Jeff Bristol Discusses His Transition from Wrestling to Becoming a Successful Strength Coach

Jeff Bristol was fortunate to have Dan Henderson visiting his high school wrestling room, while training for Pride Fights in Japan.  Jeff also wrestled at UC Davis, under the guidance of guys like Urijah Faber and Mark Munoz.  Today, he works at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego and works with former Bellator Champion, Michael Chandler.  In today’s podcast, Jeff discusses his transition from athlete to strength coach.


In today’s podcast we discuss:

  • High school and college wrestling
  • Jeff’s introduction to MMA
  • Starting as a Personal Trainer
  • Overcoming obstacles and adversity
  • The highs and lows and competition
  • Working with Michael Chandler
  • and more!

Jeff Bristol wrestled at UC Davis, then transitioned into a personal trainer and strength coach, at Fitness Quest 10, in San Diego, CA. Under the guidance of Todd Durkin, Jeff has taken his competitive fire and transitioned into a successful coach, that is changing the lives for every person that works with him.

Stay in touch w Jeff here…

@bristolfit on Instagram

Jeff Bristol on Facebook


Interview with Jeff Bristol Discusses His Transition from Wrestling to Becoming a Successful Strength Coach

Corey Beasley [00:00:01]: Hey guy, is Corey Beasley with fight camp conditioning and I’m on the phone with strength coach, Jeff Bristol. Jeff, how are you doing?

Jeff Bristol [00:00:07]: I’m doing great Corey. Thanks for having me.

Corey Beasley [00:00:09]: Of course, man. I appreciate you taking time out of your day. But, Jeff, for everybody that’s listening, give everybody a little two sense of who you are and what you’re doing?

Jeff Bristol [00:00:20]: Yeah, Jeff Bristol here and I’m grateful that Corey asked me to be on this. I’m a personal trainer and a strength coach at fitness quest 10, which is located in San Diego, California. We’ve been here for about 15 years and I’ve been lucky enough to get my start in the fitness industry here under a guy by the name of Todd Durkin, to the average combat sport fan or athlete even that name might not ring a bell, but in the fitness industry and for as a trainer to like NFL players and major league baseball players, Todd Durkin is one of the top in the game. So I got my start here in the, I grew up basically as a trainer here at fitness quest 10. So I’m very grateful for that. I’ve had a lot of really good trainers around me to learn from. So I was actually a high school and division one college wrestler myself. So I have a passion for wrestling and MMA and growing up I grew up in Temecula, California, just North of San Diego here. And we had a really good high school wrestling program there. And ever since high school, I was going through high school between the years of 1998 to 2002, which was kind of the beginning years for mixed martial arts. And Temecula is home of Dan Henderson. And my family, became friends with Dan when I was in high school, there weren’t really a lot of quote unquote MMA gyms around and he was coming to Temecula high school wrestling practices. And like he’d come into our wrestling room a couple of nights a week and be training and he was fighting over in Japan at the time. And UFC wasn’t really anything at the time. And so my dad became friends with him and my dad ended up framing his house that he built out in the country. So that was my first kind of like intro to mixed martial art, knowing Dan in Temecula and just as I’ve recently, in the last couple of years, my brother had coached the wrestling classes in Temecula still. And so anyway, fast forward into college, I went to UC Davis and Russell division one in PAC 10 there. And I was able to get to know very well and become friends with Urijah Faber as my teammate and a coach. And then Mark Munoz was also my coach there. So I remember literally I was a freshman, Urijah was a senior and he’s like a great guy and MMA fans love him and he really is who he is on TV really is that person when you hang out with him or whatever. And so I remember he graduated, I was a freshman, he was a senior. He graduated and stuck around at UC Davis as a grad assistant coach for one year. And then he kind of told all of us on the team at the time that he was going to get into fighting. And at that time it wasn’t really, this was 2006 or so. And it wasn’t a common thing for college wrestlers to kind of transition into that. At that time. It was still kind of, the lightweights were the lighter weight in the UFC. And so he told us that he was going to start fighting we all looked at him cross-eyed, like, what do you think? And we had other teammates that were going on to follow their careers and stuff and he who was always been like a charismatic guy and he’s a great wrestler and he tells us he’s going to start fighting. So we’re kind of like, okay, and Urijah and Mark they were my two assistant coaches in college and wow. So Urijah starts doing the gladiator challenge, King of the cage stuff and we would go around and watch him and corner him. And those are literally like his first 10 fights. I remember that was really when I kind of started getting more into the mixed martial arts scene. Now just to give you a little background, a lot of strength coaches that I work with today or that I follow or learn from or I was not in college planning on being a strength coach or a personal trainer, I was actually more of just a straight, I didn’t really have my priorities in line at that time. I was kind of like wrestling and then partying and then school’s third, to be honest I learned some really hard lessons because of that and I’ll get into that. But I mentioned college and masters in kinesiology or anything like that. I was a sociology communications major and I was a wrestler and I was an MMA fan and I was a friend of guys that got into MMA at the beginning. So that’s how I kind of got exposed to MMA early on through all three guys. In college though, I wasn’t planning on being a strength coach. And like I kind of alluded to, the lifestyle I was living in college led me down a pretty rough path, actually in my early twenties. This is kind of a side personal note, but I ended up after college having a really tough couple of years with alcohol and drugs and that I think the things I went through during those earlier years in my twenties [Inaudible 00:07:34] in my line of work where I work with people every day, I’m working to help people and stuff. It’s become something that’s been a real strength for me. I’ve been sober for a while now and I think that between my wrestling career and the challenges I faced in my twenties are things that now I draw off as a trainer and when I’m working with the dad or somebody that’s a professional athlete or something.

