We are all looking for our calling. We are all looking for that one profession, talent, or activity where as if by some form of divine intervention, we can simply excel and perform better than others and are happy doing it. Some spend their entire lives looking for their “calling” and fail to find it. Often times we settle for what society tells us is right for us and give up searching for what really makes us feel alive. Many times we find our calling by chance.
Atlanta-based Muay Thai fighter Eddie Walker found his calling because after years of exercise and weightlifting he found himself still unable to get the results he was seeking. Five years ago, while trying to stay in shape he walked into Knuckle Up Fitness in Atlanta, Georgia and began taking Muay Thai classes. After a few months of training at Knuckle Up Fitness, Eddie caught the eye of professional Muay Thai fighter, Anthony Nieves. Impressed by his power and natural talent, Nieves asked Eddie if he had ever given fighting a thought.
This chance encounter would be the beginning of a new journey for Eddie. A journey that has taken him from fighting at local promotions such as Bangkok Fight Night in Atlanta, traveling all the way to Macedonia and representing the US on the Enfusion kickboxing reality show, and finally a shot at facing one of America’s current kickboxing superstars, Joe “Stich’Em Up” Schilling at Lion Fight Promotions’ “Lion Fight 7: Schilling vs. Walker”
When I asked Eddie about his upcoming bout with Schilling he expressed his excitement about being the main event for one of the biggest Muay Thai promotions in the U.S. Having fought for mostly local promotions against local fighters, Eddie expressed that fighting someone like Schilling would be an honor because his aim is to continue to grow in Muay Thai and eventually become a world champion. Eddie stated that many times “local promoters only bring in local fighters because they want to save money”. Although fighting locally allows a fighter to stay active, only fighting local fighters hinders talented prospects such as Eddie from taking on more challenging outside opponents to not only increase their level of skill but build their name as well.
While Eddie’s most recent fight was a bout versus Matt Callahan at Bangkok Fight Night in Atlanta (a fight he won by TKO in Round 4), he will be coming into the bout versus Schilling with international experience. In 2011, Eddie was chosen to represent the U.S. alongside UK-based American kickboxer Andrew Tate and female pro fighter Lindsey Scheer on the Enfusion kickboxing reality show which was filmed in Macedonia. Eddie states that the show which featured fighters such as current Its Showtime 85kg world champion Sahak Parparyan, Bruno Lurette, Wendell Roche, Lucy Payne, Julie Kitchen, and more, “changed the way I looked at fighting.”
Training and fighting alongside world class fighters gave Eddie not only new insight into the sports of Muay Thai and Kickboxing but fueled his desire to compete at the highest levels of Muay Thai and one day become world champion.
However, like many fighters in the U.S., Eddie has to balance his training and professional fight career with a full time job since Muay Thai has yet to offer purses large enough for a fighter to dedicate themselves solely to Muay Thai or Kickboxing. Eddie laughed when he explained that he works as a safety director at a paper mill saying that, “I pretty much make sure people stay safe and don’t get hurt by day but then hurt people at night.”
Aside from balancing his Muay Thai career with his job, Eddie also has to dedicate time to his family – wife Ashley, his 6 year old son, and 1 year old daughter. For this reason, Eddie explains that when it’s time to fight he has to abide by a strict schedule. Waking up at 4:00 am every day during the week, Eddie starts off his day with at least a 3 mile run before heading to work from 6:00 am to 3:30 pm. At 4:00 pm, Eddie heads to training and many times doesn’t get home until 7 or 8 in the evening.
Eddie balances his training between three different gyms in the Atlanta area – Toe 2 Toe Fitness, Knuckle Up Fitness, and Madhouse Gym where he trains with 6-time world champion Manu N’toh.
For his upcoming bout with Joe Schilling, Eddie has been training primarily with Manu N’toh. “Every time I train with Manu, he always finds a way of making me feel like I am out of shape”, Eddie says. When I asked Eddie about Joe Schilling, Eddie stated that he thinks Joe is a “very aggressive fighter” who seems to “fight angry”. He described himself as being “more relaxed” and said, “I explode when I need to”.
Aside from being a very aggressive, explosive, and dangerous fighter, Joe Schilling sometimes offers up a bit of pre-fight banter. These qualities have turned Schilling into one of American Muay Thai’s biggest stars. When I asked Eddie about fighting Schilling in Las Vegas where Joe has a large following, he said “I’m not really worried about who Joe is outside of the ring. What he says from now until the day of the fight doesn’t really worry me. But I do have to be worried about Joe Schilling, the fighter. That’s the guy I have to deal with and my focus is on that.”
“I am excited to fight in Vegas for a big promotion like Lion Fight. But fighting at Enfusion in Macedonia already allowed me to get experience fighting at a high level. So I feel that when it comes to fighting for a big promotion, I have already done it, so it’s not something that affects me. Fighting is my job, I’m going to do what I have to do to get the job done. I’m looking at Joe Schilling as just another fighter. I’m not too concentrated on who he is, he’s just another guy, him being a popular fighter is a bonus.”
While Muay Thai continues to grow in the U.S. most of the media attention has been on the two main hotbeds of Muay Thai, which are the East Coast, specifically New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia and the West Coast, specifically California and Nevada. However, other areas of the U.S. have slowly begun to build their own talented Muay Thai prospects.
Eddie Walker represents the new breed of Muay Thai fighters that are coming out of the southern United States. Like Anthony Nieves, Chike Lindsay, Alex Berrios, and others, Walker is the next fighter from the southern states making a name for himself. His goal is clear and that is to one day become a world champion. But the road to becoming a world champion in Muay Thai is a painful one. It’s a road paved with blood, sweat, and when your next opponent is a man like Joe Schilling, you know there are definitely going to be some stitches involved. But in order to be world champion you have to take on all comers – the dangerous ones, the crazy ones, and even the seemingly unbeatable ones. But Eddie Walker is definitely up to the task.