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Jesse Butler prepares to fight Jim Miller in a lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Jesse Butler Is Chasing That Special Feeling

Moving Divisions Is A Tough Process, But Jesse Butler Is Ready To Take On The Challenge

Jesse Butler is in a good mood. He claims it’s because of the cold plunge he just took, but perhaps it’s because his move down to the bantamweight division for the first time is going as good as it can go.

“It’s going pretty good,” said Butler, who took his first fight in the UFC against Jim Miller on short notice at 155 pounds. That was quite a leap for the Louisiana native, who normally fought at featherweight, but after losing that bout to Miller last June, he decided to switch things up a bit by dropping to 135 pounds and supplementing his training at home with Kron Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with a stay at the Fortis MMA gym in Dallas.

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“I had referrals from Matt Schnell and Aaron Phillips,” said Butler of the move to train with coach Sayif Saud and the Fortis crew. “Both of these guys have been mentioning it to me and they're Louisiana guys. So the drive for me is four hours, and that's a positive thing that it's a close drive, honestly, from where I'm at.”

 Jesse Butler poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on June 2, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
(Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Yes, Butler said four hours is a close drive, so maybe he’s in a good mood all the time, but he’s willing to spend half his week in Dallas and half in West Monroe in order to give himself the best shot of making his move up the ladder in the UFC.

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“At this point, where I'm from, nobody's in the UFC,” he said. “MMA is not really a thing here. It's a newer thing, but we're talking a couple of gyms in a 500-mile radius. There's just not much. There's no wrestling here in high schools, and jiu-jitsu and things like that are not as common. We've done it from a small gym here in West Monroe, and me being the first one in the UFC from the area, Dallas is almost like home. So that's kind of how we've been treating it the past eight months.”

As for the switch in weight classes, that’s an easy one.  

“Obviously for the advantage,” he said. “Size wise, I'm as big as Sean O'Malley, so I'm going to be big for the weight class.”

And while there’s plenty of work to be done in the gym to hit his mark on weigh-in day, there’s also homework to be done outside in terms of studying the group of killers he’s going to be throwing hands with, starting with Saturday’s bout against two-time Ultimate Fighter winner Brad Katona.

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“Because my whole career has been at featherweight, I was really familiar with all the featherweights in the UFC. Bantamweight, I wasn't, and that's weird because it's only one weight class down, so you'd think I would know a little more, but I just really knew about the top-notch guys. But it's been fun studying new guys, and just seeing the size advantage that I'm going to have in the weight class is what I'm excited about.”

That’s a big deal for someone thrown into the deep end the first time around, but the 32-year-old Butler has no regrets about taking the Miller fight.

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“I'm looking at it as a positive at this point,” he said. “It got me in the UFC and from right out of the gate, I get to fight the guy with the most wins in the UFC. So, regardless of what happened in the fight, I’m using it as positive momentum. And, of course, I do have in my back pocket that I'm going down 20 pounds to fight. So that's a big difference.”

He also got plenty of paperwork, photo shoots, medicals and all that fun stuff out of the way the first time, so he knows the lay of the land, making the second time around a little easier. 

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“It definitely feels better,” said Butler. “Just having time to think about the fight is the most important thing because the mental aspect of going in the fight has to be different than when you're normally training. I'm always training for a fight, so when they called me for Jim, of course I was ready. I was just a much smaller opponent and part of the reason for the outcome is not being able to hold those punches from a guy so big. But yeah, just having everything ahead of time, being able to plan things out and train for specifics has been nice.”

Jesse Butler battles Jim Miller in a lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jesse Butler battles Jim Miller in a lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Sounds like plenty of reasons for Jesse Butler to be in a good mood. But he hopes to be in an even better one come Sunday morning.

“When you get the win and you walk out of there with your hand raised, it's the best feeling in the world when you've sacrificed the last 10 years of your life to do something like this,” he said. “I think what we're chasing is that special feeling and it's hard to find.”

UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Imavov took place live from KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky on June 8, 2024. See the final Prelims & Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!