ONE Championship's new weight-cutting regulations are fairly straightforward. Everyone fights at their walking weight so the strawweight division is now 125 pounds, the flyweight division is now 135 pounds, the bantamweight division is now 145 pounds, etc.
The only question is what will happen to the light heavyweight division now that the middleweight limit has been moved to 205 pounds (walking weight). With six wins in his seven ONE Championship fights, Jake Butler was the most successful fighter in the division.
But he doesn't plan to stay there.
As the Princeton graduate prepares for a catchweight contest with Tatsuya Mizuno at ONE: "Clash of Heroes" this Friday night (preview), he says that his future is likely to lie at middleweight.
"I guess it depends on what weight the light heavyweights and middleweights were walking around at prior to the new weight policy. It doesn’t have a big effect on me because 205 pounds is just about my walking weight when I follow my training camp diet."
The fight will take place at a catchweight of 209 pounds but assuming Butler has no issues making weight, the next step will be a move down to middleweight. Given he already has six ONE wins to his name, the 33-year-old will be an immediate contender for a shot at the belt and he might be just one more win away.
"I think an impressive win over Mizuno should earn me the shot. I need to go out there and put on an impressive and exciting performance."
In his last fight, Butler scored a clear cut decision win over Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt Cristiano Kaminishi. At the Stadium Negara he's facing a bona fide Asian MMA veteran and knows a tough test awaits against an opponent who has been in with the likes of Mirko Filipovic, Melvin Manhoef, Gegard Mousasi, Sergei Kharitonov, and Renato Sobral.
"He is pretty well rounded in all areas. I think his main strength is his experience in big fights. He has been in the cage with some of the best in the world."
Last year Butler only fought once but he has his sights firmly set on a 2016 title shot and plans to be much more active in the coming months.
"2015 was a busy year for me personally. My first child was born in May so that tied up a good portion of the year but I would like to fight four times in 2016."
Butler captained the wrestling team at Princeton but had no prior experience in striking when he joined Evolve MMA in 2012. He's risen rapidly through the ranks in the last few years but has continued to work on his areas of comparative weakness.
"I am training with some of the best in the business. As well as all the BJJ Black Belts at Evolve we have an Iranian wrestler and a four-time U.S. Olympic Judoka called Brian Olson, so I have been working with him and Muay Thai champions Nonthachai Sit O and Chaowalith Jockey Gym help me with my striking. Former U.S. Olympian Heath Sims is my head coach, and he oversees all of my training."
The journey from MMA novice to title contender has taken a few years. But for Butler it is almost complete and a win over Mizuno in Malaysia on Friday night could be enough to secure him a shot at reigning ONE middleweight champion Vitaly Bigdash.