Basement to penthouse? Not quite.
Nicco Montaño has modest plans for the financial windfall coming her way after her UFC flyweight title victory over Roxanne Modaferri Friday night in Las Vegas, Nev.
“It’s gonna go into savings,” she said in a postfight interview. Well, most of it. The Albuquerque basement in which she and her boyfriend have been living will not be her home much longer.
“I’m gonna move into an apartment with some water pressure,” she said, “and buy some good stuff, some good food, and buy some treats for my cats.”
Nor does Montaño plan to adopt a penthouse mentality. Hard work earned her the title belt; only hard work will keep it.
“I’m a champ with or without the belt,” she said. “I know how much I’ve put in, how much heart I’ve put in.
“This belt means everything, but it’s also just a superficial thing, technically, in the whole aspect of the game of learning who I am and what I can do, how strong I can be.”
In moving forward, she said, she will not forget where she came from. Montaño grew up in eastern Arizona with her mother, who is Navajo. Many of her Native American friends and supporters were in Las Vegas to support her Friday night.
“I think the whole rez is here,” she said. “… I’ve been wanting to go back to the schools. I want to go back to Chinle, I want to go back to Tsaile, Lukachukai.
“A lot of people think (the Navajo Reservation) is a really poor place, but we know how to live off the land. We know how to use the necessities of everything and not just take everything for granted.
“So in that aspect, I just want to remind all the kids that you don’t need things. You need to know what’s true.”
It has been reported that Montaño is the first-ever Native American UFC champion, though the Journal was unable to confirm that.
She definitely is the first UFC champion from Albuquerque’s FIT-NHB gym.
“Having a UFC champion means a lot to us,” Tom Vaughn, owner and operator of FIT-NHB with his wife, Arlene Sanchez Vaughn, said via text. “UFC is the pinnacle of our sport.
“We just made history.”
Montaño’s road to the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight title is a remarkable story that kept getting more remarkable.
Montaño had a 3-2 MMA record when she auditioned for a spot on The Ultimate Fighter 26, out of which the first flyweight champion was to be determined.
Seeded 14th of 16 competitors, she proceeded to defeat seeds No. 3 (Lauren Murphy), No. 6 (Montana Stewart) and No. 2 (Barb Honchak) to reach Friday’s final.
She was to face 12th-seeded Sijara Eubanks, who had upset Modaferri, the top seed, for a spot in the final. But Eubanks had to be hospitalized after a torturous attempt to cut weight. She was replaced by Modaferri, a veteran of 34 fights.
Montaño, meanwhile, was struggling with a fractured sesamoid bone in her left foot. The pain was severe enough that she considered pulling out.
A cortisone shot and her own determination, she said, kept her going.
“I told myself I made it through the TUF competition, I’ve come this far, don’t give up now,” she said. “Mind over body. Keep your spirit alive.”
The scorecards from the Modaferri fight, 50-45, 49-46, 49-46, all for Montaño, suggest this was an easy fight.
It was not. The brutal five-rounder earned Montaño and Modaferri Fight of the Night bonuses of $50,000.
Montaño also received a $30,000 payout from the UFC’s outfitting contract with Reebok, plus an undisclosed fight purse.
So much for that basement.
QUINTANA WINS: In San Antonio, Texas, Albuquerque-based featherweight Andrés Quintana defeated Houston’s Rey Trujillo by second-round technical submission (rear naked choke) Friday in a co-main event on a Combate Americas card.
Quintana, who trains at Luttrell-Yee, is 13-2. Trujillo, who opted to be put to sleep rather than tap out, is 22-20.