Final month, the All-Russia Folks’s Entrance—a political coalition began by Russian President Vladimir Putin—posted a number of movies that includes American MMA fighter Jeff Monson.
Entitled “High Reality: Donbass,” the movies noticed Monson regurgitate Kremlin disinformation relating to Russia’s ongoing battle in Ukraine. Wearing a easy brown v-neck shirt, the previous UFC title challenger claimed that Russia was not considering occupying Ukraine and that its solely intention is to rid the nation of fascism.
“I’ve pals in Europe who suppose Russia is the dangerous man or Russia is the aggressor that’s making an attempt to assault Ukraine, take over Ukraine, occupy Ukraine, which is absolute nonsense,” Monson stated on the video, which was printed on the coalition’s Telegram channel. “Russia doesn’t have the need nor the financial or army capability to carry a rustic that doesn’t need to be held. They’re making an attempt to assist the individuals of Donbas and try to rid Ukraine of Nazis and fascism.”
Whereas some Ukrainian army items such because the Azov regiment preserve connections to neo-Nazism, their function in Ukraine has been vastly exaggerated by Russian state media to help the battle, in addition to to again up Russian president Vladimir Putin’s aim of “denazification” in Ukraine. It’s a assertion rooted in Kremlin wartime propaganda aimed to justify the continuing battle.
Monson, 51, went on responsible NATO, america, and different Western nations for the continuing battle, stating that they “crossed a purple line that may’t be crossed.”
Although Monson’s metamorphosis from a journeyman fighter to Russian political sideshow and wartime propagandist could also be stunning to fight sports activities followers who keep in mind him as a former UFC title contender and ADCC champion, his transformation has been years within the making.
Monson’s profession as a fight sports activities athlete took off in 1999 when he defeated 4 high-ranked Brazilian grapplers to win gold on the prestigious Abu Dhabi Fight Membership (ADCC) Submission Wrestling World Championship.
Although restricted in his expertise as a jiu-jitsu practitioner on the time, Monson rapidly established himself as one of many world’s high submission grapplers. He gave up on his profession as a baby psychologist and determined to dedicate himself to fight sports activities, ultimately signing with the UFC in 2000 after compiling a 5-2 skilled document in combined martial arts.
Although Monson gained his promotional debut at UFC 27, he later suffered losses to UFC legend Chuck Liddell and former champion Ricco Rodriguez and parted methods with the group. He returned to the regional scene, the place he compiled 13 consecutive victories between 2003-2005, claiming heavyweight titles for CWFC, XFC, and SportFight. He carried that momentum again to the UFC in 2006, the place he compiled a formidable 3-0 run that earned him a title shot in opposition to Tim Sylvia.
Monson lasted all 5 rounds with the heavyweight champion however ended up shedding a unanimous determination. The loss marked the final time that Monson would compete for the UFC.
Over the course of the subsequent 10 years—a time interval that encompassed the rest of his MMA profession—Monson competed for about 40 completely different promotions. His fights took him around the globe, together with international locations comparable to France, South Korea, Ukraine, England, Switzerland, Israel, and at last, Russia. This unusual profession trajectory introduced Monson face-to-face with notable opposition comparable to present UFC champion Daniel Cormier, Roy Nelson, Pedro Rizzo, and Josh Barnett.
In 2011, Monson headlined an M-1 International occasion in Moscow in opposition to heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko. Regardless of struggling a damaged leg throughout the struggle, Monson survived the whole length of the bout, shedding by unanimous determination. His gutsy efficiency earned the respect and admiration of Russian struggle followers, and helped make him probably the most in style American fighters in Russia. He was even congratulated by Putin himself, who was in attendance that night time.
Monson’s loss to Emelianenko was arguably one of many extra pivotal moments within the fighter’s profession. He reputation soared as he continued to struggle extra usually in Russia. He was acknowledged frequently and was routinely stopped for autographs on the streets. Although his efficiency in opposition to Emelianenko earned him the respect of the Russian individuals, it was his outspoken criticism of america and his public help for Russia that cemented him as one of many nation’s hottest fighters.
