Vladimir Putin grants Russian citizenship to American MMA champion Jeffrey Monson

“I’m Russian, I have the Russian soul, and for better or for worse, this is the place I should be,” Monson says.

Originally appeared at RussiaFeed

Another American celebrity has joined the likes of actor Steven Seagal and basketball player Jamierra Faulkner in becoming a Russian citizen.

Jeffrey Monson, a legendary mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, was granted Russian citizenship by decree of President Vladimir Putin yesterday, TASS reports.

The decree, published on the official legal information internet portal of the Russian Federation reads:

President Putin’s decree granting Russian citizenship to MMA fighter Jeffrey Monson

In accordance with point “a” of article 89 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, I decree:

To accept Jeffrey William Monson, born January 18, 1971 in the United States of America, as a citizen of the Russian Federation.

Monson’s love of Russia has long been public knowledge, and Putin’s decree marks the end of a long journey for the champion athlete. In a piece he authored in January 2016, he noted that he had already turned in his citizenship papers in Moscow a few weeks prior. He fought under the Russian flag for the first time just days later on December 25, 2015.

Monson is also known for his outspoken political positions, but he notes that it wasn’t politics that fueled his decision,

Rather, it was due to my solidarity with the Russian people, something I felt when I first visited Russia in 2011. I felt deep down right away that this is my home—the one place I feel at peace with myself and my surroundings. And it was as unexpected for me as it would be for nearly any American.

His first trip in 2011 was to fight Russian MMA champion Fedor Emelianenko. Monson lost the bout by unanimous decision, but that didn’t change his feelings about Russia and the Russian people.

In a December 2015 interview with RT, he stated plainly:

I’m Russian, I have the Russian soul, and for better or for worse, this is the place I should be…

 People say, “Why did you choose Russia?” and I say, “I think Russia chose me as much as I chose Russia”… I feel like this is home.

The MMA champion has traveled extensively in Russia, having visited about forty cities during more than twenty-five trips to the country.

And just as Monson says he gains a sense of belonging and warmth and friendship from the Russian people, he also does his part to give back. “Whenever I’m in Russia,” he says, “I try to spend time visiting orphanages and promoting youth sports. And I’m always surprised to see how obligated Russians feel to help those in need.”

Monson was also awarded the title of honorary citizen of Abkhazia in 2016, and last year he became the first American to receive a passport to the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic.

President Putin also granted Russian citizenship to professional US female basketball player Jamierra Faulkner earlier this year, and Hollywood actor Steven Seagal made headlines in November 2016 when he was granted citizenship. He also obtained Serbian citizenship in January of the same year.

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