Unreserved

From the trading post to the Octagon: Nicco Montaño is an Ultimate Fighting champion

She grew up bagging groceries at her family's trading post on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. But in December, Nicco Montaño made history as the first Indigenous woman to win an Ultimate Fighting Championship belt.
On Dec. 1, Nicco Montano defeated Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision to pick up UFC's inaugural women's flyweight division title. (Facebook)

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

In her post fight speech, Montano thanked her family and friends in the Navajo language. (Getty Images/Zuffa, LLC)
Montaño said she fell in love with mixed martial arts after her first amateur fight five years ago. After only five fights, she headed for the professional ring.

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.

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01: Nicco Montano hugs UFC president Dana White after her unanimous-decision victory over Roxanne Modafferi in their women's flyweight championship bout during the TUF Finale event inside Park Theater on December 01, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images)
"It felt so surreal. Everything was a little overwhelming," she recalled. "I'm sure he had a real expensive suit on and I gave him a big hug full of blood."

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."

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