Corey Beasley [00:08:03]: That’s pretty awesome background to say the least. I mean some cool experiences and I appreciate you being transparent with a lot of the challenges and stuff that you had and something that you’re not alone on, that’s for sure. We’ve all gone through that at one time or another and some deeper than others. And honestly, I think it makes you more relatable now that you’ve overcome it and now when that stuff pops up with other people, I mean, you do have real world experience and going through stuff and overcoming more importantly and it helps.

Jeff Bristol [00:08:47]: 100%. It does help, especially in a fitness industry where say someone comes in whether they’re an athlete or an average Joe or Jane and they’re just trying to get in and achieve their fitness goals or they’re trying to train for something. Knowing that the person that you’re working with has been through real struggles before I think is something that’s really helped me in my career and my relationships. Because at the end of the day, like, the squats or the bench press or the pushups wherever we were doing is really just a side note to the relationship that you have with the client that you’re working with. And I think that’s something that I’ve that’s one of my strengths that I build off and I’ve been able to learn a lot along the way about the strength and conditioning and training side of things. But definitely like, whether an athlete or just somebody coming in and trying to improve their life or their lifestyle, it’s definitely something that’s helped me.

Corey Beasley [00:09:58]: Now, Jeff, you had there your career as a wrestler. You kind of got your time with all the boys running around and playing in crazy Indian casinos and all kinds of stuff. And then how’d you end up kind of down in San Diego at that fitness quest?

