praxedes.
He has spent time living and training in Malaysia and Singapore but is now based at Phuket Top Team in Thailand and has already fought all over Asia, in Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia amassing a respectable 5-2 record.
Originally from the US but now a teacher at an international school in Manila Pete Brooks is the URCC Cruiserweight champion and the only man to ever defeat URCC Heavyweight Champion Igor Subora. He stands at 6'6" and fights at 200 lbs and has a perfect professional record of 5-0.
He made his MMA debut in Arizona in 2007 but since then he has been competing exclusively in Asia, fighting in Taiwan in 2009 and then signing with the URCC and winning three fights out of three for them.
And one to watch...
If you were going to design the perfect MMA fighter you could not do much better than take an NCAA Division One level wrester and send him to train intensively with a team of BJJ world champions and Muay Thai world champions and that is exactly the journey Jake Butler is undergoing.
He was captain of the Varsity Team at Princeton University and an NCAA Division I Qualifier and New Jersey State Freestyle Wrestling Champion who also finished third at the Junior National All American Championship so his wrestling credentials are very much in order and since moving to Singapore at the start of the year he has been studying the other aspects of MMA under the most decorated team of trainers in the world.
Butler is being tutored by Heath Sims, who is Dan Henderson's main coach and knows more about making wrestling work in MMA than most, as well as Evolve MMA's tactical mastermind Chatri Sityodtong and will be working intensively on his BJJ, boxing and Muay Thai. This American middleweight is definitely one to watch.