Part I of the “Most Interesting Man in MMA” series touched on Jeff Monson’s youth, and rise into a high-level grappler. But that was just the beginning. There was a great big world out there to traverse, and spill blood on.
Monson credits Dennis Hallman as a major force in turning him into the submission machine he would evolve into during his MMA and grappling career. “I just remember trying to do armbars, and I just had a mental block, I couldn’t figure this stuff out,” he notes. But with Hallman’s patient coaching-style, it finally clicked. In a career that has spanned 85 fights. Monson has 37 wins by submission.
During Monson’s storied career he has faced a who’s-who of stars from several eras. He has faced down the likes of Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Tim Sylvia, Pedro Rizzo, Kazuyuki Fujita, Josh Barnett, Roy Nelson, Daniel Cormier and Fedor Emelianenko. He has also traversed the world. Fighting in countries such as the US, Russia, South Korea, Israel, Brazil, Philippines, England, Ireland, Australia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. You can’t experience that much without having interesting stories to tell. So here are a few of them:
The Most Interesting Man in MMA – Part II: Traveling Man
When he fought former training-partner Josh Barnett at Sengoku in 2008:
Monson is full of regret when speaks about this bout. “I’m really disappointed in that fight,” Monson proclaims. He feels he “took a backseat” in the bout. Meaning, he believes he let Barnett dictate the action.
Through their time training, he came to believe that he was the better grappler, but that Barnett was the better “fighter.” And that became a mental hurdle in the bout. Putting him in a self-imposed disadvantage. “I can’t believe I let that happen, it’s frustrating,” says Monson.
When he fought Chuck Liddell at UFC 29 in 2000:
He was originally scheduled to fight Liddell in New Jersey a month earlier. Leading up to the fight he was feeling fantastic in training. But after a cat-scan from the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, the fight was cancelled, pending further review. He was set to make $2,000 to fight and another $2,000 if he won.
Once the medicals were re-examined, it was found that the issue on his cat-scan was just a harmless calcium deposit. Unfortunately, he was no longer working a full time job, and was now out of possibly making $4,000. In need of cash fast, he competed in a grappling tournament in North Carolina. He won the tourney and made $5,000 for his efforts.
Once the bout was rescheduled, it was set to take place in a Japan. With the stress of needing money, maintaining weight for a fight that didn’t happen, taking part in an eight-man tournament, and then flying across the pacific, the negative affects started to pile up. “I was just exhausted,” remembers Monson. Though he tried valiantly, Monson lost by unanimous decision.
He was set to make $2,000 to fight [Chuck Liddell] and another $2,000 if he won.
Adding insult to it all, was the fact that Monson endured a 20-hour flight home with a broken rib, an injured leg, and worst of all, was taken straight from the airport by his wife to go shopping at Ikea. It’s a series of unfortunate events that would even make Lemony Snicket jealous.
Cutting weight with Dennis Hallman at UFC 29:
In 2000 the UFC was far less sophisticated than it is now. To weigh fighters, company officials were using the bathroom scale of light heavyweight contender Yuki Kondo. However, (probably done on purpose by Kondo) the scale kept reading five pounds higher than it should.
Monson and Hallman were fed up. They were too sapped to cut more weight even if the scale was working properly. So while alone with it in an official’s room, Monson looked at Hallman and said, “You gotta break the scale.” Hallman took this directive and jumped as high as he could, landing on the scale. Their weight was now registering 12 pounds higher than it should be. “Ok, now we gotta destroy this thing,” Monson tells his teammate.
After several more jumps, the pair noticed that if you lean back while using the scale, the weight comes in at two pounds under. With their scheme to fix the scale successful, the duo was then nice enough to alert Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz—both were fighting on the card—to be at weigh-in’s early and use the “lean” technique.
“Ok, now we gotta destroy this thing,” Monson tells his teammate.
All four fighters made weight and left. Yuki Kondo ended up eight pounds below expectations. His protests of a damaged scale fell on deaf ears.
Getting drug tested in Pride FC
In today’s modern drug testing era, the systems to stop athletes from doping is much more advanced. But in Monson’s loan 2007 Pride bout, that was far from the case. Pride’s questionable drug testing history has been alluded to long before it was shuttered that same year.
So when taking a urine test, Monson did not put his specimen in a fancy test tube for eventual analysis. No, he peed into a dixie cup. After finishing his obligations to the company that day, while strolling through the arena he saw a table strewn with cups full of urine. The cups were likely there for hours. “They might have had you piss, but they weren’t checking anything,” says Monson.
“They might have had you piss, but they weren’t checking anything,” says Monson.
Monson was never able to reach the same heights in MMA as he did in submission grappling, where he’s one many championships. He did get a UFC heavyweight title shot against Sylvia at UFC 65 in 2006 (a fight he only made $6,000 for after expenses). He lost by unanimous decision. From there he played the role of journeyman fighter. Criss-crossing the globe in pursuit of noteworthy paydays.
Then in 2011, his representatives got a call from MMA promoter Monte Cox. M1 Global was putting on a major MMA event in Russia in November. And the crown jewel of Russian MMA would be headlining the card. “The Last Emperor,” Fedor Emelianenko was that jewel, and he was looking for an opponent.