Nicco Montano is still holding out hope that a new documentary filmed around the time she became the first Native American champion in UFC history will rectify a particularly vulnerable moment where her nude body is revealed during an arduous weight cut.
The film titled Warrior Spirit has been receiving high praise after hitting the film festival circuit a few months ago, which features Montano from the time just after she became the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion as well as the devastating moment when she had to surrender that title after she ended up in the hospital while attempting to get down to 125 pounds for a fight scheduled against Valentina Shevchenko.
Scenes from the documentary were actually featured on the HBO series Real Sports just over a year ago, which showed Montano going through a tortured weight cut for that fight. It was the night before she was set to step onto the scale when the filmmakers captured Montano removing a towel, which accidentally revealed some nudity as she was checking her weight.
Rather than blur the image or just remove a few seconds of footage so Montano’s nude body wouldn’t be exposed, the documentary still features that moment in the finished film.
“I hear that it’s a great documentary and it’s winning awards and stuff,” Montano said when appearing on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “But just the fact that the documentary talks about Native Americans being exploited and the whole genocide with the government and how UFC fighters are exploited by the UFC. It’s just very hypocritical for them to be saying all this because I’m definitely exploited here.
“I never said it was OK for me to be exposed on film 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. 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.”
Montano admits that she signed onto participate in the documentary but she never explicitly gave permission to show her nude body, even if the moment was captured during filming.
That’s why Montano vehemently disagrees with the decision to include the nudity in the movie when that was never the point of the documentary much less that it adds anything to the film other than exposing her body for the world to see.
“I think that was my main concern. They just didn’t have any remorse,” Montano said. “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.
“It was a documentary about my life and what I had to say so I don’t really want to take those parts back. Because it was truthful then and I would definitely love to share my story and my Native American culture but I would also like to give my consent that it’s OK for me to be nude on TV. I never got that chance to even make a choice with that.”
Landon Dyksterhouse, who directed the film, recently appeared on Miesha Tate’s Throwing Down podcast on Sirius XM where he responded to the criticism over Montano’s body being exposed during the documentary.
He said that the scene in question was captured in a hotel room during Montano’s weight cut ahead of UFC 228 and permission was granted for him continue filming while she was attempting to get down to the 125-pound limit.
Dyksterhouse added that he disagreed with the idea that Montano’s nude body didn’t play a part in his film, especially when connecting it to the larger story that details the struggles she faced during a very difficult time in her career.
“To say it doesn’t connect with the narrative, I think that’s not true,” Dyksterhouse explained. “Because in the beginning, Nicco had everything. 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.”
Regardless of the narrative being told in the documentary, Montano still doesn’t understand why exposing her nude body couldn’t have just been blurred out or possibly edited out all together.
“I don’t know why,” Montano said. “I don’t want to assume they’re bad people. I let them follow me around for a good portion of my career, the most important part of my career. I don’t know what’s going through their head.”
For his part, Dyksterhouse stands by his decision to leave the nudity in the film after Montano agreed to participate in the documentary, although it’s possible an additional edit could be made under the right circumstances.
“Anything’s possible. The ball is in her court,” Dyksterhouse said. “If she would like to talk, we would love to talk to her and try to find common ground, which is what we tried to do before even premiering.
“You also have to realize one thing about films, when you turn in a cut to festivals, that’s the cut. You don’t get to reset and do all these things because it’s one application that all the film festival entries go through essentially. There’s other factors besides just running in and tweaking everything whenever you want.”