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Combat sports: Moñtano happy to be healthy

Nicco Montaño chose not to take the bait, as did Valentina Shevchenko.

Montaño, who trains in Albuquerque at FIT-NHB, is scheduled to defend her UFC flyweight title against Shevchenko on Sept. 8 in Dallas. Both fighters appeared at a special UFC 25th anniversary news conference on Friday in Los Angeles.

Eight months have elapsed since Montaño became the UFC’s inaugural women’s flyweight champion by defeating Roxanne Modaferri in the finale of the Ultimate Fighter 26 in Las Vegas, Nev. Since then, the Albuquerque fighter has been waylaid by a broken foot suffered during the TUF tournament and by a tonsillectomy and adenoid surgery.

Shevchenko, who was promptly installed as the No. 1 flyweight contender, expressed impatience and some skepticism regarding Montaño’s willingness to defend the title.

Now, finally, the fight has been made.

At Friday’s news conference, Montaño was asked the following:

“You’ve had people kind of questioning your character and talking about your toughness and whether you’re willing to fight. What’s it been like for you during this time?”

“What?” Montaño (4-2) responded, laughing. “It’s been a rough road. I’ve had to bounce back from injuries and illnesses, but it’s kind of what life’s all about, and seeing those hardships and overcoming them. Not letting fear overcome you.

“So I’m pretty excited that I have a fight set.”

Shevchenko (15-3), an overwhelming favorite, was asked if she was taking the fight seriously given her vast edge in experience.

“I am not expecting an easy fight,” she said. “… This fight is for the belt, and I will be there 100 percent ready for the fight. … This is my time.”

DUCK, DONALD: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has never ducked an opponent, but he artfully avoided a question at Friday’s news conference. Cerrone (33-11) and Mike Perry (12-3), who are scheduled to meet during the “official” UFC 25th anniversary card at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Nov. 10, were both in attendance.

Cerrone, a welterweight who trains in Albuquerque at Jackson-Wink, was asked to explain his reasoning for his recently reported parting of the ways with J-W striking coach Brandon Gibson.

Essentially, he brushed aside the question.

“Gibson and I are still friends, man,” he said. “I just changed things up. I’ve got to go home to Denver and put on a show with Mike Perry.”

Cerrone is from Broomfield, Colo., some 20 miles north of Denver.

The explanation for the breakup, perhaps, is as simple as Cerrone’s 1-3 record in his last four fights.

Gibson told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani there were no hard feelings.

“I wish ‘Cowboy’ and his team all the best moving forward,” Gibson said. “I think a new look and direction will be good for him.”

Greg Jackson, Jackson-Wink co-founder with Mike Winkeljohn, is expected to corner for Cerrone on Nov. 10.

LEO WINS: In Las Vegas, Nev., Albuquerque boxer Angelo Leo defeated St. Louis’ Sharone Carter by a lopsided, unanimous decision Friday night in an eight-round, super bantamweight bout at Sam’s Town casino.

The judges’ scores were 80-72, 79-73 and 79-73.

Leo improved his record to 13-0 with seven knockouts. Carter is 9-3 with two KOs.

UPCOMING: Moriarty MMA fighter Brenda Gonzales Means, (8-3), out of action since November 2016, is scheduled to return Aug. 17 on a The Fight Series card in suburban Des Moines, Iowa. Gonzales Means, the wife of fellow FIT-NHB fighter Tim Means, is matched against Panama’s Joselyne Edwards (7-1). The TFS bantamweight title will be at stake.

… Santa Fe boxing promoter Pat Holmes has scheduled a Sept. 22 card at his usual site, Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Pojoaque. Albuquerque super flyweight Matthew Griego (8-0, seven knockouts) and Española junior welterweight Antonio “Tone” Martinez (9-4-4, six KOs) are scheduled to fight co-main events.