Going into MMA, a good choice for Nicco Montaño

MMA


LAS VEGAS — The first female flyweight title fight in UFC history is scheduled to headline The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale on Friday, inside Park Theater.

The matchup will showcase a relatively unknown 125-pound female in Nicco Montaño (3-2) going up against veteran Invicta fighter Roxanne Modafferi (21-13).

Modafferi entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and was expected to compete for the belt. Montaño though, ranked No. 14, was a long shot. How did she get to this point and what can we expect in the biggest bout of her life? I spoke with her earlier this week to find out.


The sport of mixed martial arts has always served two purposes for Montaño.

For one, she loves it. Enjoys doing it. And two, it’s given her something to do the last few years, while she figured out what to do with her life.

Montaño, 28, dropped out of college in 2011 — mainly because she didn’t know what to study. She attended multiple schools for several years, but never settled on a major.

After dropping out, she moved to New Mexico with her boyfriend, where she trained MMA and coached occasional classes at FIT NHB. She was essentially living the life of a budding fighter, but never really saw herself that way. In her mind, she was just biding time before eventually heading back to school.

“My boyfriend is a fighter, too, and we were just training 24/7, coaching when we could,” Montaño said. “We were probably making, combined, less than $1,000 a month.

“We’re living in a rented basement right now. The windows are tiny. The walls are low. You hit your head on light bulbs when you walk. And when it rains, water comes in.”

Montaño, who grew up on a Navajo reservation in Arizona, had already been accepted to return to school in May, when the opportunity to try out for TUF came along. She remembers actually feeling guilty at the tryouts in Las Vegas, because she had nothing to lose. She called it her “last hurrah” before going back to class.

“There were a lot of girls there who were like, ‘This is my life. I’m a fighter,'” Montaño said. “For me, it was like, ‘Eh, sure. I’ll try out.’ I felt a little guilty feeling like that.”

Montaño’s plans to finish school (she’s decided to study dietetics) are currently on hold, as she’s now potentially one day away from a UFC championship.

Frankly, this wasn’t something she planned. But she’s embraced it now.

“My mindset changed in the house — I can’t pinpoint when, but it did,” Montaño said.

“After I got out of the show, I said the whole thing was a sign. Having to choose between school and TUF, going through that process, watching myself grow on TV — it was like, ‘Yeah man, you’re the s—.’ That was something I said during camp, ‘Either own this or keep denying it for whatever reason.’ I’m definitely on board with it now.”



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