Personal trainer uses MMA background to train sports teams, athletes
Using his experience in mixed martial arts and sports, Jeffrey Montalbano, founder of the Fight Sports Winter Garden gym, creates specialized sports training programs for local teams and athletes.
| 12:00 p.m. September 29, 2016
Shortly after moving from New York to Florida 11 years ago, Jeffrey Montalbano opened his own MMA fitness gym.
At first, he only had 20 members and no mats or equipment. Now 10 years later, he runs a gym with two programs spearheaded by him and new business partner Ricardo Oliveira.
The two programs: SWAT Fitness and Fight Sports, offer everything from personal fitness classes, women’s fitness, self-defense, Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu — all under one roof.
“When I owned the place, it was all me,” Montalbano said. “I was the receptionist, the guy who cleaned the bathrooms, I did all the vacuuming, I taught classes — luckily I had Julian Williams, who ran our MMA program here. And then, once Ricardo came in and developed this whole SWAT fitness and Fight Sports, I’m now able to really dedicate myself to stuff that I love.”
What Montalbano really loves is applying his four years of experience in judo and 10 years of experience in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to develop sports-specific training programs for young athletes.
Two weeks ago, he started a strength and conditioning program for the West Orange High School junior varsity baseball team with coach Graig Smith and assistant coach T.J. Sullivan.
He also just started working with Ken Janata from Wildfire Softball, a competitive girl’s travel softball program based in Windermere.
“With all of my youth athletes, we don’t do any kind of heavy-weight training, but we do a lot of functional training — stuff that’s going to help them in their individual sports but also help tendon and ligament strengthening to help prevent injuries,” Montalbano said. “My job is to not only make (them) better at whatever sports (they) play but also to be able to help keep (them) on the field.”
At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, 44-year-old Montalbano inspires respect from young athletes, but his main goal is to help kids realize personal fitness training doesn’t have to be a chore. His training programs are more movement-based than traditional programs.
“Working with Jeff just provides a great environment and a great opportunity for a lot of our young players who’ve never really had any weightlifting or any kind of conditioning background,” Smith said. “Especially in baseball, because of the length of our season and the amount of games that we play a week, working a high-intensity training allows our kids to improve their cardiovascular system as well. And it’s all done with very low-risk atmosphere, which is what I really like about it.”
A veteran youth softball coach, Janata also appreciates the focus of the programs, as he’s noticed that even though the 11 eighth-grade girls he’s brought to Fight Sports Winter Garden have come back sore, they still want more.
Montalbano has been a personal trainer for 21 years, and he currently serves as the head coach for the kids Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu program and fitness training program.
He currently is a second-degree brown belt in jiu-jitsu, with the next step being black belt. He said he would have his black belt already, but his time spent training others at the Fight Sports Winter Garden gym, doing what he loves, has delayed his progression slightly.
Not that he minds.
“I do it because it’s a not a job to me,” Montalbano proudly explains. “It’s kind of like a calling. I love watching people progress, whether it’s kids, women, men – I love having the ability to train everyone from elementary school kids, middle school, high school, college and professional athletes.”