Despite only having five professional mixed martial arts bouts, Ian Butler is used to the spotlight. After his pro debut in 2014, he was signed to Bellator MMA but lost his first two bouts in the organization, which resulted in a release. Butler recently got back into the win column, but has since decided to transition over to kickboxing and will make his kickboxing debut at GLORY 30 this weekend.
“I’ve been kickboxing for awhile at my first gym, a small gym in St. Louis,” Butler told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “Primarily the head coach there was Keith Brock and he was like a Muay Thai kickboxer, Dutch-style, and that’s where I picked it up at. I did MMA because I did wrestle, but I transitioned into more standing up and not going to the ground and everything. I love the way standup is – I love the way it flows, I’m obsessed with it. I love GLORY. I was gonna fight for GLORY before, but I was injured. I finally get a second chance, and it’s come to this. You only have one life to live, and I want to be the Bo Jackson in combat sports.”
At only 26 years of age, it appears that Butler has at least the next few years of his career already mapped out. First off, Butler plans to compete in both mixed martial arts and kickboxing, but wants to heavily focus on his kickboxing career and gain some experience in the sport.
“I’m gonna do both, but I’m going to stay really active with the kickboxing,” he said. “GLORY pretty much does shows once a month. It was really hard talking to Bellator and getting back on the shows and everything. GLORY will keep me active. I’ll do both. Later on down the road, I’ll eventually decide. I’m young enough in the sport, I’m only 26. Being in the UFC is cool but if you sign the papers you can’t do kickboxing anymore. I wanna get as many kickboxing fights as I can and see where it goes.”
As a Bellator veteran, he isn’t against returning to the Viacom-owned organization, especially with Bellator Kickboxing being an option for him. He signed a one-fight deal with GLORY so matchmakers can see where he’s at in the kickboxing department when he fights Brian Bruns this weekend, so it’s possible he’ll compete elsewhere after his GLORY debut.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I love Bellator, and I thank them for giving me the opportunity to come up to the light. I appreciate everybody on their staff. Either way, I faced killers. I fought Joao Paulo Faria, three-time world jiu-jitsu champion. I fought Steve Kozola, who just fought on World Series of Fighting and is on a tear. I did the reverse-effect of when people are trying to bring out fighters.
“Usually have a couple, I wouldn’t say easy but winnable fights, and then they get brought up, and then they have tough fights. And then eventually get to an organization like RFA or Legacy, and then they go to UFC or Bellator. Right away I made it to the show. I look back on it and I appreciate it. I fought a lot of hard opponents. I’m still young, that’s the beautiful thing. That’s experience I cannot buy. I don’t know, it might be Bellator in the future especially because of Bellator Kickboxing; I can transition to both if they want to make that deal. But I appreciate definitely where I came from and them opening up the door for the opportunity.
“Yeah, I think it might go that way. I think it might. I have a very great relationship with (Bellator matchmaker) Rich Chou and I love that guy so much. It might turn to that. I think they’re pretty awesome with it. Paul Daley just fought on that Dynamite show. That second Dynamite show is in St. Louis, my hometown, so I think that might be the way to go.”
Butler, for now anyways, is in favor of fighting for GLORY. And it’s a plus that his fight will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass.
“For sure. GLORY’s such a classy organization. I’ve always wanted to be there. This is just a dream come true, just showcasing on a very big card. We’ll see where we go from there, but I’d love to be on the GLORY roster as one of their main guys.
“Oh for sure, it’ll be on Fight Pass. It’s an awesome deal, and I love it. I own UFC Fight Pass. I call it the Netflix of fighting. It has loads of libraries of PRIDE fights, K-1 back in the day, Strikeforce back in the day, I absolutely love it. And it’s an honor to be presented on that card, and plus it has those three special names behind it, which is UFC.”
Signing with the UFC isn’t Butler’s main priority right now. He simply wants to gain kickboxing experience, and become a notable kickboxer either in GLORY or Bellator Kickboxing. He does plan to transition between both kickboxing and MMA, however, so signing with the UFC, as it is with any up-and-coming fighter, is his ultimate goal.
“Oh for sure. My whole thing in this – in the future if I do sign with the UFC, when I do my MMA fights here and there. I just want to get in as many kickboxing fights in right now because I’m young. After I sign with the UFC, I can’t do kickboxing no more. I’m gonna take advantage of my age, and then just go from there.”
It was difficult to get where Butler is today. It wasn’t easy to get to the point where he’s competing on live television and live broadcasts multiple times, in such a short period of time. Butler had a very harsh life growing up. He grew up homeless in California with his mother, and had nothing else. He was adopted at the age of 14 and moved across the country to St. Louis, MO, to begin a new life.
With that being said, the true turning point in his life was the discovery of combat sports.
“It wasn’t a storybook cheery childhood,” he said. “It was rough, man. Grew up homeless in the state of California, in San Diego. Me and my biological mom, it was sleeping through different cars here and there. Going from different homeless shelter to homeless shelter. It wasn’t like she was on drugs or anything, she just wasn’t financially smart. In the state of California, where real estate is 10 times higher than anywhere else.
“It led to that, and I got blessed by having an adopted mom named Katie Andrews, that came in my life and adopted me and really showed me the way of education and college, and the key to success and working hard. She was the one that bought me my first wrestling shoes. Took me to my karate classes. [She told me], ‘Where you’re living at, in a homeless shelter, is not your circle, is not the bubble you belong in. You can escape and do something great.’ That’s exactly what she did.
“In college, she passed away unfortunately. Before then, I was on drugs a little bit and I overdosed, but came back, (and) I’ve been clean ever since. Luckily, I started talking to Katie before she passed away. Pretty much, she saved my life. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be in this sport today. I’m blessed to have awesome platforms like GLORY or Bellator to share my story and give talks.
“Where you grow up does not define you, you can make it out of any situation. If you dream, dreams come true. Just work hard, and put awesome great people around you.”
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