Feature: Butler '06 goes from financier to fighter
A Princeton economics degree tends to spell out a bright future, one that can open up a plethora of opportunities to succeed in the financial world. Every now and then, however, there are some who find that their collegiate education has no alignment with the passions of their hearts. Strange as it may seem, for some there is more freedom in a fighting cage than there is at a trading desk.
Such is the story of Jake Butler ’06, a former Princeton wrestler who decided to quit his Wall Street job after just a few years to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.
Grappling is by no means a newfound passion of Butler’s; the New Jersey native has decades of wrestling experience. In high school, he placed as high as third in the New Jersey State Wrestling Tournament and earned All-American honors at the Junior Freestyle National Championships.
His success continued after his arrival at Princeton, as he eventually captained the wrestling team and qualified for the NCAA Tournament in the 197-pound weight class.
Seven years later, Butler stands only seven pounds above the weight he maintained during his senior year at Princeton, but the style and setting of his combat training are drastically different. Far from the financial atmosphere of his former life in New York, Butler now trains in Singapore with Evolve MMA.
Trips across the Pacific, Butler explained in an interview with The Bleacher Report, exposed him to Asia’s burgeoning MMA scene, so when he decided to make a career change he took the road less traveled, training in a place where most fighters come from a kung fu background rather than that of an Ivy League wrestler. In need of a coach with a lot of wrestling experience, Evolve signed Butler into its training group after he expressed interest in joining it, both to prepare for his own fighting career and to teach other fighters. Evolve has improved its reputation in recent years and was recently called the top MMA academy in Asia by The Bleacher Report. With world champion coaches in Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts, boxing and No-Gi grappling, Evolve offers Butler some of the best MMA training in the world.
On Saturday, Butler officially entered the MMA spotlight when he knocked out Indonesian fighter Antonio Romulo in his first career fight in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With his victory in front of 16,000 spectators at Stadium Putra, Butler became the first NCAA Division I wrestler to fight in Asia’s ONE Fighting Championship cage. Following the game plan of coaches Chatri Sityodtong and Heath Sims — a former Olympian who is now the head of Evolve’s wrestling program — Butler came out aggressively and took Romulo down early in the first round. Transitioning from side control to a full mount, Butler worked a ground-and-pound attack that exposed Romulo to a vicious flurry of punches and elbows. Seeing that the barrage wasn’t stopping, the referee called off the fight, awarding Butler the TKO victory. With his transformation from financier to fighter complete, Butler will return to train in Singapore and wait for the date of his next bout.