From the trading post to the Octagon: Nicco Montaño is an Ultimate Fighting champion
Nicco Montaño grew up on the Navajo Nation in Arizona working in her family's trading post. But this daughter of a boxer had bigger dreams than just bagging groceries.
"When I was a kid he would have me hit pads so I was always familiar with the gym, I was always familiar with hitting pads as a boxer," she said of her father who has since passed away.
Despite this early influence and the fact she moved on to kickboxing and later jiu-jitsu, Montaño long insisted she was not a fighter.
"I was always saying, 'No I do that as a hobby. I don't want to fight. I'm not going to become a fighter.' And as soon as I stopped fighting, then I became one."
Ultimate Fighting Champion
Fighting in the UFC Octagon soon became her dream.
In early December, at the age of 28, Montaño made that dream a reality. She became the first Indigenous woman fighter to win a title in Ultimate Fighting Championship history.
Montaño, who is Navajo, Chickasaw and Hispanic defeated Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision to pick up the first women's flyweight division title. It's a victory that comes with a six-figure contract with the UFC.
After having the belt wrapped around her waist by UFC president Dana White, Montaño thanked her family in the Navajo language, Dine Bizaad.
Montaño said fighting has given her discipline and focus in other parts of her life. She said her Native American identity is just as important to her and she often makes a point to talk about her Navajo culture.
"For the people who do want to hear, especially our Indigenous youth, it's really important to know and to express that you know who you are and where you come from because that's sort of where I gain my self-confidence."