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Bellator notes: Once a homeless teen, Ian Butler ready for San Diego homecoming

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SAN DIEGO - When Ian Butler grew up on the streets of this city, he couldn't have imagined himself sitting in the stands for an event at the Valley View Casino Center, much less have people buy tickets to watch him perform.

"I couldn't afford a ticket to go to anything here," Butler (1-0), who meets Joao Faria (0-1) in the opening bout of Bellator 131 on Saturday night, told MMAFighting.com on Thursday. "Not here, not to a Chargers game, a Padres game, not anything."

A victim of a family life ravaged by drug use, Butler lived much of his childhood homeless, ultimately landing in a local Salvation Army shelter, before he was adopted by a woman who moved him to St. Louis at age 14.

"It was tough times," said Butler, now 25. "It's not the easiest thing to look back on, but your trials in life make you stronger."

It's not like Butler instantly turned things around in Missouri, either. An accidental drug overdose at age 19 finally convinced him it was time for a new approach.

"I was following in the wrong footsteps," Butler said. "I was going down the wrong path. I'm simply grateful for the opportunities I've been given."

The first step in the right direction came when he enrolled at Lindenwood University in St, Charles, Missouri, and joined the wrestling team.

"That gave me the discipline I needed," said Butler. "That gave me a goal and a purpose. Very few things teach you discipline like wrestling."

Wrestling piqued his competitive curiosity. One thing led to another. Butler took a particular liking to jiu-jitsu - when he comes home to visit San Diego these days, he trains with BJJ kingpins Dean Lister and Jeff Glover at Victory MMA - and eventually put it all together, with a 6-1 amateur record before turning pro this year and winning his first fight.

"The light just went off in my head, man," Butler said. "I just knew. I knew this was something that, I could build my life in a positive direction. It clicked right away."

As of now, Butler is competing in Bellator on a one-fight deal. Butler understands that his MMA career has a long way to go and that he's got a lot of hard work ahead of him.

But there's no denying that by simply returning home ready to compete, Butler is already a winner.

"I mean, look at everything I had going against me," Butler said. "African-American kid, homeless teenager, broken family life, drugs. All the stats say I should be dead. But I'm standing, I've made something of myself, and I'm coming home to fight in my home arena. Dreams do come true."

Manhoef: No ground training for Schilling fight

It's no secret why Saturday night's middleweight bout between Melvin Manhoef and Joe Schilling was put together. The duo have impeccable kickboxing credentials, so the expectations for fireworks are high.

In Manhoef's case, he's gone so far as to say he hasn't even bothered training on the ground for the fight.

"For this fight, I didn't train my grappling, because I think we're going to finish this fight standing up," said Manhoef, who knocked out Doug Marshall in his last Bellator bout. "I think that it would be nice to put on a show for the fans."

Schilling, however, won't go as far as his rival, saying he made a point to train in all aspect of MMA.

"I trained for an MMA fight," Schilling (1-3) said. "I'm here with Bellator, it's an MMA group, I've been working on the ground in my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu, If Melvin is only training on his feet, it doesn't sound like he's going to be that dangerous on the ground. You be the judge. ... A win in Bellator would be as big no matter what. I believe my pay is the same whether it is a takedown or a submission or a knockout."

Still, Schilling understands what the fans expect when he and Manhoef (29-11-1, 1 NC) step into the cage.

"It's an interesting fight for me, it's a big show. Style-wise, I think it's a good matchup for me and why wouldn't I want to take this fight. As for what the fans expect, I think that's just the styles we fight. That's the way all our fights always are, so that's a pretty good assessment."

Manhoef, who has competed since the mid-1990s, has 64 documented knockouts between MMA and kickboxing. The 30-year-old Schilling has scored 11 of his 17 kickboxing wins via KO.

Last one to the party

At least one person didn't get the memo on when Thursday's Bellator press conference was scheduled to start. Just as everyone was leaving, Justin McCully barged through the front door of Dave and Buster's - wearing his mask from the infamous September skit.