Justin Montalvo is no longer scared to step into the cage.
It’s for a good reason. With 32 combined amateur bouts between boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts, the 24-year-old is seasoned for a 1-0 professional lightweight fighter.
Saying Montalvo is intense inside the cage is putting it lightly. Montalvo got right in the face of Douglas LoBasso in his professional debut at Ring of Combat 71. He even screamed at LoBasso while standing over him following a 36-second TKO victory in February.
This wasn’t always the case for the New York native.
“I used to be scared to go in there,” Montalvo said.
“It’s just trying to find out how to flip that switch. Every fighter can do it, but only the really good fighters can do it.”
Do or die
Win and turn professional. That’s what was at stake in Montalvo’s final amateur fight against Lathan Harmon this past September.
After two years as an amateur, compiling a 3-2 record, Montalvo was on the cusp of turning professional. He just needed to convince his coach Ray Longo.
Montalvo looked at the sport differently back then. He even refused to look Harmon in the eyes. It all changed for Montalvo in the locker room that night.
“I was like, ‘You know what, this is the day I change, I’m becoming an animal,’” Montalvo said. “There was a lot of pressure, I was like, I gotta win this fight.’ I wanted to go pro so bad.”
For Montalvo, his fights start at weigh-ins. Mentally breaking his opponents is something he holds at the utmost importance.
He adopted the mindset from his father, Nestor Montalvo Jr., who was an amateur boxer. His father eventually gave up the sport because Montalvo’s grandmother disapproved of a black eye his father received from fighting.
Montalvo first started martial arts at 14 years old, enrolling in a jiu-jitsu class. From there, Montalvo’s father helped instill a fighting spirit in his son.
Montalvo competed as an amateur kickboxer and fought in the Golden Gloves as an amateur boxer. After suffering a unanimous decision loss in his amateur MMA debut, Montalvo won his next three bouts.
His dad has been with him the entire time.
“My dad was kind of teaching me how to be a warrior,” Montalvo said. “Me and my dad just have a great connection and he just knows how my mind works. He knew how to get me in the game and he really molded me.”
Montalvo’s professional career is currently on hold with the current COVID-19 pandemic. It still hasn’t stopped him from training at UFC lightweight’s Al Iaquinta’s basement in New York.
Montalvo planned for a return to ROC on May 29, but the event was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Montalvo is anxious to continue his career, especially after winning his last fight in under a minute.
The Longo and Weidman MMA product won two consecutive fights as an amateur and professional since the night he changed his mentality. Not all fighters need to be fired up to step inside the octagon and Montalvo knows it.
It works for him and It’s only a matter of time till Montalvo needs to switch the flip again.
“I soak it all in and I fricken love it,” Montalvo said. “Every fighter has their own way of getting mentally locked on, but I think my way is the best way.”