Jeff Monson: I can finish Fedor on the ground (Exclusive Interview)

Long time Mixed Martial Arts fans are very familiar with ‘The Snowman’ Jeff Monson. He made his name as a Division 1 wrestler for Oregon State University, made his professional MMA debut in 1997, and has been a dominate force in the submission grappling world for many years. He has fought for every major MMA organization and one of the few fighters in the world to have fought on all corners of the globe. Back in 2006, fresh off a decision loss to Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title he requested a release from the UFC with intentions of one day facing Fedor Emelianenko. Negotiations fell through and the fight never happened until now.

Fedor vs. Monson will be held on Russian soil under the M-1 Global banner on November 20th 2011. Jeff took time out of his day to speak to the about his upcoming fight with Fedor, the future of Strikeforce, tattoos and the idea of an epic battle between him and the ancient Roman emperor Julius Caesar. No holds are barred from this interview and this is a must read for fans of one of the most interesting people in Mixed Martial Arts.

You’ll be facing one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport when you go to Moscow, Russia to face Fedor Emelianenko. What have you been working in your camp to ensure victory on November 20th?
His standup is up is probably one of his greatest assets. I’ve been doing a lot of striking in my camp. In the past I didn’t really feel confident in it, but now we’ve been working on it and I feel much better in it.

After losing three straight back in Strikeforce, it appears that Fedor may perhaps be in the twilight of his career. From what you’ve observed in his three losing fights or any of his past fights what sort of holes in his game will you be looking to exploit?
I don’t think he’s in his twilight; he’s only 33 years old. He hasn’t taken too much of a beating in his past fights. If you look back at his fights, he dropped Dan Henderson but he got caught with an uppercut. He dropped Fabricio Werdum but got caught in the triangle. The only person who really beat him up recently was Antonio Silva, but he’s like 300lbs. Look at the kind of guys he’s fought. When you fight that many times, when you the roll the dice that many times, you’ll eventually get caught.

You’ll be fighting under the M-1 Global banner on 20th. Have you signed a contract with them or do you have any sort of agreement with them or will you be allowed to fight under any other banner?
I’m still signed with Strikeforce, they actually let me go to M-1 for this fight. I’m still with Strikeforce and this so far is a one shot deal with M-1.

Speaking of Strikeforce, since you mentioned that you are still under that banner. Do you see ZUFFA keeping Strikeforce around long enough for you to go back there and get a few extra fights there?
I hope so. There are a lot of crazy rumors going around. I think maybe ZUFFA knows, but other than them I don’t think anyone else knows exactly what is going on. Are they going to sign most of the Strikeforce fighters? Are they going to cut most of us? Nobody really knows, but I hope to be able to finish my contract with them.

You truly are one of the originals in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts having been in this game since 1997. In your opinion what is the key to longevity in MMA?
I think longevity is partly genetics, partly luck, and being able to adopt of course. I’ve been injured a few times, been out for 6-9 months. I actually think that helped prolong my career because it forced me to change, to train differently. Your body can’t take too much of this, it eventually will you wear down. That’s why you got to learn to do a bunch of different things too like active rest, playing basketball, swimming, doing other things to keep in shape. Then when you have a fight, for 6-8 weeks you train for that fight, you go hard, and train specifically for that.

At the Institute of Human Performance (based in Florida) one of the directors Carlos has all the latest technology and they can push you, teach you how to pull back and how to peak for fights. You can’t peak for every single fight; you can’t peak 365 days a year. I’ve learned to stay healthy and safe, but at the same time I can train in it. A lot of this is luck though, I’m just lucky I guess.

Having fought professionally for 14 years, how different is the fight game now compared to when you first started?
Oh man it’s completely different. Remember how they used to bill it? It used to be wrestler versus the Jiu-Jitsu guy or the Jiu-Jitsu guy versus the kickboxer. Today we all know you have to be well-rounded, you can’t no longer expect to take down the kickboxer and submit him. Those days are over, at least at the higher levels. Some smaller shows it’s still like this. Nowadays most fighters today are well-rounded. We all have our specialties but now you have to be the complete package. Look at a guy like Chuck Liddell. He isn’t known for his ground game, but if you take him down he’d get back up right away. He utilized that style for years and years, he made it very difficult for anybody to take him down and submit him. The only man who was able to do that to him was Jeremy Horn and that was a long time ago. He was able to adapt very well to any situation.   

