For Filip Verlinden, it felt like his big break was never really going to happen. The Belgian fighter has fought wherever he was needed, from middleweight to heavyweight and everywhere in between, racking up wins and losses that never quite equated much of a streak in the bigger leagues, but was enough to keep him in the conversation as one of the elite fighters in kickboxing. After a few disappointing showings at light heavyweight, he finally made the drop to middleweight in 2014 and saw an interesting thing happen: he wasn’t just winning, he was beating some of the best around.
Filip Verlinden picked up a win over the very slick and talented Israel Adesanya, then, in the GLORY Last Man Standing tournament he was able to get by Melvin Manhoef before he ran into the man who would go on to become GLORY’s middleweight king, Artem Levin. Another win later on in the year sent him into 2015 looking like he was on a collision course with other top-ranked middleweights, only for it not to happen. One fight made a lot of sense to him, and interestingly enough, that fight made sense to the man that he was calling out, as well, that man was Joe Schilling.
In February of 2015 Schilling said that the match made a lot of sense for both of them while he, a finalist against Levin at the Last Man Standing tournament, built himself back up to challenging for the title. Verlinden wasn’t getting the fights he wanted and was forced to fight Mourad Bouzidi at light heavyweight in June of 2015, where he once again revisited the idea of the Schilling bout.
Now, this Saturday, Bellator is making that fight happen in Bellator Kickboxing and Verlinden seems to have the same general attitude as he did before. “I have known about Joe Schilling for a long time,” Verlinden explained when asked about the match-up. “He is a great fighter. We were both high ranked GLORY fighters but never got the chance to fight each other.”
That same sense of mutual respect between the two men is still there, two, with Verlinden seeming lucid about the fight. “Joe is a brawler who throws everything with bad intentions. He’s always dangerous so you have to be focused till the last second of the fight.”
Schilling hasn’t forgotten about how they never clashed before, either. “It was him, me and Artem Levin, and we were all the top three middleweights at GLORY the whole time we were there,” was how Joe broke it down. “So I definitely know what he’s capable of. He’s one of the best in the world and he has a ton of experience.”
Much like Verlinden, Joe has a level of respect for Verlinden going into the fight. “This is going to be a tough fight because I know Filip is very durable. Neither Tyrone Sponge or Mirko Cro Cop could finish him. He’s fought at heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight. His strength at heavyweight is his speed but he’s not as fast at middleweight.”
Interestingly enough, Joe, who is known to be a brawler, has a different sort of plan heading into this fight. “I’m not going into this fight looking for the knockout. I’m just planning on out-pointing him and hopefully something big will land and I drop him. If not, I’ll just run away with the scorecards.”
Bellator Kickboxing 8 airs Saturday on Spike TV at 10pm eastern, 7pm pacific, right after Bellator MMA.