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Super Saiyan Heavyweight? An Exclusive with Bellator’s Raphael Butler

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The sports of boxing and mixed martial arts will seemingly always be intertwined. Some are fans of both while others argue for the superiority of one over the other. We’ve seen boxers make the transition to MMA in the past and it hasn’t always gone very well for them (ahem, James Toney). One boxer who has made the transition and has made it very well, however, is Raphael “The Silencer” Butler. At 9-1-1 in MMA, Butler has become a force to be reckoned with inside Bellator’s heavyweight division. With a fight against Tony Johnson on the horizon, I got to talk to Butler about the transition from boxing to MMA, training with Alliance and what makes him call himself a “huge nerd”.

When it comes to the transition from boxing to mixed martial arts, Butler told me that it came about after he’d planned on leaving the world of fighting behind completely.

“I got to a point in boxing that I lost the love for it. I didn’t feel like I was fighting for the right reasons anymore. I wanted to be done completely with fighting. I was still training at the gym but I was just doing it for me. We had an MMA gym start in the back of our boxing gym and the guys there had wanted me to start that for a while. So I started doing that just for something new to do because I always like to learn different ways to hurt people. A buddy of mine said if I fought an MMA match then he would fight again too so I said yeah I’ll do it and see how it goes? So I fought and ended up knocking the dude out in like 17 seconds. And I didn’t think that was a fair assessment of how MMA was so I fought again, ended up knocking that dude out in like a minute. And I kind of just kept going like that so I said maybe I can make a career out of this and then I got a call from Bellator. And so, here I am.”

A lot of professional boxers seem to have an attitude of superiority when it comes to MMA. Or at least, that’s how it’s often portrayed. Butler shed a little light on that attitude as well as why his attitude changed.

“Boxers are conditioned to believe that we are the best athletes in the world. So when MMA came around, yeah, at first, I wouldn’t say I looked down on MMA fighters but I didn’t really think it was right. I thought MMA guys were absolute savages in what they did because of how I grew up in boxing. But when I started training with them it really made me respect it, especially the grappling aspect of it. The wrestling and jiu-jitsu aspect of MMA has gained my respect more than anything else because of how tough it is both mentally and physically.”

While we were on the subject of grappling, I had to ask about how Butler has managed to catch on to that aspect of the sport so quickly. 3 of his 9 wins are by submission, including a brutal standing guillotine choke of Josh Diekmann at Bellator 134. That’s something you don’t often see so quickly from fighters with a boxing background.

“I’m a straight student. I try to take in as much as I can. Even days where I’m not training, I’m down there watching training, I’m watching fight videos. I try and suck in as much of this sport as I can. That and I have excellent teachers. We didn’t even work on that standing guillotine for that camp, it was actually the camp before that one and I just remembered it. At that moment I just remembered, ok just pull my arm under and try and pop his head off.”

And it certainly can’t hurt that Butler trains out of one of the best gyms in the world, Alliance MMA. When you’re training with fighters like Dominick Cruz, Brandon Vera, Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson and Jeremy Stephens, you almost have no choice but to get better. Butler certainly seems to think so.

“I’ve been training here ever since my 2nd camp in Bellator. I love the team, they keep me going, they keep me pushing. I’m at a gym where everyone who trains here has their sights set on the belt and that’s the kind of mentality I need. We want to bring every belt possible to that gym and that’s the kind of environment I need to be around. Training with these guys makes me push harder. I feel like I’m letting my team down if I don’t have that type of drive too. I see how hard we work, we grind, and I know you hear that a lot from different fighters but we break ourselves in this gym, we want that belt. Whatever organization we’re in, we want it.”

His upcoming opponent, Tony Johnson, is a former King of the Cage Heavyweight Champion and holds a 9-2 record. While he’s not taking Johnson lightly, Butler believes that he’s on another level.

