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Ian Butlin - Profiled for the BFC Tournament

Though he first began martial arts training at the tender age of seven, it's immediately obvious in talking to Huddersfield's Ian Butlin that he doesn't factor in to the outdated stereotype of the uneducated fighter. Rather, considering his degree in sports science and how seriously he values mental preparation for a fight, you could argue that his education his greatest asset, followed closely by a tremendous determination and will to win.

"My background in sports science really helps my preparation, training, and structure," he told BritFight. "It has helped me to build programs for myself, and it certainly helps me while I'm in training, because I always know at what level I need to be at, to reach my peak by fight night. Keeping track of all that kind of information, and knowing that I'm as well-prepared as I could be, gives me a lot of confidence when I go to the ring.

"A lot of that confidence also comes from the mental side of my game, which Les Allen (Butlin's original MMA coach, who fought in Pancrase in 1999) has really brought out in me," he continued. "He teaches a lot about meditation and the internal side of being a martial artist, which is something that is missed out on in almost every MMA gym. That mental preparation allows me to go in there with a clear mind, and a better ability to focus. Bruce Lee said 'The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action', and that's how I go into the ring. It makes it easier to react to whatever situation I find myself in."

A martial arts fan ever since he was introduced to the short-lived TV show "The Master" in his childhood, Butlin first took judo lessons, before transferring his skills to Muay Thai, and then boxing. The latter led him to tremendous success at junior level, including winning the Gold medal at the British Universities Championship in 2000, but the perils of boxing judging eventually led him to try his hand at the multi-disciplined sport of MMA instead.

"Because of the way that a draw had been made, I had to fight in the Yorkshire boxing finals and the North East Counties finals on the same night," recalled Butlin. "I won the Yorkshire final, but it was a tough fight where the referee gave my opponent chance after chance to continue, even though I'd cut him quite badly.

"So because the fight went longer than it should have, I ended up with a little lump around my eye going into the North East final, and when I got hit on that same spot in the second fight, it burst the lump. It actually felt better to me because the pressure was released around the area, but the referee immediately stopped the fight, without even letting me see the doctor. My corner were happy that it wasn't a bad injury, so the inconsistency really got to me. From that point I decided that I was going to pursue mixed martial arts instead."

After two semi-pro MMA bouts against Peter Irving and Rob Hannis went his way via submission, "M16" decided that it was time for him to turn pro, to make sure, as he put it, that he "wouldn't regret not going for it". At around the same time, he opened up a gym with his brother Dave, and the facility proved a factor in four wins out of five on the professional circuit. But a cancelled fight in 2005 between he and former PRIDE fighter Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett was the beginning of a difficult period for Butlin, and one that it has taken him until now to fully bounce back from.

"My pro training at the gym really speeded up my progress, I think. I had a real successful first few years, when I fought for the Cage Rage title, and the Cage Warriors title, but things changed a little when I was scheduled to fight Bennett.

"I trained so hard for that fight and felt I was in the best shape of my life, but then the fight was cancelled because he wasn't allowed into the country. I felt so down after that that I just wasn't able to motivate myself back to that level. I went off the rails, and fell into a downward spiral. Really, the last little while I've been doing myself a disservice, training myself and taking fights here and there. It's only this year with things getting back on track that I feel that I can reach that level again."

Remarkably for a fighter of his notoriety, Butlin's last victory was way back at the end of 2006, just months after he described himself as the best lightweight in the country. Having once again found focus, "M16" is keen to show that he can back up that lofty proclamation in the opening round of the BFC Lightweight tournament, as he faces Harvey Harra, to whom he lost in May 2006.

"The video of me saying that I was the best lightweight in the country seemed to get around pretty quickly," he joked. "But I actually do believe that, though now I've got to go and prove it. There was a fight a while ago that we tried to arrange between myself and Ollie Ellis, which would really have given me the opportunity to say that I was the best, but the match kept being put off and put off, for all kinds of reasons.

"So I feel like I've never had the opportunity to prove my worth, and it is going to be much tougher to do that now, with the division so much more competitive than it was a few years ago. With the Lightweight tournament, there's so many people who can win it; I think if you were to ask the experts, they'd say that the Lightweight tournament is the most open that the BFC has.

"As far Harvey Harra, he has really improved since we last fought," Butlin concluded. "But really, I had a bad rib injury going into that, which forced Dave to pull me out after the first round. Now, at least, we'll get a proper conclusion to the fight.

"All of my training is back in my brother's hands now, and we've put together a strong conditioning and fight plan for me. Working with Les again, I've gone back to my roots, and I'm more positive in my outlook than I've ever been.

"The result of the fight is definitely going to be different this time around."