Ashley Nichols (left) and Alex Moher after a final hard training session on fight week. Moher was scheduled to fight but his opponent withdrew. (Photo by Andy Cotterill)
Niagara Top Team’s Ashley Nichols – The Road Not Taken
By Andy Cotterill
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
On a foundational level every human on earth shares the same experience. They exist. They breath. They love. They hurt.
But the way they experience these things are unique, to a degree. Everyone has a story, and although these stories can fall in to broad categories, it is a combination of a myriad of individual experiences that make us different from each other.
For mixed martial artist Ashley Nichols, her story will bring her to the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino Event Center in Niagara Falls, NY on Friday night, where she will step into a cage in front of hundreds of spectators and go to war.
Her journey started when she was 14 and her mother made that normal parental act of getting her child involved in a sport. For Nichols that first sport was boxing, which she started and stopped off and on for several years.
Her path in fighting could very well have stopped for good there, had it not been for her being exposed to the combat sport of Muay Thai, the cultural component of which resonated with her indigenous roots. She is of the Chippewa (Ojibwe), Oneida Nation, and Potowatami Tribes.
“When I learned that Muay Thai was more than just fighting, I decided that it was what I wanted to compete in.”
And compete she did, for years training in Thailand, traveling the world and fighting, culminating in a handful of World Championships.
In 2016 she decided to return to Canada where she would focus on a new challenge — mixed martial arts.
For the next few years she moved between a few different cites and a few different gyms, learning and growing as she did.
Then something strange happened.
One day she was reading an article about up-and-coming fighters and saw the name Jasmine Jasudavicius, who had just won a fight on Dana White’s Contender Series, then very soon after she was contacted by Jasudavicius and her coach Chris Prickett and invited to join them at Niagara Top Team to train.
So Nichols and her training partner Kevin Popowick got in their car and made the 6-hour drive from Ottawa to St. Catharines, and after two great weeks, both Nichols and Popowick decided to make a permanent move.
“I trained at a lot of different gyms before finally getting to Niagara Top Team and now the rest is history…I’m training with the best team in Canada.”
Nichols says that the physical challenges of training with so many high calibre athletes is of course beneficial for her growth, but it was the mental component that she realized she had been lacking.
“Once I got here it was like everyone is training for a fight. I hadn’t fought in 3 years, and I had gotten kind of complacent with having the competitiveness; pushing myself, going through the motions in training, wheras here I was encouraged to bring the competitiveness. We’re going to compete as we train and that’s what I realized was the difference.”
So now the training is over and it’s almost time to fight, and regardless of the outcome, Nichols is calm in the knowledge that by getting inside that cage the shield and sword of her own reality will not deceive the work she has done.
She is ready to connect with her warrior ancestors. She is ready to connect with her spirit, her mind, and her heart in an empowering way, and ready to be an inspiration for indigenous peoples and communities.