Jeff Bristol [00:10:21]: Well, it’s really kind of, one of those things I look back and I’m like, that was not by chance that I ended up here, but I went through some really rough years post-college with wrestling and I wrestled for whatever it was close to 20 years and was in school and when that all ended, it’s a lot of athletes kind of deal with sometimes when I’m trying to transition to normal life is that I look at the lifestyle was leading at the time. I was just not going anywhere. I was back in my hometown, African just graduated from UC Davis, I had a good degree from a great college and everything. But the stuff I was going through personally led me through some tough times and some troubles with the law. And what originally got me down to San Diego is I met a girl who’s now my wife. And I was dating her and she was really somebody that was in my corner trying to help me out. And I ended up moving down to San Diego and I happened to move to a little suburb here of San Diego called Scripps ranch. And that’s where fitness quest 10 located. And I had been working for my dad as a construction business and wrestling in college and went home was working with him. And then I moved down here to kind of get away from my hometown. And I saw this gym, literally, it was a mile from my house with my girlfriend at the time. And I knew nothing about it. I knew nothing about Todd Durkin. I mean, because of Todd. And who he is and fitness quest 10 and all the work that our gym has done over the past 15 years here, we’re constantly getting recognized, men’s health has ranked us top 10 gyms in the country for like five years. And we really have some really high level athletes that come through and Todd does some amazing things in the fitness industry, but I have no idea about any of this. I just happened to move to this little suburb that it was located. And I literally is by chance I saw that they had advertising for some part time work here working administration front desk. And I was like, being in a gym atmosphere or in training, it’s something that I’ve always been real comfortable and familiar with just growing up as an athlete. So I walked in the door one day, I introduced myself to the manager or brought a resume in. And I was in my mid-twenties. And my plan was kind of like, I’ll get a job at that gym part time and continue to look for that real grown up kind of corporate job, then I’ll get out of college. And so it was just kind of by chance that I walked in at the right time and getting hired part time and it was then I started doing a research about who Todd was and what fitness quest was. And I saw, these trainers here working with athletes and training people and changing lives. And I was like, this is something that I could really I could really get into. And so at that point I ended up going back to a UCSD extension program here in San Diego for their exercise science program and getting a certificate in exercise science and got my personal training certification, kind of the rest is history. I started training and started working here about five, six years ago, started training about five years ago. And it’s been a good ride.

Corey Beasley [00:14:33]: That’s cool. And it’s a pretty cool Testament that you’ve been there that long to the culture and stuff like that that they have inside that place. Because just from my own experience in gyms as well as and others over the years. I mean, people don’t around too long, so that’s cool. Sounds like you guys got a good spot down there.

Jeff Bristol [00:14:57]: We do, like you mentioned the word culture and I think that the culture here is something that it’s not easily replicated. I think that the culture that’s just organically been created. And mainly it’s just the people in this community and the athletes that do come in and we have a lot of big time NFL players and come in here seasonally, like wherever their off seasons are and stuff like that. But really that athlete, I think population is probably less than 30% of our overall people in that clientele. We do a lot of high school. I mean youth, high school, college professional athletes, but we have a lot of local people in surrounding areas of San Diego that come here and they come here for the culture to kind of come in and everybody knows your name. It’s like a family around here and it’s just that extra to makes people want to be a part of it. Next time you’re down in San Diego, we’ll have to have by.

Corey Beasley [00:16:17]: Yeah. I’d love to come by and check it out. Like well that’s cool. I mean, so it sounds like you guys got a good spot. Now just to get into some, like a little bit of stuff of what you guys are doing. I think you hit the nail on the head talking about just connecting with people and having that culture of progress and making people better and stuff like that. That right there in and of itself is attractive for most people. People want to be around that. But from a technical aspect you guys got a lot of combat athletes that are down there in San Diego. And I know you work with quite a few big names. How’d you kind of get introduced into the MMA community down there and San Diego?

