Jake Butler is a former NCAA Division One Level wrestler who graduated from Princeton University where he was also captain of the wrestling team.
He studied economics but his life has taken a very different turn because Butler decided to turn his back on Wall Street in order to focus on a career as a full time martial artist.
Evolve MMA, the top martial arts academy in Asia, offered him a spot on their team and he now lives and trains in Singapore alongside the likes of Shinya Aoki, Rafael Dos Anjos and Eddie Ng and under the tutelage of coaches Heath Sims and Chatri Sityodtong.
Butler’s life story is remarkable and it took another twist earlier this month when he made his MMA debut, defeating Indonesian Antoni Romulo early in the opening round at ONE FC: Return of Kings.
That fight took place at the 16,000 capacity Putra Stadium in Kuala Lumpur and will be shown on ESPN Star Sports and Butler sat down with Fighters.com to talk about the unusual direction his life has taken.
How did you find the whole experience of making your ONE FC debut?
It was truly awesome. I have to say it was probably the most exciting experience of my life thus far. I was able to execute the game plan that my coaches Chatri Sityodtong and Heath Sims laid out for me, and it felt great to have my hard work over the past year finally come to fruition. I couldn’t have done it without all the incredible support from everyone at Evolve MMA. I am honored that I was able to represent them well.
Were you nervous about performing in such a big stadium?
Yes, there were definitely some nerves in the days leading up to the fight, but I was able to control them pretty well. My coaches and teammates at Evolve were an excellent source of support, and they gave me confidence in my preparation. We just stayed focused on everything I had worked on in training camp.
Are you happy with your performance?
Yes, I think my debut went about as good as it could of. I was able to execute my plan perfectly. I know things won’t always go so smoothly, but it was nice to have it all work out so well in my debut.
Did you friends and family in the US get to watch the fight on the stream?
Yes, the amount of support I got from friends and family in the US was incredible. I think it aired at like 6:00AM on Saturday morning on the East Coast, so everyone had to wake up pretty early to catch it. Still, I was overwhelmed by the amount of messages and calls I received from friends and family afterwards. Everyone was extremely supportive. I think there are a bunch of new ONE FC fans from the US now!
How was your training camp for this fight?
It was awesome. I was healthy and injury free. In terms of structure, it was designed perfectly. Chatri Sityodtong and Heath Sims organized everything, and made sure I was peaking at the right time. My teammates on the Evolve Fight Team went out of their way to push me in training and help me in preparations. My Muay Thai coach, Chaowalit Jockey Gym, put in a ton of time as well. Pad work with him is not fun, but it definitely pushed my conditioning to another level. Evolve also brought in UFC fighter Tom Lawlor to train with me. Tom is an awesome guy, and a great training partner. He taught me a lot, and really helped build my confidence. I am very lucky to be a part of the Evolve Fight Team. They gave me everything I needed to be successful.
Will you take a break before you start training again?
Probably just a short one. I made it through the camp and fight without any injury, so I am ready to get right back to training and hopefully prepare for my next fight. I still have a lot of improvement to make. I feel really motivated right now, and I am excited to get back to work.
A number of your team mates are fighting in Singapore on April 5th, are you going to be helping them with their preparations?
Yes, on the Evolve Fight Team we all train together year round whether we are preparing for a fight or not. I will be in there with them every day, working hard and pushing each other to be better.
How do you feel your MMA is progressing and how much more potential do you think you have to improve?
Since I arrived at Evolve MMA one year ago, it has improved dramatically. You would have to ask my coaches and teammates, but I really feel like I have come a long way over the past year. That being said, I still have a long way to go in becoming a complete mixed martial artist. I don’t think that ever ends. I want to keep improving every day, and I believe at Evolve MMA my potential can be realized.
Will you be training with Tom Lawler again in the future?
I really hope so. It is hard because Tom lives in the US, and has his career with the UFC. He is a busy guy. If it can be worked out, I would be thrilled. Tom trains really hard, and has a lot of knowledge about the sport. More than just a great training partner, Tom is a really good coach. With his background in wrestling, he was able to help me with a lot with using my background to my benefit in MMA.
Are you hoping to fight again soon?
As soon as possible! I will keep training hard, and continue to improve every day. When ONE FC and my coaches at Evolve MMA are able to offer me the opportunity to fight again, I will be ready.
Interview courtesy of Evolve MMA