What Will The UFC Do With Nicco Montaño?
The thin ice may have just cracked....
Article courtesy of Paul Miller of MMA Freaks.
The modern era of the UFC has seen five inaugural champions usher in five new divisions: Demetrius Johnson at men’s Flyweight, Ronda Rousey at women’s Bantamweight, Carla Esparza at women’s Strawweight, Germaine de Randamie at women’s Featherweight, and Nicco Montaño at women’s Flyweight. Mighty Mouse and Rousey proved that their status was legitimate, fighting often, and dominating all comers until the day they didn’t. Esparza’s vulnerability was exposed in her first title defense, and she has been struggling to reclaim her momentum since.
That leaves de Randamie and Montaño, and the obvious parallels between them. Both women claimed their champion status without fighting who fans almost universally believe were the uncrowned champions at the time – Cris Cyborg in the case of de Randamie, and Valentina Shevchenko in the case of Montaño. Both women were heavily criticized for stalling their destined matchups against women who were heavily favored to beat them. Fans accused them both of cowardice and fear – a charge I reject, but still, the accusations have been out there against both women.
In what may be a foreshadowing of the fate to befall Nicco Montaño, de Randamie was unceremoniously stripped of her title when she consistently stalled the UFC’s efforts to get her to defend her title against Cyborg. Now, Nicco Montaño is perhaps in a similar position, after canceling her UFC 228 contest against Valentina Shevchenko.
I’ll take a moment to deal with the “cowardice” accusations. Fear is a natural human response to impending conflict. GSP has discussed this at length. Fighters are not immune to fear. But fear does not equal cowardice, and I do not believe that ANYONE who chooses a passion and career in cage fighting is afraid to fight. The fear GSP describes is not a “somebody please get me out of here” kind of fear. It’s a “holy sh*t, look what the hell I am about to do” kind of fear. That isn’t cowardice. It’s a result of nervous tension, and taking stock of consequences. Let me put it this way… if a person is afraid to get punched and kicked by tough competitors, they will discover this about themselves LONG before they every get a whiff of a $12,000 UFC paycheck. So in my opinion, the accusations of cowardice should just go away.
Still, the accusers are there, and when fighters fail to show up, it’s tough not to see where those accusers are coming from. Montaño faced last-minute replacement Roxanne Modaferri to win the TUF championship and inaugural title all the way back in December 2017, and Shevchenko has been chomping at the bit ever since. Modaferri is a tough, talented, and likable competitor, but she is not a championship caliber fighter, with all due respect. Valentina has been impatiently waiting for her shot at the 125lb strap, and Montaño’s every delay since last year in signing a fight contract has only loudened the voices of her accusers – Shevchenko among them.
Dana White hears all this. UFC 228 was supposed to resolve the issue. I can only speculate at this point, but after considering what the UFC did with de Randamie, if I were Nicco Montaño, I would be anticipating something similar.
There are differences in the two situations. de Randamie never really came up with any believable reasons for delaying her contest with Cyborg to the point of having the title stripped. Montaño did have foot surgery, and she has been plagued most of the year with a persistent bacterial infection that recently led to removal of her tonsils and adenoids. So she has given reasons for her absence. Even so, the disparity in the perceived ability between Val and Nicco, and Val’s fans believing she is the uncrowned champ, have led to a whole lot of skepticism aimed at Montaño. It built up over months, and now with this UFC 228 cancellation, her detractors are basking in a moment of “I told ya so.” Even though it appears that Nicco was indeed rushed to the hospital due to a kidney issue that halted her weight cut, Shevchenko is leading a chorus of fans speculating that Montaño is a coward, afraid to fight.
I don’t really see a reason that the UFC will be patient with Montaño, whether her reasons are legitimate or not. They have shown impatience with her before this. And now this. In my opinion, we should be looking for a) Montaño to be stripped of the Flyweight title, or b) Dana White to announce an interim Flyweight title bout. I don’t believe Nicco Montaño is afraid of Valentina Shevchenko or anybody else, but if I were her, I would be afraid of the next move by the UFC.