From Punk to Reggae: Dodger Montaño's Music

Fightland Blog

By Djatmiko Waluyo

A block away from the Glorieta de los Insurgentes in Mexico City, there was a gym we went to every day. We would climb up the stairs of a very old and poorly illuminated building, and spread out a mat on top of some foam rolls. Dim light poured in, turning each of us into silhouette. Then would come the accelerated rhythms of punk, laid over fast drumming, a distorted guitar, a persistent bass and an energetic voice. That’s when I first started to get to know Augusto “Dodger” Montaño, a Mexican punk almost from birth who just debuted in the UFC. There were times we talked about music, and after many years, we would touch on the subject again to get closer to the rhythms that have kept this fighter moving.

“I have punk in me by inheritance. I have two older brothers who were deep into the new and growing punk wave in Mexico, in the 90s, more or less,” Dodger tells me. “I was only four or five years old when I saw my first Ministry live video, and I thought it was fabulous, incredible, magnificent and extraordinary. I wasn’t allowed to see it, but one way or another I would sneak around to come across their work. Be that when my brothers would leave, or through the cracks in the walls of their room. I would spy—that’s how I saw the Ministry video. Paralyzed, stiff, my mouth open—Ministry showed an incredible character to the world. A world…I don’t know how to explain it, but a world out of this world, where there seemed to be joy, energy, even love. This marked my path.”

The video was a live Ministry album, In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up, which was recorded at the Holiday Star Theatre in Indiana in February of 1990. At one point, it came out on VHS.

Taking those childhood memories, Dodger continued in search of music and of punk, a movement that somehow landed him in martial arts. He found in the Spanish punk scene—in names like La Polla Records and Eskorbuto—a clearer language.

“You could understand them,” Dodger explained. “It was what they played the most those days. Later on there were many more. The Spanish punk scene was very important to how I came up in the streets, and how I formed myself ideologically. I got it from the English punk wave, from hardcore punk—The Exploited, GBH, Discharge, Chaos UK—from Scandinavian punk like Rattus, Kaaos, Terveet Kädet….all of those bands, some from Brazil, and from other countries, like I.R.A from Colombia.”

All this exposure to the scene made Dodger decide to immerse himself into the movement and become an active participant. 

“With time, and by being part of the counter culture, we had the opportunity to have various experiences and bring several bands that at one point to us appeared unattainable. Those from the real old school, like Rattus. We brought them a few years ago and we realized that they’re regular people like us, except that they’re pioneers, given the circumstances, their age, and the opportunities they had. They’re just like us, young, with an inability to stay quiet and a desire to do something important in their lives. Trying to continue improving.”

Being in the underground movement, it was natural, Dodger says, to get a taste for gothic rock like Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Damned and other 80s bands that initiated the “dark movement,” as he describes it. 

“Of course I’ve transcended to know other genres, to open my mind. I’ve transcended beyond this style of music, which in my opinion is not just a style of music, it’s part of punk’s character,” he continues. “Now I like other rhythms, and it’s rare for me to listen to punk. Also, it’s hard to get on with training partners who also want to listen to their music, or something that isn’t uncomfortable for them. I try to be as social as possible in that sense.

“Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of roots and reggae. Bob Marley, of course, Barrington Levy, Max Romeo, all that stuff. I really enjoy listening to that when I’m training or sparring. In particular, I like music that carries a message. Except for dubstep which has no message, but I love the way that they break, cut, hammer, open the music just to cut it again, hit, and destroy it when I train.”

The transition from punk to reggae could appear somewhat radical, but over the years, both musical movements would begin to find each other, establishing a synergy that would unite two groups that, until a point, had been socially isolated. We cannot forget some of the historical facts: Jamaica was a British colony. And it was in London where the celebrated venue, The Roxy, would be host to the nascent British punk scene. In between gigs from Generation X, Souxsie and the Banshees, The Clash, Cock Sparrer and the Stranglers—just to name a few—the house DJ, Don Letts, would play reggae records, becoming an important figure to the punks who had started embracing reggae. And in that same vein, The Clash covered Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves” and Bad Brains infused their hardcore with reggae.

Dodger made his taste for rock in Spanish and ska evident during his UFC debut when he walked out in front of the 20,000 or so fans that filled Arena Ciudad de México with the song “El Gran Circo” by La Maldita Vecindad, a sure homage to Mexico City’s color. 

“I’ve also been listening to a lot of rock in Spanish: Caifanes, Molotov, Café Tacuba, a lot of La Maldita Vecindad and Mexican ska like Panteón Rococó, Salón Victoria, La Royal Club…,” he explains. “All ska in Spanish gets me going as of late, and I can get along better with those I train with, or I can at least not be disturbing to my training partners who might not like punk.” 

With that, Dodger begins to close the subject, returning to his origins. 

“Punk has an anti-hero character—it’s about anti-idols, and the people who make this music don’t depart from this concept and principle, and they show themselves as that. You run into them in the street, or at a gig playing music, and they’re just like us. You could run into them anywhere, and they’re happy about our existence just as well. The Addicts, they asked us for photos of us. They couldn’t believe how developed and expanded Mexican punk culture had become, and they were amazed at what we’d done. And when we talked to them, they were educated people, not just some random person who grabbed a guitar. They’re people who have a message, who have something to say.” 


Check out these related stories:

All Eyes on Mexico Ahead of Its UFC Debut on Saturday

Peleadores: Augusto "Dodger" Montaño