For Muay Thai to grow here in the United States there a few essential tools the sport will need in order to become successful. The biggest requirement is the backing of someone who has the knowledge, experience and most importantly the money to produce solid cards and promote them properly.
Lion Fight Promotions seems to have that chore down as former Las Vegas casino executive Scott Kent is in charge of the ever growing promotion. Kent has the contacts, the venues and the vision that will help the sport and its fighters grow and become popular among combat sports fans.
Another essential tool is the need to develop and promote popular fighters who are not only entertaining in the ring, but who also have the ability to captivate the audience and allow them to invest their time into their careers. One such fighter is WBC Light Heavyweight Champion Joe Schilling, a man who like so many others before him, knew that he would wind up being a fighter.
“I started Muay Thai Kickboxing when I was 15 and I was a troubled kid,” Schilling told BJPenn.Com. “My mom wanted me to have some sort of hobby and getting involved in the martial arts was something that I wanted to do. I played a few other sports, but I couldn’t play in high school because I was more concerned with girls and hanging out with my friends.”
“Originally I thought kicking was for girls until I started getting my ass kicked. It was then that I realized that kicking was a pretty effective way to win a fight. I really liked my instructor, I looked up to him. He was a bad ass and got lots of chicks and that’s exactly what I wanted to do at the time.”
Schilling can take an ass whipping just as good as he can give one. He does so each and every day in a gym that was converted from an old jailhouse in Los Angeles. Fighters come from all walks of life to train with Schilling and his team. Many of them are current UFC stars and he welcomes the diversity that they can offer.
“I am partner in a gym called “The Yard” with one of my coaches Mark Komuro in downtown Los Angeles,” said Schilling. “I moved out to LA when I was 20 and have been training with him ever since. We’ve owned the gym for awhile and things are going very well. I’ve trained with guys like Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, Jason Miller and Lorenz Larkin. All of these guys have been a great help and the training has been mutually beneficial.”
Many have asked Schilling when he would eventually make the jump to mixed martial arts. He had thought about the move long and hard, but eventually decided to stick with what got him to the dance and that is Muay Thai.
“I was going back and forth about making the move to MMA because Muay Thai was so small at the time,” Schilling admitted. “Now that the sport is growing and getting more attention I’m all for sticking with Muay Thai and helping the sport grow. I’m not really interested into moving over to MMA, K-1 is back in the U.S. and is on Spike TV. That might be something I might be interested in, but I am committed to Scott Kent and Lion Fight Promotions right now.”
With a 13-3 record, Schilling has produced some highlight reel knockouts. He has a few personal favorites, but in his mind each and every fight is the next ultimate test. There is not enough time to bask in the glory of accomplishments achieved because the task at hand is always staring him right in the face.
“The biggest fight of my career right now would be against Karet Karapetyan of Golden Glory Gym,” offered Schilling. “I won back my WBC title and it was a great moment for me to win a world title in Bangkok; it was a pretty big deal. Prior to that my fights with Simon Marcus were a pretty big and got a lot of exposure for the sport here in the U.S. I knocked out Kaoklai Kaennorsing who is famous for his head kick KO of Mighty Mo Siliga. Every fight I have is a step up in competition and a big step up in competition.”
Lion Fight is promoting one of their best overall cards this Saturday at The Joint at The Hard Tock Hotel in Las Vegas. Schilling will take his rightful place in the main event against a fighter who normally competes at a much heavier weight.
“I’ll be fighting Eddie Walker who is a tough guy and we’re fighting at a catchweight of 180lbs,” said the 28-year-old Schilling. “I don’t think Eddie’s that good, but he is a game opponent, but I don’t think he has the experience or the skill to beat me. However there is a puncher’s chance and I think it’ll be a good, exciting fight for the fans. I’m known for knocking out 90% of my opponents and I plan on putting on a good show.”
Kent explained to BJPenn.Com yesterday that the sport is still growing, but the interest is becoming hot and heavy with groups all over the country as well as internationally expressing an interest in his promotion. Schilling is a firm believer in Muay Thai and sees a bright future for the sport once the fans have more access to it.
“The sport is growing and has gained a lot of attention over the past couple of years,” Schilling stated. “I think the fans that have seen it love it and as soon as it gets on TV it will really take off. It’s the most exciting combat sport there is and it just needs to be broadcasted to a larger audience. We need to be on TV, no one can see it if we’re not on TV.”
As humble as is he confident, Schilling was quick to point out that his fight wasn’t the one he would watch intently. Instead he spoke about a bout featuring two rough, exciting female fighters who he feels should be occupying his spot on the card.
“I think the most exciting fight on this card will be Jeri Sitzes, who is fighting one of my training partners, Tiffany Van Soest,” said Schilling. “You have two mean, vicious girls who are fighting for the WBC International Title. I am really looking forward to that fight and I believe it will be the fight of the night. That really should be the main event in my opinion.”
With a bright future for the sport and himself, Schilling is confident that this next fight will show the world exactly how good he truly is and he plans on making examples of each and every fighter who is unlucky enough to get in his way.
“In this fight the fans can expect to see a typical Joe Schilling fight,” said Schilling. “It’s not going to last very long and I feel as though I’m in the best shape of my career. After that I just want to keep pushing the sport forward and knocking out everyone they put in front of me.”
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