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Nicco Montano felt ‘exploited’ by nudity in Warrior Spirit documentary, director responds

Nicco Montano says she feels exploited by scene in Warrior Spirit documentary

Former UFC champion Nicco Montano has an issue with a scene in Warrior Spirit documentary
Former UFC champion Nicco Montano has an issue with a scene in Warrior Spirit documentary
Photo by Todd Lussier/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Nicco Montano is once again involved in a dispute stemming from a difficult weight cut. But it’s nothing to do with an upcoming competition inside the cage. Instead, this one is centered around the documentary film Warrior Spirit, which focuses on Montano’s time in the UFC.

In one of the final scenes of the picture, Montano – who is cutting weight for her scheduled fight against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 228 – removes a towel to check her weight. The film shows her nude body.

“I hear that it’s a great documentary and it’s winning awards and stuff,” Montano said during a recent appearance on The Fighter vs. The Writer podcast (transcript via MMA Fighting). “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.”

If Montano is disappointed with the end result of the endeavor, however, the film’s director, Landon Dyksterhouse, seems just as set on defending his work.

“To say it doesn’t connect with the narrative, I think that’s not true,” Dyksterhouse responded on Miesha Tate’s Throwing Down podcast on Sirius XM. “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.”

Dyksterhouse has a point, but in arguing his point – that the nudity is necessary for the narrative – it seems as though the director may be neglecting to tangle with the fact this his work is a documentary, with a living person as the subject. It’s not a fictional portrayal or a biographical dramatization.

The director’s argument that not “one single programmer” objected to the scene feels as though it ignores the fact (and seems to actively attempt to negate) that Montano has plainly stated that she feels exploited by the scene. In attempting to capture someone’s life on film, it’s worth considering whether Montano’s feelings should be the first priority for the director, and not those of a film festival programmer.