Joe Schilling outwardly planned for a busy year in both kickboxing and MMA. And on Friday he heads into Bellator 136 against Rafael Carvalho in the co-main event (results here); the two-sport athlete's second fight of 2015.
"Stitch 'em Up" put on a dominant performance against Robert Thomas at GLORY 19 on February 6, 2015, winning by unanimous decision. And just a week later he was back in the gym getting ready for his second Bellator scrap.
"It's all going as planned so far," Schilling recently told MMAmania.com. "I was talking to my girl last night and I'm like 'I'm really going to be tired by the end of this year.' She said, 'well, you asked for it.' It's really good. It's the first time in my career where I only take a week off and I'm right back in the gym because I have something else coming up. So, as long as my body can hold up for it, it's exciting times right now."
There was a time not too long ago where Schilling struggled to get more than one or two fights in a year's time. Now he is entering his third fight since last November. And since his GLORY debut in September 2013 he has fought a total of eight times, including seven kickboxing bouts.
In addition to being busy fighting, his profile has also risen by leaps and bounds. A lot of that happened after his highlight-reel knockout win over Melvin Manhoef in his Bellator debut, with many websites calling it "Knockout of the Year." Now he has his hands full with media obligations, magazine articles and he made an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, which has become a bucket list destination for most fighters. Schilling was even invited on the Dr. Drew show recently.
"It's gone up quite a bit," Said Schilling, on his popularity and presence on social media. "My Instagram went up like an additional 10,000 followers. My Twitter--I don't use my Twitter every day, but it goes up every day. The recognition is definitely different. I used to be able to go to kickboxing fights and kind of blend in a little bit. Some people would recognize me and take a picture here or there, but I felt very relaxed. I was at Lion Fight recently and it was kind of stressful to tell you the truth. It was kind of a big deal that I was there and a lot of people were coming up to me. It's definitely something I'm working on getting used to. It's very different than it used to be."
Bill Goldberg, the former WWE champion who hosted a GLORY countdown show on Spike recently, was in attendance as well and he recognized Schilling right away. It turns out he is a big fan of the No.1-ranked GLORY middleweight.
"That was really cool," he said. "I bumped into him. He bumped into me actually. I was talking to somebody and he backed up while he was talking to me. He turned around like 'who is this?' and he was like 'oh shit, Joe Schilling.' It was weird he even knew my name. He is such a big fan and such a respectful guy. It was really cool. I did his podcast and we talked about GLORY a little bit. He is a really cool dude. Growing up as a kid I was never a really huge wrestling fan, but the NWO and Sting and Goldberg was something you knew and talked about a lot. It was cool to have met him and chat with him and I think it's great for GLORY that he is associated with it."
The uniqueness in competing in both sports is that Schilling is featured on one network: Spike TV. The home network of Cops has pushed the kickboxer/mixed martial artist a great deal, featuring him in promo commercials for Bellator, GLORY and their new branding on Friday, which they are calling "Friday Night Lights Out," due to the addition of Premier Boxing Championships. That makes Spike a triple-threat combat sports platform.
"It's great and it's great for Spike TV to have all three options right now. That brings more attention to ‘Friday Night Lights Out' with Bellator--the new Scott Coker era--GLORY and Premier Boxing Championships. I think it is a really cool thing what Spike TV is doing in getting back to being the home in combat sports. Having all three combat sports on the same channel is fantastic."
And the fact that Spike has gotten behind him and is promoting him heavily has blown him away.
"Yeah man, it is a really great feeling to have Spike so interested in me, and invested in me, and promoting me," Schilling said. "It's amazing. It's a dream come true."
If the GLORY/Bellator middleweight has his way, he will turn into a three-sport star and take up the "sweet science" in PBC.
"I know Spike is really interested in it and I've had several conversations with them about it," said Schilling, who holds a 1-1 pro boxing record. "I think it is definitely a possibility this year. If not this year than, early next year. I would love to do it. Spike were actually the ones who approached me about it and I was all for it. I couldn't believe they even considered giving me that option. I'm a huge fan of boxing. For years I've worked with pro boxers for sparring partners. It's a great opportunity. I'd love to a three-sport athlete, so to speak, on Spike TV."
Back in 2008, Schilling scored a quick KO over Orlando Brizzio in a boxing bout in Inglewood, California.
