Meet Jake Butler, the Princeton grad who quit financial analytics to fight in a cage (Yahoo! Sports)



When Jake Butler resigned from his position as a financial analyst at Thor Equities last year, many who knew him were surprised.

He was a Princeton economics graduate, after all, and this was the kind of job that many graduating collegians would kill to get.

Quitting a well-paying, well-connected job to travel halfway around the world and become a professional fighter didn't quite make a lot of practical sense.

Butler was surprised too, but in a different way. He was surprised that he waited it out so long.

He worked for two-and-a-half years in a job he hated. Yes, he was making good money. Yes, he had health care, and a 401(k) and a slew of other benefits.

But he was miserable. He hated his job and couldn't imagine himself doing it the rest of his life.

"All the security and the money and that, that's why I waited as long as I did," Butler said of his decision to walk away to pursue a career in mixed martial arts. "At a certain level, it didn't make sense. How could I give up what I was thinking of giving up?

"But I also know that a big part of life is being happy, and chasing a dream, and living the life you want to live. And that's what I decided to do."

And so, last year, Butler gave it all up, resigned at Thor and moved to Singapore, where he signed a promotional deal with One FC. He'll make his third appearance on Sept. 13 at One FC's card in Jakarta, Indonesia, when he meets Canadian James Kouame in a three-round catchweight bout (198.4 pound limit, or 90 kg).

He's not sure where his MMA career will take him, though he has big dreams. And there's a vast difference between Jake Butler the financial analyst and Jake Butler the MMA fighter.

"I can't even begin to describe how much I enjoy this and how much I realize this is what I want to be doing," Butler said.

Butler is the wrestling coach for the Evolve MMA fight club. To replace the income and the security he lost when he resigned at Thor, Butler works in Evolve's gym, primarily teaching wrestling to other pro fighters.

He said he's paid "quite well, actually," to work for Evolve, and the job allows him to train MMA in an intensive environment.

The sport is burgeoning in Asia and he believes it's about to explode.

He lives in Singapore, a highly metropolitan city of more than 5 million, and he said MMA gyms are everywhere.

"MMA is growing here at an extremely fast rate," he said. "You can't go more than a couple of blocks without running into a gym. The UFC is quite popular here, but One FC has done a great job in this market and people are really into it. It's already very big and it's just growing faster than you can imagine.

"Within the next five to 10 years, this could be the biggest market [for MMA] in the world."

Butler hopes to be one of the stars as the sport develops. His collegiate wrestling career began with great aspirations, but never quite reached what he'd hoped.

As he entered Princeton, he set extraordinarily lofty goals for himself. He wanted to be a two- or three-time All-American and win at least one national title.

He was plagued by injuries and just never could get on track. Wrestling at Princeton was different from the collegiate wrestling powerhouses such as Oklahoma State and Iowa.

"It's certainly possible to go to a place like Princeton, or any of the Ivy League schools, and still reach the highest levels of wrestling," he said. "But it's different than it was at the more wrestling focused schools. You don't get the intensity every day in practice that really pushes you that you get at those places."

But his wrestling is good enough to have given him a chance in MMA. He's 2-0 going into the fight with Kouame. He's not sure where things are going to lead, but he's certain of one fact:

There are no regrets about quitting his job.

"I guess it's kind of unusual that a guy who graduates from Princeton with an economics degree would just up and quit and go try to be a fighter, but to me, it was just an issue of my own personal happiness," he said. "Now that I'm here and doing what I'm doing, I can't imagine ever going back to my old lifestyle."

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