The world of combat sports has been devoid of an American, two-sport crossover star. But, with Joe Schilling currently on the rise, that spot could soon be filled. And each of the future battles for "Stitch ‘em Up" -- whether in the GLORY ring or the Bellator cage -- will be featured on one network:
Schilling, who is already the No.1-ranked GLORY middleweight, recently earned his first Bellator victory by way of knockout when he finished the fearsome Melvin Manhoef in Nov. 2014. And he will return to the cable network that reaches almost 100 million viewers this Friday night (Feb. 6, 2015) in the co-main event of GLORY 19 against Robert Thomas.
Schilling's father-in-law, Eric Hefner -- a Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Army Rangers -- will be in attendance in Hampton, Va., along with many of the U.S. servicemen from the local area.
When asked about his soaring popularity, and the path that lay in front of him to be "the guy" in two sports, Schilling's answer revealed it hasn't really sunk in yet.
"Well yeah, now that you mention it, it's pretty cool," said Schilling, who began fighting in ‘Tough Man' competitions in Dayton, Ohio, when he was a teenager. "It's exciting that GLORY is around to keep kickboxing alive. So to compete at the highest level in that and have the opportunity to fight in MMA is really fun. I'm blessed. I'm living the dream.
"To be doing both on Spike TV and being a regular face on Spike TV between both of those promotions every couple of months is a really great opportunity. Hopefully, it is a busy year. I have a lot of work to do. Hopefully, I can impress a lot of people and make a big name for myself this year."
"He is going to be a crossover star for sure," his manager Mike Kogan said. "Especially getting the exposure that Bellator is able to give him. That is going to help, because some of the MMA guys are going to say, 'Oh you know what, I remember that Schilling guy, I'm going to go watch GLORY.' So it is good for everybody."
After fighting at GLORY: "Last Man Standing" in June 2014, contract negotiations were at an impasse for several months between the California-based fighter and GLORY management, but he re-signed a multi-fight deal last month and said he had remained confident it would work out in the end.
"I always knew that it was going to work out with GLORY," said Schilling, who is 4-2 in the promotion. "It was just time and getting the right people to make the right decisions. I feel really good about the deal and I'm happy to be back with GLORY and kickboxing."
The start to his 2015 campaign has been busy, as Schilling was committed to helping his friend Nick Diaz prepare for his fight against Anderson Silva at UFC 183. This happened before he re-signed with GLORY and the fight against Thomas was booked. So he went out and stayed in Stockton, Calif., with Diaz and worked with him there and in San Francisco at Gilbert Melendez's gym, "El Nino," over the course of several weeks.
While he once again shared the finer points of Muay Thai and kickboxing with Diaz, he also continued to gain new knowledge in grappling and jiu-jitsu from the MMA veteran.
"Learning all the aspects and techniques of mixed martial arts, it's really motivating to train and have a lot of fun doing it," said Schilling, who also brought out GLORY middleweight champion Artem Levin to work with Diaz. "Having the ability to work with some of the best guys in the world is really inspiring. MMA definitely has a lot to do with my future goals."
The No.1-ranked GLORY middleweight made sure to come back home while spending time in Stockton and San Francisco so he could focus on the upcoming GLORY 19 match up versus Thomas and continue to sharpen his skills with long-time coach Mark Komuro.
Thomas is still fairly new, but Schilling is not taking the Canadian lightly by any means.
"He is a young kid and he is hungry," said Schilling. "He has a Muay Thai style. He doesn't have a whole lot of experience, but the experience he does have is against top-level guys. He is a guy to watch out for, for sure. You have to take him seriously. He is a big guy. I see some holes in his game. It's also hard to tell when you look at a guy that has fought Artem Levin and the level of competition that he has fought against in so few fights. Maybe he hasn't shown his true potential in those fights."
With the fight only one week out, Schilling said he was going to "stay home and stay focused," and not travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, to see Diaz take on Silva. But, Diaz called him up at 7 a.m. on Friday morning to be in his corner the next night for the UFC 183 main event. Ever the loyal friend, Schilling hopped on a plane to be by his side.
"He asked me to come up and corner, so here I am," Schilling said on Friday evening.
More and more opportunities are continuing to come his way nowadays. He was showcased in the UFC 183 "Countdown" video, will be a guest on "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast this week and just shot a new commercial for Spike TV, which had him wearing both GLORY and Bellator gloves.
"The Spike TV commercial shoot was fun," said the Team Can't Stop Crazy fighter. "I'm getting more experience with that kind of stuff and I'm definitely more comfortable in front of the camera these days. So doing that kind of stuff is just fun for me now."
The focus is currently on GLORY 19 and Thomas, but a trilogy fight against Levin for the GLORY middleweight title will be on the horizon with a victory on Feb. 6, 2015. The two rivals have great respect for each other in and outside of the ring. In fact, Levin actually came to Schilling's Bellator debut at Bellator 132 to see his knockout victory over Melvin Manhoef. Inside the GLORY ring they put on two great battles and a third fight would be one of the biggest fights in the promotion's history.
Schilling bested Levin at GLORY 10 by decision to win the four-man tournament and Levin defeated Schilling in the GLORY: "Last Man Standing" eight-man tournament final last June.
"The fight with Levin is a fight everyone wants to see," he said. "It will be nice to put on a fight having not fought two other people that night. A five-round title fight with Levin will happen at some point this year and it will be a great fight for the fans."
The rising two-sport fighter has GLORY 19 next, and his next fight in Bellator is "already scheduled" for the spring, according to Kogan. "Stitch ‘em Up" has set some lofty goals for himself for 2015.
"I want to be undefeated in 2015 in both sports, working toward that Bellator title, with lots of knockouts and to keep raising the bar for myself and for Can't Stop Crazy."