Nicco Montaño had a tough challenge ahead of her at UFC 228. Despite holding the title, she was a massive underdog against opponent Valentina Shevchenko.
While some thought she didn’t have a chance, others believed she could pull off an upset. And despite accusations that she had ducked Shevchenko in the past or was merely a placeholder for the belt, she claimed she’d stayed positive leading up to the fight.
But UFC 228 saw Montaño lose – to the scale. While all eyes were on Darren Till’s weigh-in for the card’s headliner, it was Montaño who ended up struggling to make the cut. After doctors determined she was unfit to continue the cut, she was hospitalized.
The fight was called off, and the immediate concern was whether there would be a fill-in. While title matches have lost their championship stipulation because of weight misses in the past, this marked the first time a title holder had missed weight.
The UFC didn’t take the offense lightly – after being transported to the hospital because of her health, Montaño was informed she was stripped of her flyweight championship. The division’s inaugural titleholder who won the belt after winning her season of The Ultimate Fighter, she had faced accusations about ducking fights and being hard to work with in the past.
Having missed weight for her title bout seemed to be the final straw for the UFC. The promotion has caught a lot of flak for allowing challengers to miss weight and still go on to title opportunities in the future. Till is an example – he missed weight by over three pounds for his last fight and earned a title shot upon winning.
Yoel Romero missed weight and then earned a title shot, only to miss weight again and lose the opportunity. But Montaño was setting a dangerous precedent. If champions could simply avoid having to put their belt on the line from missing weight, it would’ve created a slippery slope that put the future of title fights at risk.
It may seem like a harsh move, but consider it from the challenger’s perspective. Shevchenko made weight and did her job – the champion did not. The challenger even said that her opponent was looking for a way out, calling what she did totally unprofessional.
Shevchenko will likely face off against another challenger later this year for the vacant title. While the promotion doesn’t have anything in writing yet, they do have ideas and hope to keep the newest female division in the UFC going.
As for the former champion’s future with the promotion, things are uncertain. The UFC has had so many problems with fighters missing weight, that seeing a champion do it has to sink their hopes in them as a competitor. It is likely she will be met with more scrutiny, and will have a long way to go back to the title.
Because of the fight cancellation, Jimmie Rivera vs. John Dodson has been bumped up to the main card.