Things could have turned out very different for America’s Jake Butler.

The 35-year-old is currently a contender in the ONE middleweight division, but before he arrived in Asia and competed inside the ONE Championship cage, he was an asset analyst for a high-profile real estate firm.

Butler graduated from Princeton University with an Economics degree in 2006, and found his way into the financial sector.

“I guess like any of those starter analyst jobs out of college, it involved long hours sitting at a desk, staring at a computer doing Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, doing financial modelling, analysing the financial performance of this investment fund, and putting reports together,” he said.

“You start as the low man on the totem pole, so I was just crunching numbers all day, and I was always just wondering when I was going to get out of there.”

It quickly became apparent to Butler that his future laid elsewhere, as he began to dread getting out of bed to go to work each day.

“I think there is something to be said about finding a career or a job that you take enjoyment from,” he continued.

“You do not have to love every single day, but if you are in my situation, and that Monday morning alarm goes off and you have to hit the snooze button five times before you can even get out of bed, then something is not right.”

For NCAA Division I All-American wrestler Butler, his next move wasn’t totally clear, but after seeing his friends from his wrestling days making a living from parlaying their wrestling skills into martial arts, the competitive drive from his college days soon returned.

“I still had a real itch to compete,” he admitted.

“So I started looking around, thinking about if I wanted to do this, how could I do it? That opportunity came up at Evolve MMA. They were really building their program there, and looking to add some wrestlers to help coach in the wrestling program.

“That opportunity came up just as ONE Championship was getting started as well, so I jumped at that opportunity. Next thing I know, I am in Singapore, and about a year or so later, I was competing.

“It was kind of a long time coming. I think the fact that I was so unhappy with my job made it an easy choice. I did not enjoy sitting in that office all day, every day. I love training, and I like the competition, so it was a pretty easy choice.”

Butler may have walked away from a significant regular salary in his previous career, but he’s found happiness, as well as his true vocation.

Butler continues his martial arts career at ONE: IRON WILL when he takes on Brazilian Gilberto “Giba” Galvao at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, 24 March.

As he makes his final preparations to return to action after nearly 18 months out, he says he has a new drive and determination to take his skills all the way to the top and challenge two-division ONE World Champion Aung La N Sang.

Jake Butler is a martial arts professional now, and there’s no way he’s going back to his old job.

“I know people and friends who love it, but a lot of them that I know do it also hate it. I definitely fall in that latter category. I would have been miserable if I continued to do it,” he says.

“When I am done competing, I definitely will not be going back to that sort of work, that’s for sure.”