Montano became the UFC’s inaugural women’s flyweight champion in 2017 when she emerged with the belt from a season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ aimed at crowning a new titleholder in what was at the time a newly-created weight class.
The 32-year-old, who is of Navajo, Chickasaw and Hispanic descent, appeared for the fight league just one more time – a 2019 defeat to Julianna Pena – and hasn’t thrown a punch in anger since.
However, Montano’s lineage has heralded her as a famous figure within the Native American community, and led to her being heavily featured in the new documentary ‘Warrior Spirit’.
But that has thrown up issues over nude shots of Montano featured within the film which she says she was unaware of, and which has left her feeling that she was taken advantage of.
“I hear that it’s a great documentary and it’s winning awards and stuff,” she explained to the ‘The Fighter vs. The Writer’ podcast on MMA Fighting.
“But just the fact that the documentary talks about Native Americans being exploited and the whole genocide with the government and how UFC fighters are exploited by the UFC. It’s just very hypocritical for them to be saying all this because I’m definitely exploited here.”
Montano’s grievance stems from a moment in the film in which she is checking her weight ahead of a scheduled fight against Valentina Shevchenko in September 2018 and briefly removes her towel, exposing her body – and she said she had assumed that the footage captured would either be censored or removed entirely, and was disappointed to learn that it had been included in full.
The incident is a doubly-painful memory for Montano, with the ill-fated weight cut eventually leading to her being transported to hospital and subsequently being stripped of her UFC title.
“I never said it was OK for me to be exposed on film and when I asked about them taking it down, they just said I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s a good film, everyone loves how impactful it is,” she explained.
“Like OK, you’re deflecting. I still don’t want to be exposed for anyone to see cause I’m not getting any royalties, I’m not getting any kickbacks from this documentary. Like nothing.
“They just didn’t have any remorse,” she added. “They’re just like ‘well you signed off and it’s part of the film and it makes it more impactful’ but it’s also at my expense. It’s still very hypocritical of them to be demonstrating or showing how they say the UFC is portrayed and they’re doing the same thing to me, knowing I’m not getting paid or any royalties from this at all.”
The director of the documentary, Landon Dyksterhouse, disagrees and says that the nude scene – whether Montano was aware of it or not – is a powerful representation of her career arc within the sport of mixed martial arts.
“To say it doesn’t connect with the narrative, I think that’s not true,” said Dyksterhouse to Miesha Tate’s ‘Throwing Down’ podcast.
“Because in the beginning, Nicco had everything. She has the belt, she has her health, she’s at her very best. It’s why so many people in the Native American community idolize her.
“At the end of the movie, the arc of the story is she’s left with nothing. She’s stripped down including her weight, including her body, including everything she had attained with the UFC.”