Tony Reid – You were a tough kid with a tough childhood growing up but you found Muay Thai as a teenager and it give you some direction. Can you walk us through how you found Muay Thai and how it became such a big part of your life?
Joe Schilling – “I was just a really angry kid growing up. I was the youngest. I had an older brother and an older sister. During their teen years they were typical kids getting into trouble doing what high school kids do. I learned those things at a much younger age by watching them. I couldn’t deal with authority. I acted out a lot. I really drove my parents crazy. One day my mom told me I needed to find a hobby. I found a boxing/kickboxing gym. Right off the bat I really respected the instructor. It was someone I could immediately relate to. The more I trained the more self-respect I got. The more confidence I had in myself. It also gave me an outlet for all of my anger. At around six months I was learning so fast and getting good so quickly I was asked to help teach class. At that point I was still young, teaching adults, people from town, doctors, lawyers and other grown men. I was 16 years old. I became obsessed. The respect that I was getting from people who had no other reason to respect me than that I was kickboxing, they probably thought I was some punk kid had I not been training them. I really feel in love with that. It makes my parents proud, it puts food on the table, it given me a career and a life kickboxing, 100% saved my life.”
Tony Reid – Early on in your combat sports career you entered some interesting Toughman Contests. Can you walk us through your first fight?
Joe Schilling – “My first fight was at a bar in Middletown, Ohio. At the time Middletown was kind of a redneck, blue collar city. It was in a bar I wasn’t old enough to get into actually. My trainer was fighting in the thing and I went to watch him. They said it was $20 a fight. There weren’t many people signing up to fight. I went to the registration desk, and because not many people were fighting they weren’t checking IDs. Sign me up! They matched me up, I was 6’2” 165 pounds soaking wet. I was skinny. I looked like a newborn pony. My first fight was against a guy who was 215 pounds and like 5’9”. He was a construction worker. His nickname was ‘The Mad Roofer’. He was like a little Tank Abbott body type. The fight started with 16 ounce gloves. I was swinging and punching with little power. He clinched and the ref separated us. I was so pumped up, I felt like Ralphie on A Christmas Story where he was beating up the bully. He’s just like ‘Mother trucker…’ making up crazy sounds and words as he goes. It was like that. Off the break, from the clinch, I hit him with a jab in the face and a right straight to his big gut. It was the only decent punch I threw and I hit him right square in the gut. He immediately shook his head, threw his hands in the air, waving off the fight. It was 57 seconds in the first round. The crowd, watched this skinny young kid beat up a construction worker and they all went crazy. I remember when the raised my hand they said ‘This is the roughest 160 pound guy in Middletown, Ohio.’ It was pretty cool. I got to sit in the bar drinking after the fight. I really enjoyed that feeling. I fought a number of times after that in Ohio. That was the first light at the end of the tunnel where I realized I would be able to make a career and doing something positive, doing something other than working at a gas station. I decided I was going to go to Los Angeles and train real kickboxing. At the time there was a magazine out called Muay Thai Magazine. It was an off shoot of Inside Kung Fu Magazine. All of the articles were based out of Los Angeles, so I figured I would go there. I told my mom what I wanted to do, she gave me $100 in gas cards. She told me to go get this out of my system, that she would see me in a few weeks.
“I moved to California and started fighting smokers, I met my fiancé, she became pregnant and that pushed everything into fast forward. I was a personal trainer at the time. I kept fighting. My Muay Thai coach and I decided to open a gym, we now opened a second gym, nearly 8,000 square feet and everything is going really well. All that came from having kids and having that thing where I had to figure things out and get serious in life and what I want.”
Tony Reid – We all know you can’t stop crazy. Can you explain the origin of the craziness?
Joe Schilling – “It’s got better. There was no media for kickboxing in this country. There was one site that did any kind of news on Muay Thai. To the average fan it wasn’t on TV, you could watch fights on YouTube but no one knew any of the fighters. Me and some of my closest friends were trying to make a career out of this in the US. It seemed like for years we were the only ones trying to make it happen and take it to the next level. We started a team ‘Can’t Stop Crazy’. We brought in the best photographers that we knew, the best videographers, the best designers, etc. We decided we were going to promote ourselves on our own. We did our own interviews, we designed our own t-shirts, and we started promoting our own fights. The fans started to know us by name. We built our own news. We held ourselves accountable for trying to push the sport forward as far as we could. There was no doubt that we were the six best kick boxers and Muay Thai fighters in the country. I think we made a big impact on American kickboxing and the development of the sport in the States. Its proof positive that we can do anything we put our minds to.”
Tony Reid – Your knockout of Melvin Manhoef back at Bellator 131 was one of the most vicious in recent memory. What are your thoughts looking back at the fight?
Joe Schilling – “I am really proud of how the fight went. I am still extremely happy about it. I watch the video about 100 times a day. I’m not even kidding. We threw a going away party for my friend before he headed back to the UK. We were sitting there at the bar, having a good time. I closed my eyes and literally played the fight over in my head, smiling the whole time. He said ‘What are you thinking about?’ I said I was thinking about how I knocked the shit out of Melvin. (Laughs) For the most part it went how I wanted it to go. I already started training again and I am really inspired by the whole experience. I am inspired to get back to training and make the next one even more exciting and more of a buzz.
“It’s funny because everybody that watched the fight talks about how much adversity I overcame and how much heart I showed. When he caught me with that overhand that hit me on the temple my legs went out and I nearly dropped. But I never once felt challenged by any adversity in the fight. I never once felt like I was in any kind of serious trouble. I never had any inclination to tap out or quit or give up. I was in the fight every moment of the fight. I was 100% focused. When I landed the right hook straight left to the head, I knew he was knocked out. My manager and coaches had been reminding me a lot, nagging me actually, that if I knocked him down to remember that there was no standing 8 count. If I put him down they wanted to make sure I finished him. I hit him and knew he was out but I heard this voice in my head saying ‘There is no fucking standing 8 count!’ so I took two steps forward to make sure he was out. I went from showing no emotion whatsoever during the fight to that moment when the ref stepped in I was unable to control myself! I was so amped up at that moment. I told myself before the fight that no matter what happens I was not going to be that fighter that jumps up on the cage and screams at the crowd. I was unable to control myself afterward and I ended up doing it. I can’t wait to do it again and again.”