"Most people don't know I hold the U.S. record for the fastest knockout in professional boxing," he explained. "It was my pro boxing debut when I fought a guy from Wildcard. I stepped forward to touch gloves and he ran and tried to hit me--sucker punch me with an overhand right, and I caught him with a right cross and put him out. It was a one-punch knockout in five seconds."
Next up, will be his second fight in the Bellator cage, where Schilling will be taking on Carvalho, a fighter who is 10-1 with nine career finishes.
With only five career MMA bouts under his belt, "Stitch ‘em Up" is looking forward to the challenge.
"He's got nine knockouts on his record and he is on a ten-fight win streak," said Schilling. "If you watch his fights and you really pay attention to him he is very well rounded. He has really good takedown defense, he's got some take downs as well, submission defense. He is well rounded and he is big and strong and he is really patient as well. Some of his fights it didn't look like it was going his way and he stays composed and gets the job done. It's definitely going to be a great test for me."
Being one of the very best kickboxers on the planet is a huge advantage for him, as evidenced by his knockout win over Manhoef. However, he is still behind most veterans in the grappling department. Schilling showed some ground skills against Manhoef, and avoided trouble after getting tagged by a big punch, while also defending against the Dutchman's ground and pound attack. For this camp, he has continued his training with Kron Gracie, who he has been working with for a while now.
"Jiu-Jitsu has been fun for me," said Schilling. "I feel really confident. If the fight goes to the ground I feel I can work out of a submission, or get to a better position to knock him out. I feel very comfortable with this fight wherever it goes. I'm not going in there terrified that the guy is going to get me to the ground. I feel like if it goes there I'm well prepared down there and I'm looking forward to showcasing my skills."
For his last fight, Schilling cross-trained with the Diaz brothers and traveled to the El Nino gym where he also worked with Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shield. For this camp, he stayed in LA at his home gym with his long-time coach, Mark Komuro and brought in the same sparring partners he used when he prepared for the GLORY Last Man Standing tournament.
Being that Rafael is 6' 3" and a tall guy, I brought in Brian Bruns (Lion Fight) and Jake Poss," Schilling said. "Jake Poss just won a WBC National title about two weeks ago."
For his sixth MMA contest, Schilling will enter the Bellator cage with a 2-3 record. Prior to his Bellator debut, he spoke about hating that he only had a "1" in the winning side of his record. Now he is only a win away from getting back to square and a .500 win percentage.
"It wasn't in my mind. Thanks for bringing that up Mike," he laughed. "I don't think about it too much. I know what my record should be. I look at it as I'm 1-0 because I didn't train for those fights. It was a completely different chapter of my life back then and I don't even feel like the same person. It's going to be nice to rid of that '2' and get back to .500 I guess. 3-3 would be good. More importantly than my record is the importance of how I fight and the performances that I put on. Anybody that looks at my record and doesn't take me serious is making a mistake."
On the personal front, Schilling said he is "blessed to have such a solid home life and support system." The father of two is, of course, referring to his fiance Cina and his two boys, Jackson and Joe, who he playfully refers to as #Thing1 and #Thing2 on social media.
"Everybody is doing great," the Dayton, Ohio native said. "#Thing2 (Jackson) is really excited about the Bellator fight coming up. He likes the cage and he wants me to jump up on the cage after I win. #Thing1(Joe) is starting to get a little nervous. He hates it when I fight. The closer it gets the less he wants to talk about it."
"And my coaches as well,"he continues. "I've been with the same coach since I was an amateur. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes. Having the right people and the right management team and the right people around me is definitely paying off and a huge part of the success I'm having now."
With two wins in a row, Schilling is anxiously awaiting the Bellator 136 showdown with Carvalho, and to keep the ball rolling on his current winning streak. Shockingly, he doesn't yet have another fight lined up yet, but he mentioned an announcement could be coming very soon.
"I don't know," replied Schilling, when asked if GLORY or Bellator was next on the horizon. "I'm not exactly sure when I'll be fighting for either one of them. I imagine it will be very, very soon. It may be announced before I even get in the cage before Rafael. I'm not sure but I expect to come out of this fight--I hope with no injuries and get right back into training camp for either another GLORY fight or a Bellator fight. Or, could be a boxing fight if that opportunity should arise."
But rest assured he will be staying active.
"I'm trying to get my name and my face out there and stay as active as possible. If you look at it as a popularity contest and you have a huge network and channel like Spike TV on your team pushing, that is huge for me and my career."