by Matt Hill – MMAWeekly.com
As far as tough, experienced heavyweight MMA fighters go, Jeff ‘The Snowman’ Monson is certainly among the top echelon competing today.

As a grappler, Monson has secured multiple victories in the Abu Dhabi Submission Grappling World Tournament and has won impressively at NAGA, Grapplers Quest and the Budweiser Invitational, a tournament that he is still active in today.

With an MMA record of 23-6 with 14 submissions, Monson has also proven that he can take his ground skills well beyond a grappling tournament and incorporate them successfully into an MMA fight as well.

‘The Snowman’ is obviously an exceptional athlete who has a deep desire for competition, but a large part of Monson’s success also has to be attributed to the American Top Team (ATT), the Florida-based fight club that Monson calls home. ATT hosts a stable of fighters nearly unparalleled by any other gym in the world, with fighters like Monson, Marcus Aurelio, Din Thomas, Thiago Alves, Wilson Gouveia, Denis Kang and Jorge Santiago all calling ATT their home-base.

On September 1st, Monson will again have the chance to test his skills in the ring when he steps up against gritty, hard-hitting veteran Pedro ‘The Rock’ Rizzo. Monson will face Rizzo for the IFA Heavyweight Championship in Dallas, Texas, in Sun Sports Entertainment’s newest production, Art of War 3.

Rizzo earned the IFA title by defeating former UFC title contender Justin Eilers by Unanimous Decision in March of this year and his upcoming fight with Monson will be his first opportunity to defend his new belt.

In a recent conference call with the media, ‘The Snowman’ spoke about his upcoming IFA title fight with Pedro Rizzo and gave his thoughts on his lengthy MMA career, his preparation for his upcoming fights and his recent training stint in England.

As was already mentioned, Monson trains primarily at ATT in Florida, but for this fight Jeff decided to mix it up a bit and try his hand at training overseas in England.

Jeff said, “I have been training here [in England] for a couple of months to prepare for the fight. The training is the same here in England; it is just a different environment. For one, there is no cell phone ringing off the hook, so we can really concentrate.

“I am working on my boxing, which is a little bit of a change. As far as conditioning and mat work, I am doing that as well, but I am now focusing more on boxing than I have in the past.”

Monson needs his boxing skills to be on par when he steps in to fight the always-dangerous striker Pedro Rizzo, since Rizzo will no doubt want to keep the fight on the feet for as long as he can.

Rizzo is not only extremely talented, he also has faced a number of top heavyweight fighters in his career, some of which include: Randy Couture (twice), Sergei Kharitonov, Ricco Rodriguez, Josh Barnett, Dan Severn, Kevin Randleman and Mark Coleman. With the combination of experience levels in both Rizzo and Monson, fans can likely expect a tenacious, though technical throw down when these two MMA giants meet.

Jeff said of his opponent, “Pedro is a great name and has fought for the UFC title a couple of times. He is a hall-of-fame type of guy, so I’m excited with the match up with him.”

Monson has the scheduled title fight with Rizzo on September 1st, but not before he fights Chris Guillen in the Global Fighting Championships on August 17th. There is some speculation on whether or not Monson will be able to fulfill both engagements, but Monson is confident.

“I have fought back-to-back weekends before and to me I don’t take one any lighter than the other. Hopefully the first one will go well, and if it does, it gives me more preparation. I’m planning on two fights, but I’m going to peak for this one on the 17th and take a couple of days and then I will be back in the gym working… but I will already be in good shape,” Monson said.

Talking with MMAWeekly Radio, Monson said he doesn’t really worry much about being injured in the first fight. “Every time you fight, there’s a risk of getting cut or some kind of injury. But that can happen in training as well. It’s not like I’m taking anyone lightly.”

Although Monson is getting up in age as far as competitive combative sports go, he believes that his time to shine is now.

“There are so many young guys now and at 36-years-old I feel like the elder statesmen. It [MMA] is so big now and they have long careers ahead of them and I am on my last leg so to speak – but I think I am in my prime.

“In 5 years they will still all be fighting and I won’t be. When I was 25, I wasn’t as good as I am now and I wasn’t prepared for this kind of environment,” Jeff said.

Since Monson is older and wiser than some of the rookie fighters nowadays, fans will likely see him employing a well-thought veteran’s game plan when he faces Rizzo for the title.

Monson has shown that he can and will submit almost any opponent he faces if he gets the chance and Rizzo has proven time and time again that he has both serious knockout power and superstar potential if he only comes into the fight with the confidence to match.

When the Dallas American Airlines Center opens for business on the night of September 1st, one thing will be certain…two veteran gladiators will be ready to butt heads in a ring and put their celebrated reputations on the line.

But there is even more at stake for Monson. Knowing that his career is likely winding down, Monson would like to make a return to the UFC, where he lost to Tim Sylvia in a heavyweight title fight his last time in the Octagon.

“I had an opportunity to go fight for them again [following the Sylvia fight], but we’re the ones that opted out of the contract to try and fight Fedor and that fell through,” said Monson on MMAWeekly Radio.

“I have a good relationship with the UFC and we’ve been talking back and forth about fighting [in the UFC] after the Pedro fight. A lot of people watch the UFC, that’s kind of where it’s at. I’d love to be back in there.”

Before he gets another shot in the UFC though, he will step in with Chris Guillen on Saturday night and then Pedro Rizzo two weeks later. Monson will definitely have to earn his return to the Octagon.