Jonathan Chaimberg is considered one of the most respected strength and conditioning coaches in North America. He maybe young at the age of 32, but he has been training elite athletes and regular people for over ten years. The former Canadian national wrestler works very closely with Greg Jackson's elite fighters, but most recently has been working very diligently with Kenny Florian making his Featherweight debut at UFC 131 in my hometown of Vancouver this Saturday.
With 131 just around the corner, Jon talks to us about Kenflo's progress, and his involvement with the Greg Jackson camp.
You got your start in the world of amateur wrestling years ago and now you’re one of the elite strength and conditioning coaches in the game. How did you get into this aspect of fitness?
I was part of the Canadian National Team at the Montreal Wrestling club. I had a number of concussions so I stopped wrestling. While I was in school I started studying and really enjoyed the aspect of training. I started training the Olympic team right after I retired from wrestling. When I was with the team I met Georges St-Pierre, he started training at the gym right after his loss to Matt Serra. From there I got the chance to work with Rashad Evans, Nate Marquardt, and many others. I just loved training wrestlers and I made the transition to training MMA fighters and athletes from every sport.
Now you mentioned you were competing for the Canadian Olympic Wrestling team. If you didn’t suffer from those concussions could you see yourself competing in MMA?
Oh for sure, if I would have known where the sport would have been right now I for sure would have loved it. I love all aspects of it. Sometimes I roll with the guys, sometimes I wrestle with the guys, and I’ve even had guys like David Loiseau and Denis Kang hold pads for me. I would have loved competing.
Getting into the subject of UFC 131 one of your clients Kenny Florian is making a jump into the Featherweight division. He’s dropped three weight classes to get to 145. Have you noticed a big difference in his strength and speed?
His strength and his speed have gone up. His strength has gone up enormously actually. He may be dropping weight classes but he's actually getting stronger. After his loss to Gray Maynard he really woke up and really tried to address his weakness which was wrestling and strength and conditioning. He always had good cardiovascular but his strength levels were not up to par. He really focused in on his weaknesses and has done an unbelievable job. It’s crazy how strong he is now in such a short time.
Now for Kenny Florian’s fight with Diego Nunes what have you two focused on to bring out the best in this fight?
For this camp it’s been power. A large amount of power, a large amount of explosiveness, a large amount of new found strength. His power levels are great, it’s fun to see him jump higher, lift more weight, and push more on the sled. It’s been fun to see him really progress. When he comes into the gym now, he trains like a true athlete. Before, he never impressed me with feats of power and strength. He still impressed me with his ability to maintain his cardiovascular, but now he impresses me when it comes to jumping, pushing sled, lifting weights, chin ups, and more. It’s impressive to see how he’s grown and I look forward to seeing him fight.
You mentioned guys like GSP, Rashad Evans, and Nate Marquardt. Those are just a few names that have enlisted you’re help. Who are some athletes you haven’t trained but would love to work with in the future?
It’s tough because I would consider myself a part of Jackson’s. I'm going down there next week after my Vancouver trip to work with Carlos Condit and Melvin Guillard. Anybody with Jackson's, guys like Kyle Noke and I just worked with Brian Stann recently. It's very tough to train guys, especially elite guys in every weight class. I'm very loyal to the guys I train. I wouldn't want to out of loyalty work with guys outside of our circle guys like BJ Penn. He called me and really wanted my services even though I'd really love to work with a guy of that caliber, it just didn't make any sense to me.
Especially now with the buyout of Strikeforce, I train King Muhammed Lawal and he's one of the guys I'm very close with. I'd never ever, ever consider training anyone else of that weight class knowing I have Mo and Rashad. It would be ridiculous for me to even consider training another guy of that weight. It's tough, I have guys I work with in every weight class. To tell you the truth though, I'd love to work with Uriah Faber. I'm good friends with him and he's a super nice guy. He's someone I'd love to work with.
When an elite athlete wants to train with you do you go directly to them at their camp or do they come to Montreal?