Jeff Bristol [00:17:07]: Well, I’ll be straight with you Corey. I have yet to really tap into the MMA community here in San Diego, and it’s something that definitely a goal of mine. And basically my only big name MMA athlete that I work with is [Inaudible 00:17:35], former Bellator world champ. He just lost the belt in Madison square garden this past month over an injury, but he came here because he followed Drew Brees on social media and saw that Drew Brees trained at a gym in San Diego. I mean, to be honest, I know a lot of people in MMA in mixed martial arts, in San Diego and beyond just in my wrestling background and being teammates. But I’ve been working with a lot of different types of athletes and because of my wrestling and my NMA roots we’re not like a facility, we’re not even a gym that has like bags and stuff like that. So traditionally speaking, like, we have an NFL combine program, we have NFL guys and really like my roots is wrestling and MNA. So it was like, I remember when my Mike Chandler came in the door the first day, my head shot around because I honestly not that I’ve gotten away from it, but growing up, wrestling and being around that person and now working at a facility like I do where we deal with a lot of different athletes our combat athlete population is the smallest of all sports, which is basically on me to get out there and meet people and bring them on over. And with Mike coming in, Dominick Cruz is coming a couple of times with me and some guys that train in Alliance here in San Diego have come up here. I believe they have their own maybe their program in the gym or whatever. But Ross and Dominic and Mike are a handful of from Alliance that have been, Mike’s, for the past three years or so. I’ve been training him regularly and but it is still something that I’m most passionate about that, that’s my favorite sport and it has opened up my mind training up a lot of training, a lot of different types of words and everything. But I do want to build our MMA program here and showing who the real athletes are.

Corey Beasley [00:20:27]: But tell us about training Mike for a little bit. I mean, he’s a phenomenal athletes, powerful fighter when he walks in the door and you guys start working together where you kind of start with him?

Jeff Bristol [00:20:42]: Well. I’ll tell you maybe just a little bit that I’ve learned, I guess maybe as a trainer and working with a guy like, like Mike, I think Mike just having that like, college wrestler type, background and mindset and you watch him, his pace in the octagon or his pace in the ring is like that’s the kind of pace he likes to come in for a workout every time. And I think it’s easy to fall into that because we have somebody like that that has that strong and that powerful, that explosive and you just want to go balls to the wall for 60 minutes. I think it was a learning curve for me, being able to kind of like, take the foot off the gas pedal and remember where we’re at, like in his training camp, getting him to work on the things that need to be worked on. Maybe not conditioning when we were training double days every day of the week, you got your sparring and then you got wrestling and then you’re coming to strength and conditioning like you don’t need to go 60 minutes of conditioning to get better in the areas that maybe you need to get better in. So I think it was a little bit of a learning curve in the beginning because it exciting, I like this guy, Mike was a division one college collage wrestler, like myself and we have a lot of NFL guys or other guys that are here to train and that’s cool too. But this is more my wheel house and its fun to be able to kind of pace and everything like that. But I think it’s been good as we’ve grown in the NFL programs and stuff like that to focus on the stuff that needs to be worked on getting him in after a long training camp and just working on the flexibility, mobility, stability stuff working on, hips and core and shoulder work and not just everything else that looks cool. Because I think it is also, a mentality for maybe a combat athlete who is used to the practices or their training being such high intensity. And so much cardio or conditioning if you’re here to work on piles or your power or something, you do not need to be going a hundred miles a minute.

Corey Beasley [00:24:08]: Yeah. You learned how to slow it down. I remember talking with Mark Munoz about that too. After he retired. I worked with a bunch of the guys that went through his gym and he said same thing, he’s like, that dude is tough as they come. Nice as they come too. I think the scariest but he just worked hard. And I remember one Olympic lifter that came through and it wasn’t to Mark or any of those guys. But in the gym he says, look man, he kind of said it in passing him. I think most of them missed it, but he goes, what are you doing? Like he was talking about working three days and just grinding themselves up. He says, you guys, what do you want to be? You won’t be a work truck or you won’t be a race car? And he goes right now you guys just work trucks, you all proud because you can work all day long. But your performance is terrible. And I thought that was a big eye opener. Because it’s true like these guys want to be lying in a pool, their own sweat and the end of every single practice, they want to go through six shirts in a day. And they weren’t as a badge of honor because they’re working hard. So now you’ve been working with, Mike for several years now. Has anything changed like since you started versus now? I mean, you guys had a lot of time together, a lot of fights.