“My gameplan is to just be me. Fight how I know how to fight. I’m definitely not looking at him as someone to step over but I know that if I fight the way I’m capable of fighting, there’s no one that can beat me. I’m a monster. I’m not trying to take anything away from Tony, I feel like he’s a good fighter but if Raphael Butler is on his game on January 29th, he’s getting steamrolled.”

All fight talk aside, I had to ask what a 6’3, 260 lb man does when he’s not looking to take opponents head off inside of the cage. The answer I got was a little surprising.

“I’m a big video game guy. I’m a nerd, honestly. People look at me and don’t expect that from me but I’m a nerd. I like my comic books and my video games, I’m not a big go out and party guy. My ideal night is sitting at home, in front of my tv either playing a video game or watching something that has to do with comic books on YouTube. Raphael Butler is a lot different from “The Silencer”. Raphael Butler is a geek and I’m ok with that. You need to have that separation and just be a normal person.”

He brought up comic books, so I had to ask, DC or Marvel?

“I kind of go in between but I guess I’m more towards Marvel cause I’m a huge Deadpool fan, I can’t wait for that movie to come out cause I’ll be the first one in line for it I guarantee it. I’m not really a big fan of Superman. His whole character is just lazy, he can do anything to anybody and that’s just lazy to me.”

Right after that comment, he made sure to say that there is one thing that takes precedence over everything else as far as his fandom goes.

“My biggest thing is Dragonball. Make sure you let everyone know that Raphael Butler is a huge Dragonball fan. Dragonball, Dragonball Z, even GT sometimes. I’m a huge fan and you can tell Akira Toriyama that if he wants to draw me up a character then I would be honored.”

So, Mr. Toriyama, if you happen to see this then please get in contact with Raphael Butler and help him realize a dream. And for everyone else, if you happen to be in the Chula Vista area for the Deadpool premiere and think you’ll be the first person in line, you might want to reconsider.

Until then, you can tune into Bellator 148 on January 29th to watch Raphael “The Silencer” Butler takes on Tony Johnson in a heavyweight matchup that you won’t want to miss.

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Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims

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Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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Bellator 185 Fight to Watch: Heather Hardy vs. Kristina Williams

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Heather Hardy will compete in MMA for the second time at Bellator 185 on Friday night, as she faces Kristina Williams in a strawweight contest. The fight takes place on the main card at the Mohican Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Potentially, what Bellator have in Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy is a major draw that they can build their 125 pound division around. While relatively new to the organisation she is fast becoming one of the more popular names on the roster. Her career is in the early stages, but many have already started to draw comparisons with former boxer turned MMA star, Holly Holm. Holm’s UFC success partly inspired the native New Yorker to make the switch from boxing.

Hardy is already an established world champion in the land of the ‘sweet science’, holding a 21 fight undefeated professional record. She made her MMA debut in June this year with a victory over Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180. At 35, Hardy is a late starter in the sport, but proved at Madison Square Garden against the credible Yauger that she has a bright future.

Hardy’s first outing in the cage was disciplined and composed. Despite a slow start in round one, Hardy grew in confidence as the fight progressed and her cardio never faltered. She mixed in plenty of kicks that complimented her boxing and looked at ease in the clinch, even defending a couple of takedown attempts in the process.

Despite looking on course for a decision win, Hardy forced the TKO stoppage with just thirteen seconds remaining in round three. Even a large cut that required seven stitches from an accidental head clash could not deny her victory.

Hardy was fighting an experienced professional, competing for the tenth time in MMA, which makes the win over Yauger more impressive. However, her upcoming opponent Kristina Williams will be making her professional debut.

There is little known about Williams except that she is 3-0 at amateur level. One of those wins came by way of submission so there may well be a threat to Hardy if the fight goes to the ground. More importantly for Williams is how she copes on the big stage against a popular opponent, who is more familiar competing in high pressure combat situations. If Williams can produce an upset it will be a huge boost in her young career.

But in all honesty, this fight is about Hardy. It’s about getting the win and gaining valuable experience. The boxing career is on hold while MMA takes centre stage. Beating Williams will mean she likely continues fighting inside a cage rather than a boxing ring.

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