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Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman

News ArchiveFrom every angle, extreme fighter Jeff "The Snowman" Monson's presence is startling and unsettling. "I swear, sometimes when we're outside training and the sun hits him just right -- catches the cauliflower ears, the shadows of muscle, the body scars from injuries, the oversize hands from pummeling -- it's like encountering this prehistoric being from 3,000 years ago," describes JC Santana, owner and director of The Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton. "It's an eerie feeling." The abominable Snowman

Jeff Monson melts the barriers between extreme fighting and extreme politics.

by T.M. Shine

February 14, 2007

From every angle, extreme fighter Jeff "The Snowman" Monson's presence is startling and unsettling. "I swear, sometimes when we're outside training and the sun hits him just right -- catches the cauliflower ears, the shadows of muscle, the body scars from injuries, the oversize hands from pummeling -- it's like encountering this prehistoric being from 3,000 years ago," describes JC Santana, owner and director of The Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton. "It's an eerie feeling."

The mixed martial artist's neck alone speaks volumes. In fierce moments during battle, its muscled veins appear to protrude farther than his ears. His neck seems to be erected rather than God-given, built to gladiator specifications that enable it to be both literally and figuratively stuck out again and again.

And here, from the book of Monson, are two prime examples of again and again:

1. Sao Paulo, Brazil. In the summer of 2003, outraged and frustrated by the judges' decision against him in the prestigious Abu Dhabi submission tournament, Monson protests by stripping down in the center of the ring for all the pay-per-view world to see. "I took my shorts off and walked across the arena naked," the 5-foot-9-inch, 240-pound fighter recalls. "The cops came to grab me, and my coach starts yelling, 'Why are you going to arrest him? The judges just fucked him in the ass, and you can't fuck him in the ass if he's got his shorts on.' "

2. Portland, Ore. Before a fight on Sept. 16, 2005, at the city's Rose Garden arena, the JumboTron shows a video of Monson training in an "Assassinate Bush" T-shirt. The self-proclaimed anarchist explains to the media he's only pointing out the president's indifference to the plight of Hurricane Katrina victims. "Look, I don't advocate killing anyone," he says, "but the National Guard should have been in Louisiana, not Iraq." A few days later, the Secret Service corners him at his gym. "I spent an hour and a half explaining myself, and then, they want to go search my house," Monson relates. "I said, 'Fine, here's my address. But I'm not going with you. Don't have the time. You know, I gotta work out.' "

This is the same reason the 36-year-old gives for coming to the American Top Team center in Coconut Creek, the mixed-martial-arts (MMA) mecca where he trains before every major match: He's gotta work out. This time, Monson is preparing for a heavyweight fight tentatively scheduled at the beginning of April against Pride FC heavyweight Aleksander Emelianenko in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"I spent three months at American Top Team before my last fight," he reports. "And two months for the fight before that." It has become a ritual.

Taking advantage of a coaching staff that includes Olympic boxing gold medalist Howard Davis Jr. and Brazilian jujitsu guru Ricardo Liborio, Monson has been training with ATT for seven years. "Now, they've got this 20,000-square-feet facility," he explains. "But when I first started coming down here, they were in this tiny place in Boca, and there'd be, like, 25 guys stuffed in there, no air conditioning, kind of ghetto. We'd be outside with a hose at the end of practice taking parking lot showers."

A native of Olympia, Wash., which is still his home base, Monson does all his technical training -- grappling, boxing, jujitsu -- at ATT. But he also does conditioning at IHP in Boca, where workouts can be a strongman circus of pushing cars, pulling 600-pound tires and hooking up bands and ropes to limbs to punish the body.

"At IHP, everything is geared toward the fight," Monson says. " 'OK, you're going have to push that guy against the cage, so push this SUV as hard as you can for 30 feet -- and with cords attached to your body so everything is resistant.' They didn't have any of this stuff a year ago. It's the evolution of combat."

Monson's job in the octagon is to create a house of pain. "One that nobody else can go into and survive," Santana says. "Just when you're getting tired, the other guy should be dead."

Between his appearance as a lump of tattooed muscle and the fact that he often appears in bouts with titles such as "Cage Warriors: Strike Force 4," a person might surmise that Monson isn't much more advanced than a video game warrior. But he is far from two-dimensional. Even those tattoos, which splash his body with color, are predominantly made up of anarchist symbols.

An anarchy star is emblazoned on his chest, and if you were to circumnavigate that massive neck, you'd come across the illustration of a capitalist with a gun to his head. In 2003, Monson joined anti-globalization protesters at the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference in Miami. "I just had shorts and a tank top on," he recalls, "which isn't a good idea when rubber bullets start flying." More recently, he helped form a human blockade to prevent Striker missile equipment from leaving a port in his home state.

Even to heavily armored riot police, Monson can be a menacing figure. "I had this one group of police circle me, and some knew who I was," he says. "They tell me they don't want a physical confrontation. 'So we're just going to Taser you, OK?' They were almost nice about it, asking permission. But I'm like, 'No, I don't want to be Tasered. Just let me stand my ground. No need to put me down.' "

Considering Monson's resume includes a master's degree in psychology and time spent working in the mental-health field, he is arguably the most accomplished and complicated athlete in the fight game today. "Jeff Monson is an enigma. His brain is almost triangular in nature," Santana says. "There's the totally primitive part of his brain that he uses in battle. There's the very educated and scholarly side with his degrees in psychology. And then, there's the highly social and political philosophy he sustains."

While it wouldn't be surprising if Monson entered the ring to the sound of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" blasting over the PA system, he instead emerges at big fights to John Lennon's "Imagine." By his own definition, it would seem nearly impossible for this anarchist to exist in the capitalistic fight business. "This sounds terrible, but I'm a wage slave," Monson admits. "That's all there is to it. I have to support myself."

