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Joe Schilling feels like the 'cards are stacked' against him as GLORY deal winds down

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Joe Schilling doesn't think he'll have many friends at the Sears Centre Arena this weekend.

It's not often that a fighter will compete for an organization when he is already set to bolt after his contract is up and everyone knows it. But that's exactly the case for Schilling when he meets Michael Lemaire at GLORY 27 on Friday night.

Schilling, the most well-known American kickboxer and fan favorite, has already inked a deal with Bellator Kickboxing and was introduced at the new promotion's introductory press conference last Friday in Houston. That contract just won't begin until he fulfills two more fights with GLORY. This particular one will come on the Superfight Series in Chicago and will air on UFC Fight Pass.

It's not secret he's leaving for the competition in a few months, so Schilling is expecting that everyone -- from the broadcasters to the referees to the judges -- will be against him this weekend. Add in the fact that he took the fight on less than two weeks notice while Lemaire, a legit prospect, had a full training camp and Schilling understands what's going on.

And it's motivating him.

"I think the pressure is really on me to knock out a guy who has been training for two fights in one night and I've been training for what, a week and a half?" Schilling said. "That makes it really easy for me to get up for it. I don't like it when people stack decks against me and I really get fired up when people tell me I can't do something. I think it's gonna be that much better when I do knock him out and when I do tell the world that I took this fight on a week's notice."

Schilling, 32, doesn't wish ill of GLORY. He's still the organization's biggest American star and a former middleweight champion. But he felt jerked around last year when he was promised a title shot with champion Artem Levin and, as soon as he signed the deal, Levin pulled out with an injury.

"I don't see a lot of value in the GLORY title anymore," Schilling said. "I've been continuously told I was going to fight for the title and continuously screwed out of the title shot."

GLORY CEO Jon Franklin told MMA Fighting this week that he wants Schilling to get a title shot and Schilling has been offered to fight for the belt if he beats Lemaire. But that's only if Schilling continues on with GLORY. Franklin said he'd be willing to allow Schilling to fight for both GLORY and Bellator Kickboxing if he so chooses.

"He could fight for both," Franklin said. "It's totally up to him. We're offering him to structure it however he would like. We're not holding him to exclusivity right now.

"I would love to give Joe Schilling a title shot. It's there for him if he wants it."

Franklin said GLORY is willing to "do a lot" to keep Schilling and give him a title shot.

"But ultimately, it's his choice, of course," Franklin said. ... "I truly believe he deserves a shot at the title and I would like to see him get a shot at that title. But with a shot at the title and winning the title comes responsibilities. And the responsibilities are that he has to continue to fight and defend that title. That's a decision that he and his management have to make."

Schilling believes it's possible that Levin, who defends the belt against Simon Marcus in the main event of GLORY 27, just might not want to fight him.

"I really just lost all respect for Artem," Schilling said. "Honestly, I feel like he's toward the end of his career. His best years were long ago and he just doesn't want to take hard fights. That's fine with me. Make your money, do your thing, but don't hold onto the title."

GLORY still has the majority of the best kickboxers in the world on its roster. But Schilling doesn't agree with the organization's promotion techniques. He feels like he's better off with Bellator MMA and Bellator Kickboxing. Both are owned by Viacom, so they have deep pockets. And Schilling, a two-sport star, believes in the abilities of Bellator president Scott Coker as a promoter.

The relationship is even more complicated, because GLORY used to air alongside Bellator on Spike TV and the two promotions actually put on an event together in September. But Spike didn't renew its agreement with GLORY and now Coker, who has decades of kickboxing promotion experience, will do his own thing with Bellator Kickboxing.

"I wish GLORY nothing but the best," Schilling said. "I have nothing against them, but there's been a lot of rough patches with GLORY in the last couple of years. I need to make the right decision for my career. Viacom has an unlimited bank account and they're gonna do shoulder programming behind the events. They're really going to push me and give me more exposure.

"ESPN is a good TV network and all that, but I don't play baseball, pool, swimming, hockey, football -- whatever. As far as promoting Joe Schilling on ESPN, I just don't think it's gonna be as lucrative for me in the long run as it would be for Bellator."

Schilling might be correct. He is immediately Bellator Kickboxing's best fighter and biggest star. The fledgling promotion, which kicks off in April, will basically build around him at the outset.

But before he can get there, he has two more fights for GLORY. One will be Friday and the other will be in May, he said. It's a bit awkward.

"I always do my best throughout my career when my back is against the wall and the cards are stacked against me," Schilling said. "And I don't think you can stack the cards against me more than you already are for this fight.

"The pressure is on. If I lose this fight, what does that do for me in Bellator? What does that do for my name and my career, to lose to this guy? It's a lot of pressure on me."