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SFC 300: Not Your Average Joe

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Two veteran strikers will kick off the main card of Friday's Shamrock FC: 300 at the River City Casino.

If you were tally the total amount of boxing, K-1, Muay Thai, and MMA bouts both amateur and professionally that Matt Murphy and Joe Mueller have on their respective resumes, the total would easily surpass triple digits.

But the cage is new territory for Mueller, who is making his MMA debut against Murphy (6-8). Be sure and look for our feature on the KO Kid in the coming days.

One of the most decorated Muay Thai fighters to come out of St. Louis, Mueller won multiple amateur world titles in 2012 and 2013 among his many accolades in both Muay Thai and K-1.

Mueller, who turns 28 on Thursday, grew up in South County and got into martial arts at Rodrigo Vaghi's Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 18. While he was there to learn grappling, he quickly found a passion for Muay Thai. Along with piling up the trophies, medals, and accolades in the art of eight, the sport granted him multiple opportunities to travel and live in locations all around the globe. Now, Mueller finds himself on the eve of a new combat challenge.

So why MMA now at this stage in your life?

It just happened. MMA was a result of jiu-jitsu. I went through a physically, spiritually and mentally taxing relationship and at the beginning of the year. The two of us finally called it quits, and I needed something. There isn't a Muay Thai scene here, and it needs nourishment. My best friend (Kirk Huff) is a brown belt running Arnold BJJ, which I helped him open two years ago and figured why not take advantage of that, try something new. I always tell people you depressed? Train. Are you going through heavy stuff or a bad break up? Train. Are you trying to get over something mentally or physically whether it's drugs or stress? Train. So I decided to train BJJ, and I really liked it. I had fun, I was happy, I felt good about myself and became a better person around others. MMA followed kind of by accident.

What was the motivation for trying this out?

Because I'm curious. I want to know for myself, challenge myself, see what it's like. It's a difficult sport, and I like putting myself in challenging puzzles and finding a way out. I like putting myself in uncomfortable positions to see what my limits are and to press through them. Like the lotus flower, it rises from murky, muddy water to lay above the water in the sun. That's what life is. Struggle and suffer for moments or seconds of beauty.

As someone who has had much success in K-1 and Muay Thai, what has been your opinion of MMA as an outsider? Did you find the striking aspects rudimentary and remedial?

I mean, I don't know. There are things that are second nature to me that I see and I say to myself why would you do that, don't do that, check the damn kick. Those kinds of things. It's definitely not like Muay Thai. They are two different sports and who am I to say what's right and wrong.

Have you always been an MMA fan?

Yeah, guys like Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin were definitely apart of it for me. And I loved Pride! Cro Cop was my jam. And Fedor.

This year you have dove head-first into BJJ competition. Was that because you knew you were going to be taking an MMA fight at some point in the near future?

I like to compete. I'm a competitive person. I've sold most all of my belongings to train BJJ and travel to compete in BJJ tournaments, and I've brought home more than 15 medals most of them gold doing one or more competitions a month. Win or lose it's fun, and you always learn something new, and in a losing end, I'm usually motivated to fix that and figure out why that happened, make changes and get better. You never truly lose unless you give up and I don't give up. Let's say I'm running and I challenge myself to get from point A to B in X time. I don't make it, I lose. Well, I work harder to beat that and keep trying. That's not the end for me nor do I see myself as a loser just more to work on and beating it or winning just challenges the idea that I can still do better.

What has it been like; jumping into a brand new martial art?

I think it's refreshing. It's like I just said about racing and beating my time or losing, it challenges me to do more and to work out the problem and crack the puzzle. I've always looked up to people that are really good at a lot of different things or well rounded, and that's what I strive to be in life. My dad has been one of those people I always thought and always looked up to that, a man of many talents. The only thing keeping me from other weird hobbies is money and time. Also like I said earlier there's not a Muay Thai scene here or other strict Muay Thai guys here so it's hard to keep that passion alive and fire burning living here in St. Louis. The only real Muay Thai guys here are pretty much done fighting, and they're coaching is all over. We are all spread out over many different roofs now. I'm also the smallest of them all, and there's too small of a fight scene here for us all to cross train. People get older, have kids, get families, and I'm here just wanting to build a Muay Thai team again. I wish we were all under the same roof still.

Do you think BJJ is something you will continue even if you do not compete in MMA again?

I will definitely continue BJJ for whatever reason I don't continue MMA, but I'm pretty sure the UFC is hurting for 125ers. I've also beat a lot of guys that are in good places across weight divisions and in promotions like UFC, Lion Fight, Titan, guys with belts or contenders. I'd like to try and get there myself.

What are your thoughts on your opponent, Matt Murphy?

Probably a good guy, never talked to him until the other day when we placed a wager for the loser to buy chicken and waffles Sunday after the fight. So he's cool in my book. I still have to punch him in the face Friday tho.

And even if you were to lose, do you think you would return to MMA competition?

Most definitely. One fight doesn't tell you much win or lose. Especially your first time in that sport. That's like someone telling me all I have to do is throw 1 of 10 balls in a basket, and I'll give you $1000. I'm not giving up after I miss the first ball, I have 10. My first Muay Thai tournament I lost then came back to win three belts year after year until I went pro.

For tickets and pay-per-view information for SFC: 300, visit shamrockfightingchampionships.com

Photo courtesy of Project Deliverance. Join the Project at welcometotheproject.com

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