Feared striker Joe Schilling returns at Bellator 219, and he’s prepared to put his newly developed total MMA package on display.
Decorated and quite frankly deadly kickboxer Joe Schilling continues his second run in MMA this Friday at Bellator 219 in Temecula, CA. Schilling will be taking on Keith Berry at the event, a Strikeforce and KOTC veteran in the sport since 2005. While far from a world beater, Berry (15-14-1, 1NC) has vastly more experience in the cage than Schilling, making this an interesting match-up.
Schilling (3-5), to his credit, is nothing but honest when it comes to self-appraisal, whether good or bad. He covered both with Cageside Press ahead of Bellator 219. In the positive column, his last outing (Bellator 210, a corner stoppage of Will Morris), which saw something fans hadn’t seem from ‘Stitch ‘Em Up’: Ground n’ Pound.
It wasn’t something Schilling had anticipated either. “I never ground and pounded someone like that, it never crossed my mind until that point,” he revealed. Yet it came because of the work, the prep he’d put in with his team, “with my hips and my wrestling and my overall understanding of positions.”
“It was kind of an afterthought, it was like ‘well, here I am in this position, I’m doing the right thing here, I’m just going to go ahead and start blasting this dude,'” Schilling admitted. “I didn’t realize how good I was going to be at that. Now, this time around we’re like ‘alright, let’s just go for those positions.'”
“I’m liking the ground n’ pound, it’s been really great having my elbows back,” a clearly positive Schilling continued. “That was my sh*t forever in Mauy Thai, that’s where I got my name ‘Stich ‘Em Up.’ I think I have the best elbows in the fight game. When I was with Glory, there was no elbows, somehow, but I still ended up being the best middleweight kickboxer of all time. But now I’ve got my elbows, so it’s been really good.”
If Schilling sounds like he’s got a fresh dose of confidence here, he does. “For sure. It’s been a lot of fun. I don’t want to say I was burnt out on kickboxing, but high level kickboxing isn’t all about learning new techniques.” He sees this with some of his own students. “They all want to learn the flying knee or cart wheel kick, and all this stuff. But high level kickboxing is about being so precise, small increments, details, fundamentals, basics. It does kind of get monotonous after fifteen years.”
That isn’t to say that attention to detail hasn’t helped in Schilling’s transition to mixed martial arts. “One thing I’ve learned from that is the amount of focus that I have to put into doing things technically correct, and like really perfecting them. It really helps my understanding when I’m learning these techniques and stuff with wrestling. It’s a big part of how quickly I’ve recently, now that I’ve committed to it, been picking up on stuff.”
So while his kickboxing has translated well to MMA, “my overall fight IQ has been a big benefit.”
The switch in sports has, at the very least, been reinvigorating for Joe Schilling. And this is where that honesty, good or bad, comes into play again. Quite frankly, Schilling told us, he wasn’t committed to MMA the way he should have been in his first run. “I’m not proud of it, but I’m pretty open about everything in life, and honest with myself,” he said. Having a kickboxing contract and being a top fighter in his weight class, his commitment level was never where it should have been. “Maybe other people would have, but I never really committed to it fully. I always had kind of one foot out the door. It was, ‘if this doesn’t work, whatever, this isn’t even my sh*t anyway.'”
About a year and a half ago, however, Schilling went all in. “No more kickboxing, it’s just all MMA sink or swim. I think that reinvigorated my competitive nature.”
Which means he has to make up for lost time. “I’ve been working with the top MMA stars for like the last ten years, just through helping them with striking. When they would work with me on MMA stuff, my brain was almost checked out,” he admitted. “It wasn’t important, it wasn’t stuff I was into, ‘it’s MMA sh*t, I’m doing kickboxing now.'”
“I’m still working with the highest guys in MMA, but now I’m asking questions, soaking sh*t up like a sponge and really getting a lot more out of it,” he added. “Hindsight being 20/20, I should have been paying attention years ago. But it’s working now, and I’m really excited about this fight.”
As for what to expect from the fight against Berry, well, “everyone who was really impressed with the ground n’ pound last fight, I think they’re going to be really impressed with the total MMA package they get this time.”
To that end, Schilling did his first jiu-jitsu tournament about six, seven months back. “The event was really cool,” he said. “I kind of had to buckle down and learn as much Gi specific jiu-jitsu as possible. I learned a lot because of that pressure and because of that time I had to put in and do that. When I don’t have a fight it’s hard to stay motivated and hard to stay competitive with your training. I think that it was a really good thing, I think my Fight IQ grew quite a bit from that tournament.”
As to the future, Schilling is not one to call out names, but he’s excited. Both for middleweight, and welterweight possibilities. “I think I can make 170 pretty easy, and there’s a lot of exciting fights for me there.”
“I’m like two fights away from being able to fight anybody on the Bellator roster,” he added. But having said that, “I’m going to keep focusing on me, and not look past Keith Berry.”
Schilling, of course, has trained with Cowboy Cerrone, who fights at a near break-neck pace for MMA. If all does go well on Friday, the plan is to get more active this year, after being idle most of 2018. “Looking back on it now, I think [Bellator] wanted to make sure I was putting in the amount of effort and amount of time that was needed,” Schilling suggested. “I think I’m showing that, I plan on showing that again on the 29th. I want to stay active as f*ck. I’ll fight four times a year, if I have no injuries, I’ll fight a month after my fight if the opportunity arises. I want to stay as busy as possible.”
Joe Schilling returns on the main card of Bellator 219 Friday, March 29 at the Pechanga Resport and Casino in Temecula, CA. The card airs live on Paramount Network and DAZN.