First UFC Navajo champion credit win to her ancestry

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Nicco Montano became the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion last Friday, and the first Navajo, or Diné, world champion in MMA. She was self-described as “dirt poor” heading into TUF 26, living in a basement with her boyfriend. Montano made a guaranteed $100,000 win or lose, plus a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus, plus $30,000 in Reebok pay.

In an interview with Christopher S. Pineo for the Navajo Times, Montano credited her win to resilience from her ancestry as a Diné woman.

“You’re not going to war necessarily, you’re not fighting for your life necessarily, and there’s so many people who have done that with lesser skills and lesser tools – and those people are my ancestors, and that’s who makes me believe that I can be just as strong,” she said.

Montano grew up used to discomfort, far beyond what makes people gripe about the TUF House. No one likes running, but running on the res is another animal.

“Running down a dirt road, I got attacked by a herd of dogs,” she said. “I got bit by them. I still had to finish my run. I had to run back, so I had to run back three miles.”

Another Navajo MMA fighter, Nikki Lowe from Albuquerque, told Pineo that Montano had support from all over Indian Country.

“There’s many nations behind her, it’s not just Navajo,” said Lowe. “She’s an indigenous woman, and there’s lots of people of different tribes that were supportive of her, and excited for her, and proud of her.”

“Now they’re saying things and being mad at people for jumping on the bandwagon that never watched fighting or anything like that. But it was like, yo, that’s not the point. The point is that we have a tribal member that’s out there fulfilling her dreams and going after it and made it to the big stage.”

Montano spoke to her people in Navajo while still in the Octagon, which a third Navajo fighter, Nikki Garcia, said drew tears.

“Ahxéhee’ shikéí dóó shidiné’é,” said Montano. “Ayóo ániiníshní.” (Thank you my friends/family and my people. I love you.)

Image courtesy of Mark Aragon.