FAIR LAWN, N.J. — All that Joseph Schick of Fair Lawn was looking for was a way to stay in shape.
What he got out of Jiu Jitsu was unexpected, and so much more.
One year after joining his first martial arts gym in 2015, Schick -- formerly a high school and Division I college wrestler -- faced a professional fighting career, with an amateur record of 5-0.
It's something he never guessed would happen, but now that he's training for his third professional fight, Schick is in it for the long haul.
"You never really know what life is going to present to you. I became a teacher and loved it," said Schick of Hamilton, who teaches science, math and social studies to fourth through sixth graders in Central Jersey.
"I figured I could do that my whole life. And then, something else popped up."
Schick is two fights into his professional MMA fighting career (1-1) and has another coming up on Nov. 17 in Atlantic City -- Ring of Combat.
Without a positive attitude and an open mind, Schick says none of this would have been possible.
The first person to see the spark within him was a friend, who suggested he join a martial arts gym in August 2015. Then, Schick's amateur coach asked him if he wanted to fight.
It wasn't his intention, but he knocked all five down with ease -- and one title-defense, too.
That was in May 2016. And the athlete knew he had a decision to make.
"I figured either I would turn pro, or do one more amateur fight and win," he said. "But by that point my coaches were throwing the word 'pro' around, so it was in my near future -- win or lose."
And so, Schick switched to a larger gym, and it became reality that he was going to be a professional athlete.
"When I told my new coach Dante Rivera that I was a teacher," Schick said. "And he said yeah, well you're a fighter too."
By September 2016, he had his first fight... and lost.
That, paired with an injury, made Schick rethink going pro altogether.
But then he realized, if he cut some weight and rehydrated a bit better, he might be able to make it work.
A year later, Schick won his second fight.
He's now working on training for his upcoming fight in a few weeks, but balancing that with work is what challenges Schick the most.
He wakes up at 5 a.m. for cardio and gets to work by 7:30 a.m. At 5:30 p.m., he heads to Jiu Jitsu school or MMA practice, and is home by 10 p.m.
"If you don’t take rest days you’ll get run down," Schick said. "A lot of the fighters have flexible jobs or can work odd hours.
"I have two careers at the same time -- it’s tough."
His students understand. They often Google him, and they don't laugh when he comes in with a black eye or stitches -- which was the case last Monday.
Some days are tougher than others. Longer than others. But Schick's a fighter -- it's obvious.
"If you're going to do something, you have to do it 100 percent," he told Daily Voice. "I try to stay humble, keep positive and take whatever's in front of me.
"That's what keeps me going."
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