by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Over the last few years the UFC has had a difficult time finding quality heavyweights to fill their ranks. Time and time again fighters have been brought into the promotion’s PPVs and live shows and more often than not, the competitors have either not impressed or changed weight classes shortly thereafter.

American Top Team heavyweight Jeff “Snowman” Monson hopes to buck that trend in his upcoming match at UFC 57 against Branden Lee Hinkle. In what he hopes will be a more successful run than his stint with the company from 2000-02 in which he went 1-2 with losses to Chuck Liddell and Ricco Rodriguez, Monson looks to make this his time.

Shortly after claiming the 2006 NAGA Absolute US Nationals Championship. Monson spoke to MMA Weekly about last year, his return to the UFC, and the one fighter he’d love to put out of MMA competition.

MMA Weekly: First off Jeff, tell us about your 2005, how do you feel about your performances last year?

Jeff Monson: I’m pretty happy with last year. I didn’t do as many grappling events like I did in 2004, but I really concentrated on more MMA. Obviously Abu Dhabi the big thing for me, I’d been waiting six years through injuries, not doing as well as I’d hoped, the debacle in 2003, so I was really excited to win that. I had a few MMA events and some boxing matches; overall I improved my boxing skills so it was a good year.

MMA Weekly: So you’re happy with your progression as a fighter?

Jeff Monson: Yeah, it’s always a process, you can be happy with were you at, but that’s when you get in trouble when you think you’re real good. You’ve always got to be thinking, “I have to work on this, this, and that.” I just want to keep that attitude to get better.

MMA Weekly: This upcoming fight with Branden Lee Hinkle is going to be your first fight in the UFC in four years. Where do you think you are at now compared to where you were at the last time you were in the promotion?

Jeff Monson: I’m a different fighter now. It’s been a long progress back, I’ve hit some lows and obviously had some good times too, some success. It’s probably I needed all of it to get to the point to where I’m good enough to be very successful. You don’t want to be there just for the show and all that, you want to be there to do it, to win, that’s what the game is about. I’m happy to be back and will try to do my best.

MMA Weekly: All right, let’s talk specifically about Hinkle. What kind of fight do you think he’ll bring into the octagon against you and what would you like to accomplish against him?

Jeff Monson: He’s an extremely tough guy, he’s a wrestler and they’re tough guys. He goes all out, he’s an exciting fighter, he’s probably a better wrestler than me, but I have boxing experience, in the ring and with a coach, so definitely I think I have the edge standing up. Especially right now, I want to take it to him that way and do what I can do standing up. If we go to the floor, we go to the floor, but this is one of those fights where I don’t think his stand up is bad, I just think mine is has really gotten to the point where I can be successful there.

MMA Weekly: The UFC of today is a bit different than it was in your first go around. Now there is a stronger emphasis on exciting fighters who bring in ratings and PPV buys. Is there going to be any pressures on you to perhaps change your style and provide a possibly more exciting fight?

Jeff Monson: No, if it was a grappling event I would be a little concerned if they were really wanting somebody exciting. When you’re grappling sometimes it’s exciting because of your opponent, the match-ups. You can have someone that goes fast and this and that, it’s going to be exciting, even if you’re not so exciting. When it’s a fight and you’re trying to finish the guy or he’s trying to finish, it’s going to be exciting either way. I wouldn’t expect this fight to go the distance, so in that regard I would expect it to be an exciting fight one way or the other.

MMA Weekly: Where do you think you’d fit into the current UFC heavyweight landscape amongst Champion Andrei Arlovski, contenders Tim Sylvia and Frank Mir?

Jeff Monson: I think Frank Mir is a fantastic fighter, if he’s fully recovered, motivated, and comes in, in shape, he can be the champ again for sure because his ground game is so good. I think what I bring to the table is a good stand up – now – and obviously I have a background in wrestling and I think I’m the best heavyweight grappler in the world. I think I’m well-rounded and bring everything to the table. I think Arlovski would have a lot of problems in a fight with me, matching up with me. And that’s all I really want to do is fight for the title, that’s the only reason I’m doing this. The other fights are just a means to that end.

MMA Weekly: Really?

Jeff Monson: Yeah, the ultimate goal is to fight for the title and win the title. If you’re just in the game to make some money and do that, that’s your choice, but I’ve put a lot of effort, a lot of my life on hold, a lot of sacrifice, travel, time away from my kids, to do this. So I might as well try to win while I’m doing it, that’s my mentality.

MMA Weekly: Something interesting about this upcoming UFC is the fact that Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz is fighting Frank Mir. You and Cruz have a negative history, would you foresee any problems between the two behind the scenes?

Jeff Monson: You know I saw that Abu Dhabi and the thing with him is I don’t have any respect for him at all as a competitor. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s not a good athlete, I think he’s a very gifted athlete and Jiu-Jitsu player, MMA we’ll see what happens, he could be good. But as a competitor the way he quit in our match, he’s got no guts and in that regard I have no respect for him. If I were to fight him, which I’d love to do, just because I don’t respect him in that way I’d try to put him out of the sport so to speak. Just like walking around I don’t have any problems with him. I don’t know him well enough as person to have any ill feelings towards him as a person. Just in a competitive sense I think he’s garbage and I’ve love to fight him.

MMA Weekly: So were not going to have an incident like there was at the Arnold Classic Grappling Championships where the cops had to come separate the two of you?

Jeff Monson: [Laughs] No, we’re not going to have an Arnold Classic repeat, only if I fought him maybe. There I could throw all the punches I want and they wouldn’t bring in the police or anything.

MMA Weekly: All right Jeff, thanks for your time as always. Is there anything you want to say as we head out?

Jeff Monson: I’d like to thank of course number one my brothers at American Top Team for supporting me. I’d like to thank the Trojan Free Fighters in England, they put me up while I was out there and trained me a little bit; I do appreciate that tremendously. Lastly Ronnie Ferguson and JC Santana who’ve been training me while I’m here (ATT Florida) in the physical preparation stuff. I’d like to say I appreciate all the people who’ve supported me through all the rough years. I’ve received a lot of positive emails and I’d like to thank everyone for that. Hopefully in a year’s time you’ll be seeing me fight for a title, and that’s my goal.