Jeff Monson, the American MMA fighter is seeking a Russian citizenship. He talked about what he did in order to get to know the country where he is eyeing his new citizenship in.
“I arrived in Moscow Russia just a couple of hours before my fight. I was rushed directly to the events venue, not even stopping at the hotel to refresh myself after the long flight. I was able to warmup good with Ivan Laptev and Ramon, after that I fought and won by choke. I donated my fight purse to the children of Donbass who are suffering through the war. Many people have made a big deal of the gift but the truth is I was just following what my brothers at OPLOT have been doing for some time now. Helping children in need, developing social programs, humanitarian aid for the people of Donbass are just part of the story of OPLOT.
Following the MMA fight I hopped on a train for a 13-hour train to Pskov to conduct a master class for children and adults in celebration of the new club opening there. I have ridden on the train several times in Russia and although it’s not a fast journey it is a way to see Russia and meet people. I enjoy seeing the surprise on faces when they discover I’m on the train with them. The master classes went well with a big turnout so it was nice to be teaching an enthusiastic group. Later we went to meet the city mayor and participate in Armed Forces Day to pay respect to all those who have served Russia and protecting the homeland today. I returned by car to Moscow and I began preparation for my fight in Yaroslavl. Alexey Oleynik organized good training each day with OPLOT fighters including Dimitriy Sosnovskyi, Pavel Pupkov, Anatolyi Pupkov, Ivan Laptev, Alexandr Gladkov and the other heavyweights. After that I went to visit my friend, a lightweight fighter Nikolay Kaushanskyi.
It was an incredible experience because Nikolay has a wolf, boar, snakes, and 3 meter tall brown bear I was able to feed and pet. It’s been one of my dreams to wrestle a bear and next time I hope to have the time to make it happen. Feeling prepared for the fight we took the 4 hour drive to Yaroslavl. A large group from OPLOT came to coach and support me for the battle. Because MMA appears to be an individual sport people don’t realize how important having a good team is. I have been fortunate to have been with American Top Team, one of the best teams in the world from the beginning. And having the support and teamwork from OPLOT not only physically helps me prepare but gives me a great deal of confidence. The arena was full and a lot of good fights took place. I won by choke in 3rd round but not my best performance. I went against game plan in 2nd round and just stood in front of my opponent Alexander Stolyarov taking some unnecessary punches. After the fight we had dinner as a team and headed back to Moscow.
The bear was missing me!
The following day we had MMA training and then a press conference to make public aware of the truth about Ukraine and the struggle for many ordinary people to go about their daily life with the destruction that is taking place. It was not only to show the good OPLOT is doing to support the people in Donbass and Eastern Ukraine but to encourage everyone from all over to help in any way they can.
My last evening in Moscow was spent getting a tattoo. Alexander Medved (what a coincidence) offered a gift of a tattoo for me and I had to think of what I wanted. When I arrived at the studio we both agreed I was to get something meaningful and we decided on the statue of Mamyev Kurgan – the iconic symbol of the Russian motherland. I have visited this statue and war memorial in Volgograd and I remember how emotional it was to be on the sure where so many lost their lives defending their freedom. Having this tattoo is very humbling because of the great sacrifice from so many that Mamyev Kurgan represents.
During this last day I was also a guest at the outdoor market. I received many gifts–that is one of traits Americans do not realize about their counterparts– how generous and giving the Russian people are. My only regret on my trip is how quickly the time elapsed and it felt like I had so much more to do”.