Snowman’s Land: Exclusive Interview with Jeff Monson
Jeff Monson, will make another trip to an “exotic” country, this time fighting in Israel on November 9th. Currently holding a professional record of 37-11 (23 Submission victories), Jeff Monson is a two-time ADCC Winner (1999 and 2005), World Grappling Champion and the CBJJ World Champion in 2007. Monson is also a former UFC Heavyweight title challenger (Lost to Tim Sylvia via Unanimous Decision at UFC 65).
Jeff Monson has a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s Degree in Psychology. He’s known for being an Anarchist, and is definitely one of the most fascinating figures in the sport.
Taking time off his busy schedule, Monson shared his opinions and beliefs on the sport and life in general, in an exclusive interview for the LowKick.com community. This is an excellent read for every Mixed Martial Arts fan out there.
You’re going to fight in Israel on November 9th, what do you know about your opponent?
I’ve seen a little bit of film of him. I know that he’s a very good K-1 fighter. I know that he’s a good friend of Shamil Abdurahimov, the guy I lost to in Abu Dhabi. Sergey is a big, strong guy who can kick and punch.
Will there be any special preparations for this fight?
I’m working with my Muay Thai instructor at the American Top Team. We’re working on checking kicks, my striking, attacking. On closing distance and landing some strikes.
Obviously, the fight is taking place in Israel. How do you feel about traveling to the Middle East?
I’m excited. I remember when studied in a Catholic School, I always wanted to go to Israel. It’s a dream come true. I’m planning going to Jerusalem after the fight. Checking out the Holy City and see all the places I’ve read about. So if there any place I’d rather fight, from places I’m yet to visit, it will be Israel.
You are fighting in many different places, against various fighters, sometimes on short notice. What are your goals as a fighter? What you are trying to accomplish?
I’m just getting fights right now. My goal is to win the UFC title, or the Strikeforce title at 205. I’m currently in process of cutting down to Light Heavyweight.
Wow, that’s a big news Jeff. And what’s your current weight?
I’m currently 230. So I need to cut 25 pounds. It’s not a big deal for me, and I’m actually used to it from the days when I wrestled in the college.
You are 39 years old. For how long you are planning to continue your career as a Mixed Martial Artist?
As long as I’m enjoying it, I will compete. Or when I’m just unable to win any fights. I’m still getting better, and my best fights are still ahead of me. I’m blessed that I get to travel to countries like Israel. That I have an opportunity to meet new people and do something I love to do. You know, there’s a reason why professional athletes don’t like retiring. That’s something that we do.
Do you have a dream fight?
I want to fight a title holder at 205, when I get an opportunity to fight for Strikeforce or the UFC.
I actually predicted that you would say “Fedor”. What do you think about his recent loss?
I still think Fedor is the best. Everyone can lose. It’s one of those things where he got caught. Everyone is beatable. It could’ve been a dream match-up for me, but he lost and I’m moving down to 205. Back in the day, I wanted to be the one to beat him. But now I will just concentrate on winning a title at 205.
A lot has changed since you fought Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight title at UFC 65. What do you think about the current talent in the UFC? Fighters like Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez?
They are massive. That’s why I’m going down to 205, to be honest with you (laughs). They are so well rounded. Great Wrestling, good Jiu-Jitsu, Great Takedowns. I’ll have to get a submission on these guys to win. I just think that I can be that guy at 205. These guys are tough, no doubt.
Just to get it straight. Who’s currently a “top contender” for your signature?
We’ve been talking to Strikeforce. So it’s just a matter of signing a contract and getting an opponent. Nothing is signed yet. But when the fight’s right and the negotiations are right, we’ll go from there.
I want to ask you about a currently hot topic in MMA. The criticism of “boring” wrestlers, coming from fans and fighters. What’s your opinion on this issue?
Well, I have to admit that I had some boring fights in my career. But I think that the most of my boring fights were at the earlier stage of my career, when I didn’t know a lot of Jiu-Jitsu. The ultimate goal is to win a fight. When a wrestler beats everyone at the Olympics by points, no one says he’s boring. When in Basketball our team wins a Gold medal, no one says they’re boring. I don’t know why in MMA the situation is somehow different. Of course you have to stay active, and not just take the guy down. If taking someone down is the only thing you can do, you won’t win many fights in MMA. But again, I’d rather win 10 “boring” fights, than looking “spectacular” and losing.
If you won a fight by something that became a popular term, lay-and-pray, and the fans are booing, would you get offended?