Jeff Bristol [00:25:53]: Yeah. It was tough actually just kind of by chance when we started working about three years ago and I think he was 14 and 0, in the beginning of his career and he came in after his second loss. So his last big wins was against Eddie Alvarez. And then you lost Eddie Alvarez and then he lost world books. And it was at that point in his career, he was two losses back to back after being 14, and that’s when he came to fitness quest. And so I him and he was looking to step his game up and train, look for some good strength and conditioning to give them that edge in the ring. And so he came in and we trained together for a couple of months and they went out here in Diego at the sports trainer and fight [Inaudible 00:27:07] for the second time and lost to him for a second time. So that was my first six months to a year working with him. And I know that you’re familiar talking with athletes and coaches and that was a tough time for him. And it was tough being his strength coach at the time because we’re in here working our tails off, were we working too hard a time maybe. I mean, I don’t know. But either way, he had two losses. He came in here and started training and then he suffered that third lost. And at that point as a MMA athlete, I don’t care if you 24 or 28 or 32, you suffered two, three losses in a row and it just starts getting in your head. And it’s tough as a coach when you have somebody and you’re trying not to just tell him, what everybody else is telling them or what they just want to hear because not just a tough spot when you start you let a little bit of negativity and you start that doubt and that fear kind of compounds. I remember having some talks and it was training sessions were harder because he was in training camp again. And I remember him, being frustrated and kind of negative or discouraged during workouts and stuff and trying to be just understanding and kind of and just being there for him as a friend and a coach. And thankfully, he rebounded back and then I think he won his next three fights pretty decisively, had some good wins against, Patricia and Benson Henderson. And I been his coach or I training him during that time where he had like, that little Valley and then now back kind of on that upswing again. And so you learn a lot as a coach when you are working with anybody that’s going through one of the valleys. I mean, in anything business, life, athletics, you’re going to have peaks and valleys especially for combat athletes. The valleys are longer and harder because you put in, two to six months of hard training and all that comes to fruition in one night and at that night could be 30 seconds to 15 minutes or 25 minutes and then, you suffer a loss and it’s not like, these whatever athletes that might be working with you have a bad baseball game, first of all, it’s not as demoralizing. Second of all, you have a game in two days where you can get back up. When you get your blood kicked or you lose a tough fight. And so the tough times were struggle there, but then I remember just how good it felt, you know for me as a coach and his friend to see him, get back on top and get the belt back and all that stuff.

Corey Beasley [00:31:08]: Well, it’s always good to see guys overcome. Like whenever I see guys that are young hot studs or whatever, and they get cocky and I always say the same thing and I want to see, if they lose and everybody looks at me and like, what? And I’m like, I don’t dislike them. I go, I want to see what happens when he loses he is going to lose eventually. Everybody does. And I just want to see how they respond to it because that is going to tell me a lot more about that person then, what they say on social media or some interview. Day in, day out that’s a tough ass job. I would love to keep chatting with you, but I know you got to get back in the gym and do your thing. But if people want to reach out, learn more about what you guys are doing down there in San Diego, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?

Jeff Bristol [00:32:17]: Definitely. Well first of all, you can hop on our website, You can shoot me an email, [email protected] and or just pop in here if you’re in San Diego and on Instagram or Twitter or anything on @Bristolfit. So I appreciate and love to talk to people that are passionate about their health or fitness or training or MMA. They’re all passions of mine. And I’ve been through tough times as an athlete. I’ve been through tough times as a person and I’m just a true fan of people that I want to get better and in whatever way it is. And so if you’re in the area, I’d stop by. I’d love to meet you in person or shoot me an email or send me a direct message and I’ll be happy to answer questions or anything like that.

Corey Beasley [00:33:14]: Cool. Well, Jeff, thank you again for chatting with us.

Jeff Bristol [00:33:18]: Yeah, we’ll do it again, but I appreciate you having me on and I’m serious I know you’re here in the Southern California area, so when you’re in San Diego hop on over and I’d love to have you in and put you through a workout.

Corey Beasley [00:33:38]: Yeah, sounds good, man.