It’s been exactly five months since Nicco Montano was crowned the first ever UFC women’s flyweight champion, but she’s largely stayed in the shadows since winning the title.
While Montano earned some down time after a rigorous 2017 that saw her compete on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 26 before defeating Roxanne Modafferi to become champion last December, the biggest reason for her absence from the spotlight has been a lingering foot injury.
Nicco Montano’s Foot Injury and Recovery
Actually, Montano was dealing with the injured food leading into the fight with Modefferi, but she was able to gut through the pain to win the inaugural UFC flyweight title. Afterwards, Montano believed surgery would be necessary, but it turns out the cure would have been worse than the injury.
“No surgery. I was advised to stay away from the surgery,” Montano told MMAWeekly. “If I would have gone ahead with the surgery, I would have had very limited mobility in my foot. Obviously, we need to be able to kick, pivot, and do a bunch of other stuff with MMA. So, I’ve been doing my recovery with Ortho Elite here in Albuquerque (New Mexico) and it’s been going really good.
“I’m able to do a lot of things the doctor didn’t think I’d be able to without the surgery. I’m pretty excited.”
The problem with the foot injury is that Montano knows that it’s never going to be 100-percent, so she’s just been cautious about pushing herself too hard in recovery and risking another setback.
“It’s doing really good. It’s never going to be fully healed because my original injury was that my tendon broke off my sesamoid bone, my sesamoid bone was fractured, and now I’m left with no cartilage,” Montano explained. “The sesamoid bone is healed. I’m assuming the tendon is re-attached or somewhat. I’ll never have the cartilage back and it’s arthritic, so it’s painful sometimes, but not as much as it once was.
“If I keep up with my physical therapy, it’s not going to get any worse.”
The injury forced Montano to take a long break from training, which may have been the toughest thing she dealt with after winning the title.
Because Montano has always been so active throughout her life, being forced to sit on the couch for the better part of two months just to allow her foot time to heal was one of the toughest situations she’s ever been forced to face.
“It’s been pretty tough to get back into shape if I’m being honest about it. I spent two months on the couch basically doing nothing because everything involves you walking on your feet,” Montano said. “It was pretty difficult to get back into a routine and make sure that my foot is able to maintain a functional routine. Prior to my injury, I was able to work out constantly.
“Now, I’ve supplemented my running with biking. I just had to really watch my foot and if it hurts, I have to get off of it. Slowly but surely, it’s coming to a spot where I can manage the pain more.”
As her return to action draws near, Montano says she’s looking into stem cell injections or possibly using PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatments to help her foot.
According to Montano, the doctors haven’t been able to give her an exact timeline on her return, but that’s mostly because it all depends on when she feels healthy enough to fight again on a foot that will never be completely healed.
On top of that, Montano just recently had a tonsillectomy and adenoid removal surgery that will require a couple of weeks of recovery time.
When Can Nicco Montano Return to the UFC?
Right now, Montano is still targeting July for her next fight with rumors swirling that the UFC is contemplating a title bout against Valentina Shevchenko for the upcoming UFC on FOX 30 card on July 28 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
“I’ve got to take my battles one step at a time and, right now, it’s my foot healing. So when I say I want to fight in July, that’s absolutely when I want to fight next,” Montano said. “I love to fight, that’s what I do or obviously I’d be doing something different. But I want to say July for sure.”
As far as the potential match-up with Shevchenko, who looked like a monster in her UFC flyweight debut in February, the reigning champion has nothing but good things to say about fighter she may face next.
“I think she’s very talented and she really loves the sport and I think she’s a true mixed martial artist herself,” Montano said about Shevchenko. “There was an interview before where I said I wasn’t sure if she was deserving of a 125-pound title fight because I hadn’t seen her at 125 before. But I know what she’s done at 135, she’s held her own with Holly [Holm] and the bantamweight champion herself [Amanda Nunes], so I know she’s a well-deserved opponent for me. That’s all I see there.”
Of course, Montano knows that she’ll end up being the underdog to Shevchenko with a lot of naysayers believing that it’s only a matter of time until she has to hand over the belt.
Montano has heard that before, like when she was one of the lowest ranked fighters on “The Ultimate Fighter” last year before she tore through the competition to become champion.
“I don’t let stress weigh on me,” Montano said. “I’m a fighter; that’s what I do. That’s part of having a championship mindset. Just really, truly believe what you’re capable of and then achieve more than that.”