Chris Prickett

Proud NTT Members with their new belts awarded by Professor Jorge Britto

BJJ Promotions

BJJ Belt Promotions

Last night was a huge one for Niagara Top Team, as Professor Jorge Britto of Jiu Jitsu For Life Team awarded belt promotions to a handful of members, including NTT co-owners Matt DiMarcantonio, who received his coveted Black Belt, and Chris Prickett, who received his Brown Belt.

Also awarded belts were professional mixed martial artists Anthony Romero and Zack Powell, who earned their Black and Brown belts respectively.

Congratulations to all of our determined athletes who have put in countless hours on the mats and who are seeing the fruits of their labours…we’re proud of you all!

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)

Ashley Nichols – The Road Not Taken

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.

Matt DiMarcantonio (left ) and Chris Prickett

Niagara Top Team Expands Into New Location

Niagara Top Team Co-Owners Matt DiMarcantonio (left) and Chris Prickett. Photo by Andy Cotterill

Niagara Top Team Expands Into New Location

By Andy Cotterill

Niagara Top Team continues it’s rise as one of Canada’s top mixed martial arts teams with its move into a huge new facility.

Co-owners Matt DiMarcantonio and Chris Prickett opened their first location in the spring of 2019 in the basement of a strip mall. Known affectionately by members as the “Red Dungeon,” the smallish, dark space attracted numerous top tier mixed martial artists seeking high-level coaching. Their student base grew as well, with thriving adult and children’s classes running every day of the week.

Then, less than a year into their existence, Covid came and threatened it all. But unlike many other gyms in Canada who were forced to permanently close their doors, Niagara Top Team not only survived…it prospered, and in the past few weeks moved from their beloved dungeon into a huge new facility.

Located at 325 Welland Avenue in St. Catharines, Ontario, the building formerly hosted Evolve MMA, and it features over 7000 square feet of floor space with two large mat areas totalling 4500 square feet, a large weight training area, a full sized boxing ring, heavy bags aplenty, and an upstairs with change rooms and showers.

“We outgrew the other location.” said wrestling and nogi coach Prickett. “Things were getting tight, and we had an opportunity to meet with the previous owners here and make a deal, and it all worked out.”

It certainly did.

A few moments after we concluded our chat, I moved to the edge of one of the mat areas and found myself an accidental witness to a humerous and wonderful interaction between DiMarcantonio and Prickett, who had been approaching from different directions. As if choreographed they stopped, turned in unison together to see students covering every inch of their new gym, before looking at each other while shaking their heads and smiling, then both say at the same time…”we need a bigger space.”

The Book of Jasmine Jasudavicius, Chapter 3

The Book of Jasmine Jasudavicius, Chapter 3

By Andy Cotterill

Every fighter on the UFC roster has their own first-UFC fight story.

For St Catharines, Ontario’s Jasmine Jasudavicius, her first UFC fight was technically held last September at Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), when she defeated Julia Polastri in a one-sided decision.

In that series, fighters compete to see who can impress the UFC boss and get awarded a coveted UFC contract.

So yes, that fight was inside of a famed UFC Octagon, inside of a UFC venue, and with UFC President Dana White overseeing the whole thing.

It was in essence a UFC fight…but not a “UFC fight.”

That all changes in Anaheim, California this Saturday at UFC 270, when Jasudavicius (6-1) faces California’s Kay Hansen (7-4) in a much anticipated Flyweight bout between two hot prospects.

Now just days away, Jasudavicius says that she’s nervous, but that’s both normal and okay.

“Of course I’m nervous,” she told me, “but every time I have nerves and every time I get over it and I understand that they’re just part of the process.”

That’s a practical attitude for anyone to have, but perhaps counter-intuitively, Jasmine adds that she’s also excited that the fight is taking place in Anaheim, which is in Hansen’s back yard, and where her opponent is sure to have overwhelming support from the fans.

“Going into enemy territory is nice. I’ve done that my entire career and I like being the one that they’re hating on, and they always become my fans afterward which is sweet.”

So it is that Jasmine has her focus on Hansen, and Hansen alone.

Her Niagara Top Team coach Chris Prickett doesn’t have that luxury, however.

“I’m planning years ahead.” He told me, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

I would have been remiss had I not asked him to expound on this statement, so I did.

“She’s (Jasmine’s) the best in the world. I honestly believe that. In her weight class, I think she can beat them all. I know she’s still relatively young in her career as far as fights in the UFC, and we’re going to get more work before we get a shot with Valentina (UFC Champion Shevchenko) or one of those top couple girls, but she’s trained with a lot of these girls inside of the top 15. I know exactly where she’s at. She’s going to be a world champion, it’s just a matter of time.”

Followers of the fight game recognize this as a very bold statement, one which they’ve heard before from other fighters and their circles. Sometimes they’re accurate, but most often they’re not.

