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MMA: Montaño off card, stripped of title

Albuquerque MMA fighter Nicco Montaño has been stripped of her UFC women’s flyweight title after her forced withdrawal from Saturday’s scheduled defense against Valentina Shevchenko, UFC President Dana White announced Friday.

TSN was first to report that Montaño had been stripped, citing White as its source.

Later, White told UFC interviewer Megan Olivi that the title is vacant and that Shevchenko would fight a yet-to-be-named opponent for the title “before the end of the year.”

White had no further comment about Montaño or her status.

Arlene Sanchez Vaughn, Montaño ‘s coach and co- co-owner of Albuquerque’s FIT-NHB gym with husband Tom Vaughn, confirmed to the Journal via social media that Montaño had been stripped of the title. But, she said, “It’s still in the process of discussion.”

Montaño was taken to a Dallas hospital Friday morning before the official weigh-in for UFC 228. Her scheduled defense against Shevchenko was promptly scratched.

Steve Hanna, Montaño’s teammate at FIT-NHB, told in a statement that Montaño “will be fine in a few days.

“The UFC medical team was called in to evaluate her this morning during the process of her weight cut (to the flyweight limit of 125 pounds),” Hanna wrote. “They determined that she had to cease cutting weight and be transported to and treated at the local hospital for issues regarding her kidney function.”

Friday evening, Sanchez Vaughn said Montaño had been released from the hospital.

“Her kidneys were shutting down due to weight cut,” she said. “(The doctor) called the bout.”

As a result of the cancellation, a bantamweight fight between Albuquerque’s John Dodson (20-9) and Jimmie Rivera (21-2) has been elevated to the pay-per-view portion of the card, starting at 8 p.m. The Dodson-Rivera fight originally was to have been aired on FX.

Montaño’s forced withdrawal from UFC 228 played into skepticism expressed by many, most notably Shevchenko, regarding the Albuquerque fighter’s willingness to step into the cage with the more experienced Kyrgyzstan native.

Shevchenko (15-3), a heavy favorite in the matchup, had said several times during the build-up to the fight that she wouldn’t believe Montaño (4-2) would actually step into the Octagon with her until it happened.

Montaño had responded that Shevchenko was “in la-la land” if she believed Montaño was afraid to fight her.

Doubts about Montaño’s willingness to fight Shevchenko and her worthiness as the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion had grown in the nine months since she won the title at The Ultimate Fighter 26 on Dec. 1.

Montaño said she’d broken a bone in her foot during the TUF tournament. She then underwent tonsil- and adenoid-removal surgery that further delayed what was to be her first title defense on Saturday.

The validity of Montaño’s health issues is well-documented. The UFC flew her to Las Vegas, Nev., for the surgery because she was unable to do so on a timely basis in Albuquerque.

Not surprisingly, Shevchenko responded with anger and frustration and portrayed herself as vindicated for her earlier expressed doubt that the fight would happen.

“I am not surprised about this situation with Nicco,” she posted on Instagram. “… She was trying to avoid this fight several times already.”

Shevchenko said she didn’t buy reports that Montaño was physically unable to fight, though the UFC issued a release to that effect.

“She was looking totally fine in open work out and media day,” she wrote. “Her actions are totally unprofessional.”

THE WEIGH-INS: Two other Albuquerque fighters weighed in Friday for their fights on UFC 228 with no issues.

Dodson weighed in for his fight with Rivera at 135.5 pounds, an allowable half-pound over the bantamweight limit. Rivera weighed 136, an allowable one pound over.

Welterweight Diego Sanchez (27-11) weighed in at 171 pounds for his fight against Craig White (14-8) who also weighed 171.

The Sanchez-White fight will be live streamed on UFC Fight Pass, a portion of the card scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m.