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OneFC's Jake Butler went from Wall Street to MMA

Jake Butler is a New Jersey native who

Jake Butler is a New Jersey native who fights for One FC, an MMA promotion based in Singapore. Credit: One FC

Emigrating to Singapore put New Jersey native Jake Butler in an unfamiliar situation.

No, not the culture shock of moving to a new country in a new hemisphere.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good bagel,” said Butler, who moved to Singapore 15 months ago. “The pizza is, in my opinion, not so good either.”

So it goes for Butler, who didn’t need to be near all those carbohydrates the past few weeks while training for his second professional MMA fight for One FC. Butler, a former wrestler at Princeton, fights Swain Cangco in a light heavyweight bout that can seen in the States via livestream at on Friday.
The initial and most obvious question for Butler is a simple one: Why does a Wall Street analyst with an Ivy League degree and wrestling pedigree leave the States to teach wrestling and train for a mixed martial arts career in Singapore?

The simple answer: “I was interested in giving it a try living out here in Asia,” he said.

The more in-depth answer begins with a question many college graduates wrestle with in those first few years in the real world: “What am I going to do with myself?”

Butler worked as an analyst at real estate investment company in Manhattan after graduating college in 2006. He lived the typical city life: fancy suits, big office, small apartment.

Even before the housing market collapsed in 2008, Butler was looking for a way out. That, however, expedited the massive career change from Wall Street finance to Evolve MMA trainer and fighter in Singapore roughly 9,500 miles away.

After leaving his job, he traveled through Asia, with stops in Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, to name a few places. Butler said it was Evolve MMA’s desire to bring in wrestlers to expands its fight team’s skills that really cemented his decision to move.

“In the U.S., wrestlers like myself, they’re everywhere,” Butler said. “The wrestling isn’t a unique skill set, where as out here, it certainly is.”

Butler, captain of the wrestling team when at Princeton, had no background in martial arts. But he had that itch again. That itch to compete.

It grew stronger as Butler watched people he wrestled against or at the same time as, begin to excel in MMA. Fighters such as Baldwin’s Chris Weidman, or Phil Davis or Jake Rosholt. They were All-American wrestlers in college at the same time Butler wrestled at Princetion. They were all making a name for themselves in the UFC and other fight promotions.

“Seeing them do well and go into MMA,” Butler said, “I was kind of thinking to myself, ‘Man, I wish that’s what I was doing. These guys made the right choice. I don’t know what I’m doing sitting here at this desk.’”

Still, there’s nothing easy about walking from a good-paying job with benefits in uncertain economic times for the unsurety of not knowing what the next move will be, when the next paycheck will arrive.

Butler went from a world where MMA meant money market account to one where it stands for mixed martial arts.

“It’s still a tough thing to actually go and do it,” Butler said. “There’s a certain amount of pressure I felt with the degree I had, like almost an obligation that I needed to use the degree for what you would consider a good job.”

New York Sports