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‘Mature’ Joe Schilling is now focused on just MMA ... and Bellator 229’s Tony Johnson

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Joe Schilling interview

Bellator 229: “Koreshkov vs. Larkin” goes down inside Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., this Friday night (Oct. 4, 2019), featuring an anticipated Welterweight fight with future title shot implications between Lorenz Larkin (20-7, 1 NC) against former champion Andrey Koreshkov (22-3).

In addition, an intriguing Middleweight main card bout sees Joe Schilling (4-5) take on Tony Johnson (8-2). Schilling’s mixed martial arts (MMA) record may seem subpar on paper, but “Stitch ‘Em Up” is a decorated kickboxer who has only recently translated that success to MMA, picking up back-to-back wins in his last two fights. Johnson, meanwhile, has only one previous fight in Bellator, knocking out Brian Ortega at Bellator 183.

MMAmania.com recently spoke with Schilling about this weekend’s pivotal fight for his MMA career, what he credits his newfound success in this multi-discipline sport to and much more.

“Yeah, I think it’s maturity and just taking it more seriously. You know I was going back and forth between MMA and kickboxing. My foot was always kind of one foot out the door and I don’t think the focus was really there so much for either one. Now it’s been a year or two of just only MMA and the growth is starting to show.”

Does that mean Schilling is hanging up his kickboxing gloves for good?

“Yeah, I’m all set with that. I don’t think there’s a whole lot left that I could accomplish or do with kickboxing, so yeah the focus has been MMA and that’s where we’re at.”

He’s not exaggerating. Schilling won the GLORY World Middleweight Championship tournament in 2013, the Muay Thai Association Super Middleweight Championship, and three different World Boxing Council Muay Thai titles among his many other accomplishments.

Looking back on his Bellator 219 fight with Keith Berry, Schilling is happy to have shown off how much improvement he has made in the sport.

“It kind of played out that way. I remember the third round, the ground, I was more comfortable on the ground. He had the mount at one point in the third round, but when I reversed that I really comfortable and aware of what I was supposed to be doing. It was kind of a big moment for me. Usually in MMA it has always seemed kind of like, ‘Oh shit! What do I do here? What do I do there?’ Now I feel like I really have a gameplan and understand ... and it shows.”

Berry clearly did not have a gameplan for when Schilling got on top and started dicing him up with elbows, which is how “Stitch ‘Em Up” got his name in the first place.

“It’s good to be able to have my elbows again. When I was doing kickboxing for a long time with GLORY and the Bellator Kickboxing there was just no elbows (allowed). I forgot how much I enjoyed throwing them. It’s been nice having them back.”

I asked Schilling how he feels about his opponent coming in on weight, fit, and ready to go in the Bellator cage. His answer caught me a little bit by surprise.

“I hope he stubs his toe on the way to the ring to be honest with you. Yeah, if he walks in with a little limp and a broken toe I’d be okay with it.”

Now Schilling has me in stitches. With all the accidents we’ve had inside the cage, though, we hardly need any outside. I asked Schilling for his thoughts on all the recent eye pokes.

“It’s a weird thing that I think they’ve done so much over the years developing the gloves and giving them the curve and I’m not sure what else they can really do about that. It’s super disappointing when that happens.”

Don’t tell me, though — tell the fans who paid to see a no contest. It’s a no-win situation if you take away the fingers though, because then you take away grappling and submissions. Schilling doesn’t have any answers for how to solve this problem because he himself is guilty as charged.

“I don’t know, man. My last fight I accidentally poked Keith Berry in the eye so I don’t know if I’m the right guy to talk about that.”

Schilling ought to consider a career in stand up comedy. In all seriousness though, he’d love to have an answer, but he’s stumped for ideas.

“It’s definitely something that happens. You know being in boxing gloves for so many years you don’t realize how relaxed and open your hand is a lot so it’s definitely an issue that we all need to be aware of.”

Getting back to Johnson though, I asked Schilling to give me his overall thoughts on his foe heading into Bellator 229.

“He’s a good opponent. He has a pro boxing background, a pretty good record, and he’s from AKA, which is a well-respected team so, I think he’s a good opponent. But at the end of the day, that’s what he is an opponent. Yeah, I think to be honest I can win this fight.”

One last thing — now that Schilling is full-time in MMA, what does he want going forward with a third straight win and finally achieving a .500 record?

“I just would like another fight as soon as possible. You know the more often I get in there then the hotter I stay. Keep growing, keep improving. The long breaks between fights I usually stagnate, so I’d like to stay busy. Hopefully, I can get a quick turnaround after this fight.”

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 229 “Koreshkov vs. Larkin” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.