You’ve fought and traveled on all corners of the globe. Does the time difference play a big factor in your fights? If so what do you do to get your body used to difference?
I don’t know what it is, but personally I am able to adapt very well to time differences. The hardest time my body has to adapt to time is coming from the East Coast of the US to the West Coast of the US. That small three hour difference is most difficult for me but for some reason a big seven-eight hour time difference I have no problem. I go to sleep, I go train, and my body seems to adjust very quickly.

We’re going to move on to some fun questions now Jeff after having asked a few serious questions. This one ties into traveling. You’ve fought on every continent; even places that I didn’t think had Mixed Martial Arts. What was your favorite place to visit and which place do you never want to visit ever again?
I know this place isn’t very sexy, but I really do like England. I got a lot of friends there and I’ve basically lived there for almost two years. I loved the atmosphere there. The one place I really enjoyed was Israel. I loved visiting the holy land, got to go to the West Bank, got to do my political thing. The people there were really nice to me. It was one of my favorite places to go.

I honestly don’t know which place I wouldn’t want to go to again. I mean I really enjoyed Japan, the fans there are really knowledgeable and they know all the techniques. But as far as being in Japan I don’t really have any desire to go there. It’s too crowded there for me, it doesn’t really have anything to offer me personally and there’s not much to do there for me. Of course it’s not because of the fans but because of the area.

If you could fight anybody they could be a historical figure or fictional character who would it be and why?
I think I’d want to fight Julius Caesar. He became the emperor because of his military prowess and I think it would be fun to fight him.

What kind of rules would you fight Caesar under, MMA rules or ancient Rome rules?
Probably MMA rules, I don’t want to take a chance with a sword (laughs).

Would you knock him out or tap him out?
I’d like to choke him out, but I’d probably like to hurt him a little bit before I finish him (laughs).

Long time MMA fans are very familiar with your tattoos. Out of all the places on your body that you’ve inked up so far, which part hurt the most to tattoo?
My ribs, when I got my tattoo there it took about forty five minutes and the guy did a really good job. But every thirty seconds I was asking him if he was done and I was sweating within a minute into it. I was almost in tears. I would never ever get another one on my ribs again.

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When you are not fighting or training, what do you like to do on your spare time Jeff?
I have two daughters, one seventeen months old, one fifteen year old, and an eighteen year old son who is in college. I like to visit him in his college, go to my daughter’s fast pitch softball games. I love spending time with my kids and of course I’m very involved in many political things. I’m in Olympia, Washington right now and I’m going to go and attend Occupy Olympia.

If you weren’t a professional fighter what kind of career would you have? Having a bachelors & master’s degree in psychology, would you still be involved in mental health?
Oh that’s a tough one. If I had to pick another career, I would be a professor at a college teaching political science. I love teaching.  A philanthropist who runs a non-profit group based out of Florida bought a big property down there. He built an elementary school, a community center and a baseball field in Nicaragua. I’ll be going down there to teach the kids English at the school. Down there when you don’t have money, you can’t send your children to school. A lot of people there haven’t learned English, they get stuck doing blue collar / agriculture jobs because they don’t have a choice. When you learn English there, get educated, and of course it opens up a lot of opportunities for them. I’m really excited to start teaching there.

I know you’re a busy guy with a big fight coming up very soon; I don’t want to keep you for too much longer. Why should fans wake up at 4:30 am PST / 7:30am EST to watch you fight Fedor and what can we expect from you in your performance?
If you can’t get up early, I hope you have PVR because this is going to be an exciting fight. I’ve wanted this fight since I asked for my released from the UFC for this very reason. It’s going to be a good match up, you got two veteran guys. In my opinion he’s the greatest heavyweight in the history of MMA. It’s one of those fights that you feel like it’s not going to go the distance. If I get him on the ground I can finish it, you’ve seen him knockout most of the people he fights. You got a legend versus a guy like me with a pretty good career. I recommend you pull an all-nighter or PVR it.  

I’ll be pulling an all-nighter to watch this fight! Thanks again Jeff and all the best on November 20th. It’s only appropriate that the Snowman will be headlining with Fedor in Russia. Would you like to make any shout outs in closing?
My team American Top Team, the Institute of Human Performance, OTM, Conflict Wear. I couldn’t train without a little bit of sponsor money, hats off to them. I do answer my Twitter as well, you can all follow me @JeffMonson .