by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
At UFC 59 not only will the UFC Heavyweight Championship be determined between Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia, but as well the number one contendership will be up for grabs when Jeff Monson and Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz face off against each other earlier in the evening.

Shortly before leaving for Anaheim for the UFC’s first ever trip into California, Monson spoke to MMA Weekly to discuss the fight and where he sees his career going from here.

For Monson this is not only a chance to take a major step forward in his career, but also finally get into the cage with an individual he has long wanted the opportunity to fight in Cruz. And while he has no professional liking for Marcio, Jeff won’t let the hype surrounding the fight effect his gameplan.

“We’ve kind of gone at it a few times grappling and this is the first time we’re having an MMA fight. I’m not going to get caught up in all the hype, the ‘I hate him, he hates me,’ stuff,” admitted Monson. “I don’t hate him or anything like that; I don’t even know him as a person. I just think he has a weak heart. I feel that if I go after him hard he’ll quit.”

Jeff continued, “He’s just another guy on the way to the title. We have history together, but that doesn’t matter, ultimately I need to win this fight. I’m not looking past this guy. He’s not going to knock me out but he can get on top and try to ground out a decision or try to get a submission, so I’m going to take him seriously.”

Both fighters participated at UFC 57, Monson defeating Branden Lee Hinke and Cruz upsetting former Heavyweight Champ Frank Mir. As Jeff explained, he feels Marcio will try to do the same thing against him that he did to Mir with slight alterations.

“He’s a smart fighter and so I expect that he’s going to come out and I think he thinks he’s going to throw punches with me,” said Monson. “If he does that’s his mistake. I think he’s going to try to throw punches, take me down, get on top of me and ground ‘n pound like he did Frank.”

“He’s not an easy guy to take down, people say that I’m the better wrestler, but he’s not easy to take down. I don’t know that I want to take him down, I’d definitely like to trade punches with him,” added Jeff.

The winner of this fight is said to become the number one contender for the title to be determined in UFC 59’s main event between Arlovski and Sylvia. As Monson sees it, either he or Cruz would deserve a title shot and they could bring something different to the table against Arlovski if he retains his title.

“I heard it from them so I think the winner of this will fight the winner of Arlovski/Sylvia and I’d be shocked to see it any other way,” commented Jeff. “I had a good last fight and he (Cruz) beat the former champ, a guy that never lost it really, so I think that definitely the winner of this fight should be in line for a title fight.”

Monson further commented, “I know people think there are not a lot of other people out there that could compete with Arlovski at this point because he’s so well-rounded, but the one thing that we (Monson and Cruz) can beat him at, both of us, is we can submit him.”

When asked who he hopes will win between Andrei and Tim, Jeff is conflicted between friendships and wanting a fight he feels would more validate Championship should he compete and win it in the future.

“I know Tim Sylvia so I’ll be rooting for him, but if I had to pick who I’d want to fight, I’d fight Arlovski,” admitted Monson. He hasn’t lost in the UFC in a long time and has demolished everyone, so I think he’s it.”

“No disrespect to Tim, but Arlovski’s just the most well-rounded fighter, even more well-rounded than I am, so hopefully when I get my shot at the title it’s against him,” continued Jeff.

Monson closed out the conversation by reiterating his thoughts on just how important UFC 59 will be not only for the company’s present, but for its future as well.

“I definitely want the fans to watch this; this is the biggest UFC ever. It’s the fastest sell-out ever, so it’s a big show,” concluded Jeff. “To me everyone’s kind of saying that the heavyweight division is down and that Arlovski is tearing through everyone, but that the guy that’s going to beat him is fighting that night too. I think when they see Pe De Pano and me; they’ll see the guy that’s going to beat him (Arlovski). Basically the winner of our fight is going to with the UFC Heavyweight Title.”