Joe Schilling is capitalizing on the momentum of a highlight-reel KO. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
At the start of 2014, Joe Schilling was a relative unknown to MMA fans despite being a muay Thai world champion. That changed in a flash last November, when the Ohio native knocked out Melvin Manhoef on national television at Bellator 131.
As a result, Schilling’s calendar for 2015 is looking extremely busy.
The spectacular KO of Manhoef -- Schilling’s first mixed martial arts appearance since a 1-3 run in 2008 -- ensured Schilling the opportunity to stay active in both the MMA cage and the kickboxing ring. In addition to fighting for Bellator MMA, he recently signed a new multi-fight deal with Glory.
Now, Schilling prepares to fight Robert Thomas at Glory 19 in Hampton, Va., on Feb. 6, the first of what could amount to five fights over the course of the calendar year.
“I have three more fights with Bellator this year and two more with Glory,” Schilling recently told Sherdog.com. “If a fight comes around and I’m healthy, I’m going to take it. Whether it’s Glory or Bellator. Donald Cerrone really inspired me last year. I want to stay really busy and I want to stay consistent, and the ultimate goal is to be undefeated in 2015.”
During an interview following his “Knockout of the Year” performance in November, “Stitch ‘em Up” made it clear that he was fully entrenched in his resurgence as a MMA fighter. But when Glory came knocking with a significant financial offer, Schilling decided to take on the task of fighting for both promotions.
“Pretty much I got paid. It pays to be a hitter,” Schilling said. “I was between contracts with Glory when I signed with Bellator, and then Glory came around with a really nice contract for me, so it worked out and I’m going to do both. But for me, it is going to get to a point where it’s very difficult to do both.”
The obvious question for Schilling is where does his loyalty lie? Will he be able to successfully compete in both iterations of combat sports, or will there come a time when he will need to hang up one form of glove for the other?
“Ultimately, MMA is going to offer me the exposure and opportunities,” Schilling said. “I’m fully committed to MMA. My future is MMA, and I’m training for it, but I’ve been working for kickboxing for 15 years, so it’s going to take me some time when I’m no longer willing to take kickboxing fights. Although, next week I’m going to shoot a commercial to be the face of Glory for the next year and a half.”
“Bellator is willing to work with me on the kickboxing and work with me on good matchups,” Schilling added. “Right now, when it comes to kickboxing, it’s about getting in shape. With MMA, there is still a learning curve, and I’m always getting better.”
With only 365 days in a year, spreading out five fights in two different sports could be quite taxing on a 31-year-old’s body. But Schilling seems to have everything under control, and already has a tentative date for his return to Bellator.
“I am most likely fighting for Bellator in March, so it’s going to be very busy and I need to train consistently with both,” Schilling told Sherdog.com. “Obviously, I’m not too interested in fighting some world-class wrestler in my next fight, but I think there are a ton of exciting fights for me in Bellator. Ultimately, my future is in MMA, but right now I have an opportunity to be successful in both.”
Schilling has been training with Nick Diaz as the former Strikeforce champ prepares to fight Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in Las Vegas on Jan. 31. While Schilling has had a pivotal role in Diaz’s plan to ruin Silva’s return to the Octagon, the Los Angeles native plans on staying away from Sin City and focusing on his bout early next month.
“I’m actually on the fence. Las Vegas is a very tempting place for me, and I’m fighting the following weekend, so I think I’m going to stay home and watch it,” Schilling said. “Making sure you go to bed on time, eating the right things and not drinking alcohol are important. I would hate to mess up all of my training, and if Nick wins, you know they are going to be celebrating.”
With Glory 19 rapidly approaching, Schilling is fully focused on his battle with Thomas, but throughout his tenure training in Stockton, Calif., with Diaz, the former Glory middleweight champion was honing his skills for the kickboxing ring.
“We are kickboxing when we are sparring, and bringing in the those high-level guys, I’m getting my training in, too,” Schilling said. “I got more sparring than I’ve ever had for any fight and my cardio is through the roof, because as everyone knows, Nick is a cardio monster.”
What matters most to Schilling is maintaining the buzz he attained from his finish of Manhoef. With wins, the right people surrounding him and good health, 2015 could be the year that Schilling has been striving for since he first laced up his gloves.
“The more popular you are, the more opportunities you get,” Schilling said. “I just have a buzz right now and I want to keep that going. I want to keep raising the stakes.”
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