Former UFC flyweight champion Nicco Montano said on a podcast appearance Wednesday that she feels exploited by a documentary film that showed her nude body.
Montano issued the charge while speaking with host Damon Martin on MMA Fighting's "The Fighter vs. The Writer" podcast while discussing a film titled "Warrior Spirit." Per MMA Fighting, the film covers Montano's MMA career from her 2017 triumph as UFC's inaugural women's flyweight champion to her release from the organization in August after missing weight for a third time.
It documents her grueling weight cut before a scheduled title defense against Valentina Shevchenko in 2018 that got canceled when she missed weight. The miss prompted UFC to strip her of her title. The documentary shows a moment where she drops a towel and stands on a scale nude.
“I hear that it’s a great documentary and it’s winning awards and stuff,” Montano told Martin. “But just the fact that the documentary talks about Native Americans being exploited and the whole genocide with the government and then how UFC fighters are exploited by the UFC. I think it's just very hypocritical for them to be saying all this because I’m definitely exploited here."
Montano: 'I never said it was OK'
Montano, who said that she hasn't seen the film, told Martin that she signed on to appear in the documentary, but didn't explicitly consent to her nude body being exposed.
“I never said it was OK for me to be exposed on film," Montano continued. "And when I asked about them taking it down, they just said, 'I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s a good film, everyone loves how impactful it is.' I'm like 'OK, you’re deflecting.' I still don’t want to be exposed for anyone to see cause I’m not getting any royalties, I’m not getting any kickbacks from this documentary. Like nothing.”
Director defended footage
Director Landon Dyksterhouse previously addressed criticism over using the footage on Miesha Tate’s "Throwing Down" podcast. He argued that the nude footage was critical to the narrative that Montano had lost everything and that it wasn't exploitive or pornographic.
"In the beginning, Nicco had everything," Dyksterhouse said, per MMA Fighting. "She has the belt, she has her health, she’s at her very best. It’s why so many people in the Native American community idolize her. At the end of the movie, the arc of the story is she’s left with nothing. She’s stripped down including her weight, including her body, including everything she had attained with the UFC.
“So it is absolutely part of the narrative arc there. Not one single programmer in all of the festivals we play, whether it be Native American or here in NYC or anywhere else has mentioned anything of the sort that it’s [exploitative] in nature, that it’s pornographic in nature, that it’s any of these things.”
Montano countered that the film producers didn't respect her request to remove or edit the nude footage while reiterating her complaint that she wasn't paid for her appearance.
“They’re just like, ‘Well you signed off and it’s part of the film and it makes it more impactful,’ but it’s also at my expense. It’s still very hypocritical of them to be demonstrating or showing how they say the UFC is portrayed and they’re doing the same thing to me, knowing I’m not getting paid or any royalties from this at all."
Montano, 32, hasn't fought since a loss to Julianna Pena at UFC Fight Night 155 in 2019. She was scheduled to fight Wu Yanan on July 31 at UFC on ESPN 28, but the fight was canceled when she missed weight by seven pounds, ultimately leading to her UFC release.
She told Martin on Wednesday that she's still training in hopes of fighting again while mentioning Bellator and Professional Fighters League.