After not being involved with the 2008 M-1 Challenge, Team England made its presence felt right out of the gate during its M-1 Challenge debut on April 29 at Differ Ariake in Tokyo, Japan.
Leading the charge was the unofficial captain of Team England, Ian Butlin. Butlin can be brash and bold at times but he’s one of the toughest fighters in the M-1 Challenge and lays it all on the line when he fights.
Butlin’s leadership qualities were on full display in Japan when he informed the Japanese media the day prior to England’s best-of-five series with Team Japan that England would shut out the host country on its home turf.
Butlin’s public prediction seemed to give an already highly motivated England team even more focus as it prepared to go head-to-head with Japan. And while the prediction seemed far fetched initially considering Japan’s status as one of the top nations in the world when it comes to MMA, Butlin’s teammates made him look near-clairvoyant after winning by a score of four fights to one.
The only fighter to suffer a loss that night was Butlin, who will have a chance to redeem himself on June 5 in Kansas City during the “Fifth Edition” of the 2009 “M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction.” Butlin and his Team England teammates are set to square off with France with Butlin set to face Makhtar Gueye.
Butlin recently took time from his preparations to grant an exclusive interview to M-1Global.com.
M-1Global.com: When I refer to you as the self-proclaimed top lightweight in England, you are quick to respond that you aren’t the self-proclaimed best, you truly at the best. What makes you the best lightweight in England?
Ian Butlin: I have been fighting and training most of my life. When I initially said that, after the Cage Warriors fight, it was through frustration that I had been getting ducked by the one guy ranked above me in the U.K. rankings. It is frustrating still now that I didnt get the fight to be able to prove it and have suffered all my career from pullouts and my management struggling to match me against domestic opposition.
M-1Global.com: When we’ve talked in the past, you’ve said the top guys are ducking you. Can you name names? Who is ducking you and why do you think they won’t step up to fight you?
Ian Butlin: To be honest these days everyone seems to be signed to one promotion or another and this makes it difficult to get fights anyway.
M-1Global.com: In Japan, you predicted a 5-0 shutout of Japan. Did you feel like you were just being honest or did you feel you were trying to play some psychological warfare with them?
Ian Butlin: I was being honest. I think we have a strong team and we are capable on our day of beating any team in the competition. We are in the M- 1 Challenge to win it. Second place is the first loser.
M-1Global.com: Your prediction was almost dead on, as you guys won 4-1. The only loss came in your fight. How did you take the loss?
Ian Butlin: It was hard, after all the preperation and the fact that it effects the team result but I am not looking backwards. Some things went wrong which I am in the process of sorting out before Kansas City.
M-1Global.com: Despite the loss, you came to the side of the stage and cheered your team on. Were you surprised just how quiet the Japanese crowd as and how loud you were in comparison to their fans.
Ian Butlin: I had heard how the Japanese fans are. It was nice the way we were treated by the fans over there. I would love to go back but it is also important that i got behind our guys and supported them how we know how — the English way!!
M-1Global.com: England by far has the best chemistry of any team in the M-1 Challenge thus far. You guys truly are a team. How did you get so close?
Ian Butlin: Dave (Butlin, England’s assistant head coach and Ian Butlin’s brother) thought from the beginning that it was important for us to gel as a team. We had an initial meet up and watched our opponents on YouTube. We then did regular sessions together so we all got to know each other better and we bonded as a team. I think this is important as the mental side of the game is half the battle and it’s nice to not only be comfortable with the guys around you but also know that they are there for you. Dave and Aaron (Chatfield, England’s other assistant head coach) are excellent cornermen and coaches and they sort everything out for us when we are getting ready in the weeks leading up and the hours before the fights.
M-1Global.com: Okay, what’s your prediction for the June 5 matchup vs. France? You calling for another 5-0 shutout?
Ian Butlin: There is no reason why (we can’t). We are out to prove we are the best. All of us have the ability to win if we fight right. My job is to make sure I perform to the best of my ability this time out and also support my teammates.
M-1Global.com: You’ve been anointed the team leader by your teammates. Is that a role that you relish or is their added pressure?
Ian Butlin: It is something I am proud to do and I am honored to be the captain of the best team in the M-1 Challenge (smiles).
M-1Global.com: Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, and Michael Bisping have become crossover stars in the U.S. Is that something you strive for, and if so, what do you need to do to become as big in the States as they are now. Are you happy for their success or do you resent it?
Ian Butlin: I take every fight one at a time. I have been fighting pro for about seven years and am just glad to be in the M-1 challenge fighting great International opposition. What comes after I dont know yet. (My) priority is winning.
M-1Global.com: Ian Freeman is the ring announcer for M-1 but he’s an iconic fighter in the U.K. He was the first U.K. fighter to cross over into U.S. success. Is he someone that you look up to? What has his impact meant on the U.K. MMA scene?
Ian Butlin: Ian Freeman is not only someone I look up to but someone I consider a good friend. Ian has lived with us in preparation for fights and trained with us. He is an inspiration in his attitude to training and his knowledge is second to none in MMA. He is someone I will turn to when I need good advice. It’s great for the team having him around us for these events.
M-1Global.com: You’re a talented, tough fighter with a lot of charisma. How did you not get picked for the current season of The Ultimate Fighter?
Ian Butlin: I went to the trials just with one of our fighters and decided to do it at the last minute. I think it went ok but I grappled with my lips stitched up as I had been hit with a knuckle duster in an altercation a few days before. The injury meant I wasn’t allowed to continue as I split the stitches. One of my teammates at Quannum went through to the house so it was all good. Really, it’s been a bonus because I wouldn’t have gotten to Japan and America to fight in the M-1 Challenge, which to me is a dream.