Thanks to a couple of big fights recently, Monson says he's financially better off than he used to be. "But I don't have medical coverage for myself and I still drive a 1992 Saturn."

Until last November, when he lost to UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, Monson had gone undefeated against his previous 16 challengers. "That's a remarkable streak. And he's a huge name now," ATT general manager Richie Guerriero says. "But it's only about the competition for him. Like, instead of lying low between big fights, he'll go compete in some small tournament. People say, 'God forbid some nobody beats you and it's all over the Internet.' But he doesn't care. It's not about the money or the hype."

Instead, it's about the fact that he loves to fight -- to hit, strike and grapple. "That's where my passion is," Monson explains. "And whether they agree or not, I think people see I have that same passion with my political views. It disturbs me when people say you should never talk about politics and religion in sports. Well, politics shape our lives every single day: how much we make, where our children go to school, what it costs for groceries and gas, what kind of freedoms we have. Everything in our whole life depends upon what we call politics. So yeah, I think it's important."

He credits his viewpoint to his travels around the world. "I don't come from any kind of poor or abused background where I grew up pissed, hating the world," says the father of two. "I come from middle class -- parents bought me a car at 17, had a scholarship to university. I grew up, 'Go USA!' When Desert Storm hit, I was, 'Oh yeah, go get those guys.' I didn't understand the world."

And he doesn't expect anyone else to understand his world now. Because of his outspokenness and radical beliefs, Ultimate Fighting fans sometimes boo him.

"A lot of people just think, 'Oh, Monson and his crazy views,' " Guerriero says. "A big part of the fight crowd is pro-American. They don't want to hear this stuff."

On the other hand, with the current state of the union, Monson's perspective doesn't seem half as radical as it did two years ago. "I was at the Hard Rock the other night, and people came up to me to talk about getting our family and friends home from Iraq," Monson says. "Even the most apathetic people can only be tricked for so long."

According to Monson, promoters rarely try to put a muzzle on his political agenda, and it hasn't cost him fights. "Where it's cost me is in sponsorships," he notes. "Companies don't want to get involved."

Instead of attracting Powerade or Pepsi, Monson's persona has caught the attention of fringe sponsors such as Tat2Danny at Mob Ink in Boca Raton and radical book publisher AK Press, based in Oakland, Calif. "We think it's great that Jeff is so outspoken and uses his influence to talk about his politics," says AK Press collective member Suzanne Shaffer. "We work hard and don't make much money because we think it's important to provide people with information and resources that will help them make the world better. That's something Jeff has in common with AK Press and why we're proud to have him wear our logo." Also, he often gets asked to speak at anarchist seminars about self-defense.

Along with his political views, Monson's fight skills are constantly evolving. "To be honest, when he first came down here, he was a boring fighter; that was his reputation," Guerriero relates. "Before he added boxing and jujitsu, he was simply a grappler."

"MMA is the most difficult combat sport," Monson says, "because you have to know boxing, you have to know kickboxing, wrestling, jujitsu. You have to be really good at one of them and at least competent in all of them, or people will find out your weakness and exploit it."

In his downtime, Monson is apt to hang out on Las Olas Boulevard or to street-counsel homeless people around Fort Lauderdale. "Helping people deal with mental-health issues is still a big part of me, so it just comes natural," he explains. "A lot of these guys I meet out there just need a good case manager."

Psychologist, anarchist, mixed martial artist, pacifist ... When laid out that way, Monson's contradictions are fascinating. While the wrestling shorts he stripped off in a rage sit under glass in a Brazilian bar, the Secret Service surely continues to build a file on Monson that's as thick as his biceps.

And he wouldn't have it any other way. The contradictions between battling his opponents in the ring and those in the establishment have begun to melt away.

"I have a responsibility not to back down now. That's in me, regardless. MMA is not real life. If I win or lose, nobody is going to die. But I do want to win," Monson says. "I think the more successful I am, the bigger my platform is to help make a change. And that's all I want to do."
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Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 19 2007 @ 03:53 PM CST
I got that snow... mannnnn.
Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 19 2007 @ 04:15 PM CST
This article is amazing. A lot of people in know in the grappling community will insist that Monson is the most intimidating fighter in MMA. I agree, and it's great that he's so open and active about his anarchist beliefs.
Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 19 2007 @ 04:39 PM CST
bad response to the fbi comrade. Glad you are around promoting, very few of us have even a bit of the spotlight.
Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 19 2007 @ 05:39 PM CST
Remember Monson is coming down to the Bay Area for the 8 days of anarchy (http://8daysofanarchy.org). If you are up for it he is offering a very affordable seminar on grappling at a local martial arts dojo (march 17th) and speaking at the BASTARD conference on the 18th.

For more info monson_seminar@yahoo.com

A!
Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 19 2007 @ 08:35 PM CST
A story: When a Stryker Brigade came through Olympia, WA last year, Monson was one of the 24 people who initially stood in a line to block the Strykers from entering the port where they were to be loaded. The police cleared the line but left him and the fellow he was standing with alone. They told him they were not going to try and move him but that he would be tased if he did not leave the road. Monson did not leave and eventually the entire collumn of Strykers had to reverse and go an alternate route into the port. The entire OPD was petrified of even touching him.

The Strykers are coming again in less than a month, Jeff. Hope to see you there.

A
Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 19 2007 @ 09:00 PM CST
fuck yeah jeff way to be courageous!
Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 17 2007 @ 03:43 PM CDT
Jeff Monson: The abominable Snowman
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 19 2007 @ 09:54 PM CST
Capitalism is the bane of humanity.