Los Angeles, Calif.: Joe Schilling shocked the kickboxing world when he defeated Artem Levin in the GLORY 10 tournament final last September, but in his very next fight at GLORY 12, he dropped a unanimous decision to newcomer Wayne Barrett. After getting knocked down a couple of times early on in the fight, Schilling returned the favor with a huge knee that sent Barrett to the canvas, but he would recover, thus ending any hope for a comeback.
It was a fight he was favored to win and a loss that was certainly tough for him swallow.
"I'm a horrible loser," Schilling told MMAmania.com outside the Dynamic Martial Arts gym on Wednesday afternoon after finishing a workout for the media. "When I lose a fight I don't want to be around anybody. I'm very internal. I think about the mistakes that I made and it was just a rough time in my life anyway. My good friend and training partner Shane Del Rosario passed away two weeks later and then my dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer, two weeks after that, so it was a rough couple of months."
"I really focused on my training and actually my training helped distract me from all the stuff that was going on," he continued. "I feel like we did some really good work, and mentally, I feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been going into a fight. I was definitely disappointed with my performance. Thumbs up to Wayne. He showed that he deserves to be at this level and I'm embarrassed that I took him so lightly."
Barrett isn't the only fighter that "Stitch em' up" lost to who is competing in the tournament. While fighting in the Lion Fight promotion, Schilling lost to Simon Marcus twice; once by technical knockout at Lion Fight 5, and once by unanimous decision at Lion Fight 6. The third fight between the two will take place in the opening round of GLORY: "Last Man Standing" on Saturday night (June 21).
Despite the losses to both fighters, Schilling is focused on the overall task at navigating through the tournament. He's not getting pulled in the direction of seeking to avenge three of his six career losses. He needs to win three times in one night to become GLORY middleweight champion, and it doesn't matter who it's against.
"Honestly, a lot of people keep bringing that up and I don't even really think about it," said the No. 2-ranked Schilling. "For a couple of reasons: one, I'm a different fighter than when I fought Wayne Barrett and people that follow my career know that was a bad performance. Shit happens in this game and with Simon, it was different rules and it was almost two years ago. We've both developed since then. For me it's just I'm not even considering the rematches or thinking about them at all. It is a benefit that I know how they fight, so I can kind of draw from that, but I'm just focused on winning the tournament."
Tournaments are something that Schilling has always wanted to be a part of. In his late teens, when he wasn't getting into trouble, he was getting his first dose of a one night, multi-fight experience by fighting in "Tough Man" competitions in Dayton, Ohio, where he grew up. Those tournaments were Schillings first taste of competition and they featured one-minute rounds. As an up and coming fighter, he was also a big fan of the K-1 Grand Prix tournaments, which are still held in high reverence by kickboxing fans and fellow fighters to this day and probably forever.
"I was telling someone the other day, I was a Muay Thai fighter before I got into GLORY," Schilling said as he was peering through the window to watch Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller workout. "The reason I got into that was watching the K-1 World Grand Prixs. That's always been a dream for me and I'm really excited and pumped to be in one. Nobody ever watched a World Grand Prix tournament and said 'that guy sucks.' Everybody is phenomenal and it's really exciting. I'm super excited for it."
The 30-year-old fighter is excited to see the amount of talent that is taking part in the "Last Man Standing" tournament, but he is even more elated at the fact that, he too, is part of it and considered among the elite of the middleweight division.
Not to mention he is the featured fighter on the promotional posters.
"It feels really good to be up there with those guys and those names and to realize this is where I belong and I've proven that," said Schilling, who has also been a trainer partner of UFC stars Nick Diaz and Dan Henderson. "It's a completely stacked tournament. I can kind of see how it's going to play out on my side of the bracket, but on the other bracket going into the third fight, the final, I have to try to not think about it because I could drive myself crazy with every possible scenario. It's one hell of a tournament. The guys in the tournament are all phenomenal. All I know is I'm going to win. I'm not sure how, but I'm going to win the tournament."
The 15-6 fighter pulled off an incredible victory the last time he fought in his hometown at GLORY 10, so there is no reason to think he isn't capable of doing it again. Schilling trains at The Yard, a gym he co-owns with his trainer Mark Komuro. To prepare for the tournament, he "hit the weights really hard" due to feeling "undersized" when he fought against Barrett and said that he's been "100-percent focused" on improving himself and correcting his "flaws" for the duration of this camp.
In addition to Schilling and Barrett being the two American's in the "Last Man Standing" tournament, there are three others that are fighting on Saturday. Schilling's friend and training partner Shane Oblonsky will be fighting in the four-man featherweight tournament on the GLORY 17 card on Spike TV. Also on that card is Ky Hollenbeck, who will take on Andy Ristie and in the main event, Brooklyn native Miller will be going up against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
According to Schilling, this showcase of homegrown talent by GLORY is "great for America."
"It's been phenomenal over the last couple of years how much exposure GLORY has brought to America for kickboxing," Schilling said proudly. "Bringing kickboxing for Americans to see... every show gets bigger and better and this one is huge.
The last time he fought in California he showed that as far as discussing the best kickboxers in the world, there are some American's who belong in the conversation. Now in the return to his hometown, Schilling says it's more about making his stamp on the sport.
"The last tournament I wanted to show that there's really good American kickboxers here in the U.S., and I think I did that, and really on this one I'm really focused on me," he said. "This is really more about me cementing my legacy in kickboxing. I want to go down in the same conversations as Peter Aerts and Semmy Schilt, guys that have won back-to-back tournaments. That's really 100 percent what I'm focused on.