With a 27-8 career record, Jeff ‘The Snowman' Monson is one of UFC's marquee names. A mixed martial arts veteran, he has been fighting professionally for over a decade, winning 14 straight fights in his heyday. But Monson is also an anarchist and frequently gives lectures on the subject.
In January he was arrested for painting the walls of Washington's Capitol Building with an anarchist symbol and the words "no poverty, no war". This has been criticised by some as a petty act of vandalism, but as the man himself says, "sometimes you need to break the law".
Monson vs Fujita (2007)
Hi Jeff, sorry to call so early. I'll just dive straight in. Where does your belief in anarchy come from?
I first became interested at college where my professors used to talk a lot about socialism. I was part of the 1999 Seattle protests against corporate power and since then I've tried to learn more and stay active. As a fighter I've travelled the world and seen a lot of poverty, which made want to find out why capitalism always fails people. Even socialism seems too restrictive, whenever there's a government, there is also hierarchy, a class system and stigmas. In my mind and in my heart anarchy just seemed right. It seemed like the only way to deliver real freedom.
Many people think that anarchy would just end up being might is right.
Look, anarchy is not Darwinism or anything like that. Everyone has the same rights, the same freedoms. In the world today there is no system where everyone has equal rights. 80 percent of people wanted out of Iraq, everyone wants universal healthcare, but it doesn't happen. In order for equality to exist you have to eliminate the hierarchies of class and power. Anarchism fits around people, it helps everybody.
Obama has done some good things and he's certainly better than Bush. But people are still suffering. We know that corporations run the country and not even the president can change that. We gave billions to AIG and the banks, but they don't help us. They just keep stealing from us.
How do you feel an individual can make a difference?
First and foremost I'm a realist. People need to be educated before the situation can improve and I don't see that happening in my lifetime. I think the best thing people can do is to take less of a short term view. The UN tells us that 54 percent of people are hungry. We need to think globally because every life has an effect. Even in well-off nations people's lives are reduced to making ends meet, so that they can't contribute anything to society. How are we going to get great writers, adventurers and pioneers if all we can think about is how to put food on the table and pay our mortgages? Its like we've gone back to survival living, with no free time or thought. We live, die and pass on our debt. Its such a waste of human talent.
You've been critical of religion. How much a part of the problem is that?
I see it as another hierarchy used by those in charge. Christianity preaches ‘be poor, suffer-you'll get your reward when you die'. One of my favourite books is Tolstoy's Kingdom of Heaven. In it he says that God is now so enjoy life, go with it while you can. You don't need a fricking church. True religion has nothing to do with ceremonies and wars. You see Bush and Blair talking about love for all men, then they go and bomb a village. Its hollow and its hypocritical.
Do you feel it's acceptable to protest violently? Or illegally?
Basically yes. Throughout history direct action has been a successful way of bringing change and often you have to break the law. Go where you're not supposed to, make a noise and be heard. Governments will never change anything unless they really have to. The only reason we got out of Vietnam when we did was because to stay would have been political suicide. The campaigns and the protests won the day. People need to educate themselves about the world, particularly in the US and realise the thousands of people we are killing aren't just numbers. We need to oppose it any way we can.
Why do sportspeople and athletes generally avoid politics?
If you have a decent job and a stake in society, you don't really want to risk that. Sportsmen are doing alright. They don't need to rock the boat. If people believe they are happy its hard to reject the good life. Its true of lawyers and bankers too. That's why protest movements have the image of being for evergreen students and stoners. They haven't got as much to lose so they'll happily say ‘destroy the government'.
Do you have any heroes?
I'd say Che Guevara. Of course he's become a face now, so people don't know about his life. It's a horrible irony how commercialised he‘s become. One of his quotes is the most inspirational thing I have ever heard; "The true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love".
Is it easy living a double life as fighter and activist?
The main link is the passion - that's similar for both. Where the link helps is that I have the platform to be heard. Where it hurts me is with sponsorship and things like that. A lot of companies won't touch me. Generally my politics don't affect my career.
UFC has a ferocious image. What are the social benefits of martial arts?
They have a great effect on kids. Wrestling saved me by giving me something to do that wasn‘t drugs or crime. Some people get into it for the wrong reasons, but they don't last. You have to learn great discipline and that gives you self control. You don't have the insecurity that makes you do crazy things. You learn respect for yourself and others.
You're 36 now. Have you thought about what you might do when you retire?
At my age you have to! I want to make a difference. No more training or fighting - I want to focus more on the seminars and politics. My wife and I have some land in Central America. Eventually we'd like to move there and open a school. I feel like I need that change in my life.
Thanks for talking to us Jeff, good luck.
For fight details, personal information and all things Monson, visit his official website.