It all depends, with Kenny Florian it works out well. He's in Montreal every few weeks, he stays at my house and eats well. I go to Boston every now and again. With other guys it's good they are with a camp like Jackson's. When I go down there, if Melvin is there, if Carlos is there, all the top guys at Jackson's I can work with them for a week and they'll come up to Montreal too. It works out pretty well. With someone like Rashad it's been tough because I haven't gotten to work with him for this camp. He's been in Florida , I haven't the chance to get down there yet. He's coming to Montreal soon for a few weeks and I should be making a trip to Florida soon too.
It can be challenging, I normally go to the fighters and do a period of time at their location and they normally come up to Montreal too. With Kenny I told him that I don't trust him with anyone else . He doesn’t have a good gym down there where he can push sled or do Olympic lifts. I normally send him to one of my mentors in Boston and I get him to train there. I give a program to a guy down there and he reports Kenny's progress to me. It's a good luxury I have right now.
Now you work very closely with Rashad Evans, has there been a little bit of a conflict of interest? You're very tight with Jackson's and you're very tight with Rashad, has there been a little bit of an issue there?
To tell you the truth it's been very difficult for me. I've gone on record before, there's a few people out there who are not only my clients but my close friends. Kenny is one of them, Rashad is one of them. It's been kind of challenging right now trying to get this whole situation sorted out. Rashad is part of a different team now. We didn't know how we were able to work this out with Jon Jones being a part of Jackson's. We thought he'd have his own camp and do his own thing. But when you think about how other people are involved on his team. Guys like Anthony Johnson was supposed to fight Nate, Brian Stann a guy I train fought Jorge Santiago. When you have that, you have a conflict of interest.
It's tough for me to go to Rashad and train him down there. Last time I trained Rashad he was on the UFC Primetime show, I went to Denver to train him. You know it's a Jackson's affiliate. Nate Marquardt trains there, Shane Carwin trains there, Brendan Schaub trains there. We are all affiliated, so it's not a conflict of interest. I've gone on record saying I wouldn't help Jon Jones, but it's tough to set the same time aside for Rashad now that's he's part of another team. It's a challenge. I love Rashad, he's a close friend, and I want the best for him.
A little off topic from MMA, you mentioned you trained with elite hockey players and baseball players. Who are some athletes you had a chance to work with?
Kris Letang NHL All-Star defenceman for the Pittsburgh Penquins, he's in Montreal right now. Lot's of potential NHL draft picks coming to see me. The goalie for the New Jersey Devils is coming in and Russell Martin the starting catcher for the New York Yankees works with me. It's fun working with guys on different levels and different sports.
In your opinion who is the best conditioned athlete you've worked with so far?
Conditioning has so many different variables. There's strength, there's power, there's anaerobic threshold, there's cardiovascular ability. Each guy has their own special and unique characteristic. It's fun training these people. Lots of people think of GSP because he's an amazing specimen. He's powerful, he has wonderful anaerobic capacity, and just naturally without training he is above others. I really enjoyed seeing the progress in a lot of guys I train in Montreal, guys like Rory McDonald. They progress from a certain area and it's fun to watch their growth. I couldn't even give you one guy who really stands out. Tom Watson and Carlos Condit have unbelievable conditioning. They never get tired and they can just keep going. But their power levels won't be on the level of a guy like Rory or Georges. There's so many different variables.
Could you tell our readers about the Adrenaline Performance Center and where they can find more information if they need your services?
The Adrenaline Performance Center is in Montreal. Check out adrenalineperformancecenter.com. It's a great center here and we are planning on opening a bigger location soon. It's a state of the art place with not only machines but we got turf and sleds. If you come in here you'll see many familiar faces training along side regular people. It's a fun environment.
Would you like to make any shout outs?
Since this story is mainly about Kenny I'd really like to thank Keith Florian more than anything. He gets very little recognition and he works with Kenny the most. He's an unbelievable coach, one of the better coaches you'll ever meet, but gets very little recognition. He's always with Kenny and a great game planner. Kenny also has Peter Welch in Boston, Firas Zahabi in Montreal, and Kyle Holland out of Mike Boyle's in Boston. It's a good team and I'm happy to be a part of it.