In 2016, Monson penned an op-ed for Newsweek titled Why I Turned a Russian Citizen, which delved into the the reason why Monson seen himself as a person with a “Russian soul” and why he had utilized for Russian citizenship. He concluded the op-ed with the assertion: “So when individuals ask me why I sought Russian citizenship, it’s exhausting to provide a concise reply. I suppose it’s as a result of I simply really feel Russian. Why did I settle for Russian citizenship? It’s as a result of “Ya russkiy (I’m Russian.).”
Later that very same 12 months, Monson would formally enter the political fray in Russia, becoming a member of the Communist Celebration of the Russian Federation (KPRF) as a particular consultant of the celebration’s sports activities membership. His function included touring to the so-called Luhansk Folks’s Republic (LPR), a pro-Russian occupied state in Japanese Ukraine, to develop a brand new sports activities program for kids. A number of months following his preliminary go to to Luhansk, Monson introduced that he had accepted LPR citizenship, successfully turning into the primary American to take action.
Monson’s involvement within the occupied LPR turned a helpful propaganda instrument for the Kremlin when 1000’s of Russians took half in widespread protests in March 2017.
The protests had been a part of an anti-corruption marketing campaign in opposition to prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was accused of corruption and bribery to amass huge wealth and a property portfolio throughout his time in workplace.
Nonetheless, as lots of of residents had been being arrested for collaborating within the protests, Russian state tv opted to distract viewers from potential dissent by shifting the main target to a fight sports activities fitness center within the Donbas area of japanese Ukraine, the place Monson hosted an MMA masterclass to a gaggle of young children whereas additionally spouting Kremlin speaking factors about how the individuals of Luhansk had been the “victims of the federal government of Ukraine.”
5 years later, Monson would as soon as once more be known as upon to unfold Kremlin disinformation about Ukraine.
A Wartime Propagandist
In 2018, Monson turned the most recent in a sequence of Western celebrities to be granted Russian citizenship by Putin, following within the footsteps of U.S. boxing legend Roy Jones Jr and D-list actor Steven Seagal.
“He’s a reasonably well-known particular person within the sporting world and is known in his self-discipline internationally,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov instructed reporters when requested why Putin had awarded Monson Russian citizenship.
Armed together with his newly bestowed nationality, Monson introduced his intention to develop into a politician. His achieved that acknowledged aim on Sep. 9, 2018, when the fighter was elected as a parliamentary consultant in Krasnogorsk, a metropolis on the outskirts of Moscow. Monson gained the mandate as a candidate of the ruling celebration “United Russia.”
Whereas Monson continues to function an elected official, he has additionally emerged as a distinguished voice in help of Russia’s ongoing battle in Ukraine, having been routinely cited in Russian state-controlled media.
The 51-year-old fighter, who’s normally referenced as a former American citizen-turned-Russian-politician, repeated Kremlin disinformation concerning the battle whereas shouldering the blame for the battle on Ukraine and its management.
“The battle will finish when Zelenskyy lastly says: ‘You understand, I can’t sacrifice individuals anymore. I agree that Ukraine can be impartial, we is not going to have NATO right here, we is not going to be part of america. We may have neutrality, democracy and freedom. And should the individuals of japanese Ukraine, in Luhansk and Donetsk, have the independence they want. No must struggle with them,’” Monson instructed Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian tabloid newspaper that serves as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Kremlin.
Monson additionally declared his mistrust of Western media, claiming that their reporting on the Russia-Ukraine battle is “fully false.”
“After I watch Russia Immediately (RT), I don’t really feel like I’m being lied to,” Monson instructed Enterprise Gazeta in March. “With Western media, this sense by no means leaves me. They don’t present any different perspective.”
Monson was additionally complimentary of Putin, whom he referred to as a person who “loves Russia and is doing every thing to make Russia higher, primarily based on his imaginative and prescient.”
In latest interviews, the longtime fighter has additionally claimed that the U.S. and Europe are at the moment supporting fascism in Ukraine, and that Ukrainian Nazis try to “rewrite historical past.”
Monson’s continued reputation in Russia’s political scene lies within the attract of his transformation from American citizen to Russian mascot. His criticism of U.S. tradition and politics coupled together with his timeless affinity for Russia makes him an ideal vessel for Russian politicians and state-sponsored media.