Welcome back for part two of this three part interview series with "The Snowman" Jeff Monson. Jeff is competing against a tough 19-5 King of the Cage veteran, Tony Lopez on April 1 in Fort Lauderdale for Fight Time Promotions.
In part one, Jeff discussed the fight with Lopez, the psychology behind fighting and tricks of the trade he's learned in his 51 fight career. Next, we discussed modern issues like the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce, Fedor, and troubles with American Top Team
Brian Hemminger: You mentioned that you were interested in signing with Strikeforce about a month ago. With the Zuffa purchase, is that still an option or have you changed your mind?
Jeff Monson: I’ve got my management company working on that and I’m just taking as many fights as possible in the meantime. We’re working on it. There’s nothing imminent but I think by the end of the year I’ll be competing in one of the big organizations. I’m not sure what fight it'll be or which promotion yet but it’s just a matter of winning the fights I’m taking right now. Of course who wouldn’t want to be on TV but it’s gotta be the right place and right time.
BH: What are your thoughts on one organization controlling almost all the top talent in the sport? (Except you of course)
JM: I have to be a little diplomatic if I want to fight for them. It’s tough. Let’s call it what it is, a monopoly. The one good thing I can say is there’s not enough UFC shows to accommodate all the UFC guys, the Strikeforce guys and the WEC guys that they’ve taken on so they have to keep Strikeforce as a separate entity to complete the contracts that they have with the fighters.
I think that’s good and we’ll see what happens there. They bought Pride and we all know what happened. There weren’t any more Pride shows. I really think they want to keep Strikeforce. My thoughts, although they’ve denied it, is that they’ll have some superfights down the road. UFC vs Strikeforce champions and make a Superbowl out of it.
It's kind of like the old NFC/AFC merger. It started off kind of separate but the fans wanted to know and now if you have a Strikeforce champion winning and winning and there’s a UFC champ at the same weight, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have a superfight at some point. We’ll see if one happens.
BH: You also mentioned that if you signed with UFC or Strikeforce, you’d drop down to 205 lbs. When was the last time you competed at light heavyweight?
JM: The last time I did it was when I fought Chuck Liddell at UFC 29 and that wasn’t the greatest fight. Maybe that was 2000? I had to make 199 back then and it was in Japan so it was tougher to cut the weight. Fighting at 205 is something I’ve been looking at but it has to be the right situation.
If I go to 205, that’s where I’m going to say. I wouldn’t take a fight at heavyweight, drop to light heavyweight and go back and forth. I’ve got to look at what the openings are in the top organizations and see if it makes sense to go down. If it does and it’s a good fit, then I definitely see it happening and it would be a better opportunity for me to compete for a title.
Jeff talks possibly fighting Fedor and recent drama at American Top Team after the jump
BH: Back in 2009 when Josh Barnett had his failed test and they were still scrambling for someone to fight Fedor, you petitioned to fight him on short notice. Strikeforce said they want Fedor to fight again in July but no one has any clue who would be a good opponent for him. Would you be willing to throw your hat in the ring as a possible Fedor Emelianenko opponent?
JM: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to fight him. I think number one, it’s a good match for me style-wise and number two, it would be an honor for me to fight him. In my eyes, and I know that fans are very fickle, he’s lost two in a row, but the guy went on a crazy streak beating everybody, everybody.
He beat Nogueira twice in his prime, he beat everybody in their prime. He was just smashing everybody. In my opinion he’s the best heavyweight ever and maybe the best pound for pound guy ever. Just to have an opportunity to fight a legend like that and I don’t say I’ll take a fight unless I think I’m gonna come out on top but I think it would be a great opportunity and a challenge. I’d definitely be interested.
BH: You were a Pac 10 champion at Oregon State and you grew up in Minnesota, how did you originally get affiliated with American Top Team on the complete opposite side of the country in Florida?
JM: I quit the mental health profession to be a full-time fighter only to find out that the economy was not ready for that yet especially because the UFC had just been banned in most places. Randy had just won the title against Maurice Smith and the salaries went way down because they couldn’t be on pay per view anymore. I worked at Team Quest and there was a used car lot on the facility so I’d go down there and train and then a couple hours a day I’d try to sell used cars. It was one of the lower points of my life.
I was doing a lot of grappling events and I competed against Dustin Denis, Wade Rome and I met some guys from American Top Team through jiu jitsu events. I met the coach, Marcello and it just kinda happened. They realized "he’s a good wrestler, he’s hard nosed, he’s respectful" and at some point they made a decision to offer me a position to teach the Brazilians how to wrestle.
I was offered a stipend every month to come in and teach and. I trained at ATT for two weeks before my Ricco Rodriguez fight. I went out and got my butt kicked and when I went back to the guys, they said "we still want you here, you showed a lot of heart" and the rest is history. I was able to get great training, meet a lot of great fighters and coaches.
BH: ATT has been in the news a lot recently with the JZ Cavalcante, Jorge Santiago and Villefort brothers leaving. How is morale right now in Coconut Creek?
JM: It’s good. First of all I’m really good friends with Jorge and JZ and I wish them good luck in this next stage of their careers. Do I wish they were still on the team? Of course. They’re great fighters, teammates and good people.
They were great teammates but sometimes there’s addition by subtraction. You can’t have someone on your team that’s not 100% there because they’ve got other things going on. We’ve got great fighters on our team. We’ve got over 30 black belts in the room on any given day and they can be real selective about who’s on the team.
They’re kind of making a more conscious effort to get some NCAA wrestlers who have recently graduated to come in and work with us and compliment the jiu jitsu that we have already. We’re gonna move forward.
We had a big team meeting where they said "Nobody wants you here if you don’t want to be here or you’re questioning things. If you’re getting offers from other management people saying they’ll get you so much money and put you on TV and you want to go in that direction then just go."
We aired everything out at the team meeting. The guys that had an opportunity to leave are gone and the guys that stayed are committed 100% I think overall, morale is better than it has been in a while. You know without a doubt that the guy training next to you is really committed on being there so you don’t have to question anyone’s loyalty. It was hard but sometimes you need to go through something hard to move on.
In Part III (which will be very long), Jeff will walk us through highlights and lowlights of his career, his beliefs, his grappling career and how he got started.