You know, I think that there are different classes of fans. Some of them are more acknowledgeable than others. If you go to Japan, you’ll never hear fans boo there. If you go to submission, everyone is cheering. Same thing in Brazil. In the States, if you’re going for a submission attempt, everyone is like “whatever”, because it’s not appreciated as much. But, personally, as a fan, if a guy takes someone down and he’s not looking to improve his position, he’s not looking to dominate or end the fight, I will be like “Hey, it’s a boring fight”. I don’t think it happens as much as people think though, because the referees stand the fighters up, and the guys are trying to end the fights.
There are different levels of exciting fights, for sure. Every fight on the Lesnar vs Carwin card was simply spectacular. The Chael Sonnen vs Anderson Silva was awesome. Chael took him down to ground and pound him He did not try to go for submission, but because Chael stayed active it was a spectacular fight.
What do you think about the fans and people involved in MMA?
What I like about MMA, it’s the sport of the people. Some other sports like Boxing, Soccer, Baseball or whatever, you’ll never get any access to them. But pretty much all the MMA guys, from the lower to the higher guys, you can go to their Gym and meet them.
In the American Top Team with all the UFC fighters, you can come on any particular day, on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday and you can meet all of them. Just any guy from the street can come over and say “Hi”.
That’s the exact thing I’m so amazed about in MMA. It’s like a closed society with one common goal, and that is to bring this sport forward to the mainstream.
Yeah, I agree. There was one time when I was stuck in California for about 12 hours. I called one of my buddies; he said there’s a gym down the road, owned by Vladimir Matyushenko. And I never met this guy before. When I came over, he was like “Hey, Jeff Monson“. He took me to his house, took me to eat. I slept on his couch for a little bit. We hang out, and then he took me to the airport. And I never met this guy before.
It’s the common solidarity between the fighters, which comes from the fact that we all respect the sport. That happened to me couple of times in Brazil. Pedro Rizzo did this to me, he took care of me, and I never met him before. Then I ended up fighting him later. It’s just the way it is, you can fight someone, and then training with him the other way. It’s so cool. It’s a strange phenomenon.
And it’s much better than talking a lot of trash, like certain individuals.
Yeah, and you can’t get a lot out of it. Guys like Chael (Sonnen), and I know Chael. He did this to promote the fight. After the fight he was all about respect. He and Anderson shook hands after the fight. There’s nothing bad about it, it’s all about promoting the fight. There’s a lot of good relationships between fighters. And it has to be in a sport like MMA. One minute you are trying to hurt someone, and the other you’re training together.
Jeff, I want to ask you a little bit personal question. You have a lot of tattoos on your body. What do they mean to you, and how do you decide to get a certain tattoo?
Well, I have three type of tattoos. The first one is my family tattoos, like the names of my kids and such. The second is fan tattoos that don’t mean anything, like Hello Kitty or something. And I have my political ones. The political ones… I guess it gets addictive when you’re getting something. They are talking about equality and the different way of life. My Anarchist tattoos are talking about representing freedom for everyone, that everybody should be equal and have an equal life. No hierarchy, where people decide on their own fate. Some of them are talking against poverty, ending the war, hypocrisy or the United States policy. Sometimes they get me into a hot water, sometimes people agree with them and sometimes they don’t.
But you can’t change it. That’s what you are, and that’s what you represent.
Exactly. That’s what I represent. And I know a lot of young kids who get an Anarchy tattoo, but they don’t know what it represents. I don’t want to say that all of them, but a lot of them don’t know what it means. To me when I got it, or when I get something similar – I know what it represents. And to me it’s not “Hey I’m a badass”, or “Hey, I’m all tatted-up”. It’s like, I like the art and I like what it represents. I mean, I had a couple tattoos on my body that were for fun and I got them covered up, because they don’t mean anything to me anymore. I believe in my tattoos, and they represent the beliefs I got into jail for, so it is what it is.
You’re still doing any activities related to your political beliefs?
Yeah, I’m in the Industrial Workers of the World. I talk about politics when I have a chance, but I have a new baby and there’s also my fighting career, so I haven’t been as active as I would like to. When I’m done with fighting, I’ll be able to devote full time to my family and politics. I got a little school in Nicaragua, where I’m helping less fortunate people and teaching Jiu-Jitsu kids who don’t have that opportunity. So that’s the frame of things I’m looking to get to in the future. And like I said, I feel like I’m one of the blessed people on Earth to be able to travel, meeting new people and get paid to do what I love to do anyway. So I want to give back to people who don’t have that opportunity.
Thanks for the fascinating interview, Jeff. Would you like to mention any sponsors or pass a message to your fans at LowKick.com?
I would like to thank the American Top Team, for sponsoring me and being there for me always. I appreciate all the fans. I just talked to one of my friends the other day, and I said that without the fans there would be no MMA. It’s the fans who helped this sport to develop.