What does Jasmine think about what her coach said?

“That’s the plan. I believe in my skills and abilities. You learn from each fight, and eventually when I get that opportunity I’ll be able to take advantage of it. But as of right now I only have Kay Hansen on my mind.”

So now we all wait together for Saturday night.

To watch Jasmine turn the page.

To see where her story leads her.

Niagara Power

Niagara Power

18 June, 2019

By Andy Cotterill

When most people hear the word “Niagara,” the first thing they think of are the world-famous water falls, the majesty of which attracts millions of visitors every year.
But for submission grappling fans that may soon change as Niagara Top Team’s Chris Prickett and Jasmine Jasudavicius are ready to burst onto the scene at Para Bellum’s Quintet II on June 21st in Oakville, Ontario.

A former National Wrestling Champion, Olympic Alternate, and current Assistant Wrestling Coach for the men’s and women’s National Champion Brock Badgers, Prickett competed in the first Quintet but left disappointed after being disqualified for an illegal knee reap, and is looking forward to redemption against fellow Quintet veteran Jaamal Richer from Battle Arts Academy.
“The first Quintet was awesome and I had so much fun.” Says Prickett. “But most of my Jiu jitsu knowledge comes from coaching wrestling and MMA athletes, so it was my own ignorance for not understanding the ruleset.” He notes regarding his disqualification, but he vows that he and Richer will excite the crowd.

“We’ve spoken over the internet and he seems like a really cool guy just looking to compete and have fun with it.”
Jasudavicius is an up-and-coming mixed martial artist and had been hoping to parlay her undefeated amateur record into her professional MMA debut at BTC 6 on June 1st, but fortunately for Quintet fans her opponent dropped out, allowing her to compete along alongside Prickett in Ontario’s premiere submission grappling event.

“The first Quintet was amazing,” she says, “they put on a very entertaining show and everyone loved it. I really liked how they showcased the wrestling and the Jiu jitsu and I can hardly wait to do it myself.”

Her opponent of the evening will be Angela Neufeld, a multiple time jiujitsu champion, as well as Fight of the Night winner in BJJ super fights.

“I know that she’s a blue belt same as me and a multiple time champion,” Jasudavicius says, “but that being said I think that I’ll feel different to her because I’m an MMA fighter as opposed to a Jiu jitsu practitioner, so I think I have the advantage because of that.”

Prickett says that an event like the Quintet means different things to different athletes. “Jasmine and I are competing in the same thing, but for me it’s completely different than it is for her. Her end goal is the UFC and fighting at the highest level, and for me this is recreational.”

“Recreational” clearly means something different for someone who lives and breathes different types of combat training. “Coaching is my main focus, and I do this on the side,” he says, “and it’s not to say that I’m not taking this seriously because I am, but this is like me going golfing on the weekend.”

Jasudavicius agrees that for her competing in the Quintet isn’t just fun, it’s serving a purpose. “I’m just going out there and kinda what (UFC Champion) Tony Ferguson said – getting my mat time in and getting the competition experience, that’s why I’m doing it.”

Prickett says that while Jasudavicius may seem sweet and innocent when you meet her, it’s a different story once she hits the mats.

“Her biggest strength is that she’s fearless. Skills come from training but I feel like she was born a fighter, it’s just in her, she just has it.” He says, before adding some ominous words, “She won’t say it, but she likes breaking people — taking them down and sucking the wind out of them.”

Jasudavicius smiles as he says that and adds, “Going into a fight it’s like, who’s going to break first? I know I’m not going to break.”

As for predictions? The Niagara Power Couple answer just like you think they would.

“Just win.” Says Prickett. “That’s the purpose of competition. The goal of what I want to get out of June 21st is to get my hand raised, and secondly is to do it in exciting fashion.”
For Jasudavicius it’s even simpler than that. “I predict she’ll be submitted by me pretty quick.”

NTT Opening Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

10 June, 2019

Niagara Top Team Opens in St. Catharines

ST.CATHARINES, ON – Elite level training in Mixed Martial Arts and Wrestling have come to the Niagara Region with the opening of Niagara Top Team, located at 491 Merritt Street, St. Catharines.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is an amalgamation of numerous combat sports that was popularized in North America by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993 when it asked the question, “Who would win in a fight between different fighting styles, like boxing, wrestling, and jiu jitsu?”

Co-owners Matt DiMarcantonio and Chris Prickett each bring a wealth of experience to the area that they both feel had previously been missing.

DiMarcantonio is a veteran of 19 professional MMA fights and is a top 10 ranked Canadian featherweight, while Prickett is currently an Assistant Wrestling Coach at Brock University and former Canadian National Wrestling Champion and member of the Canadian National Wrestling Team, Olympic Alternate, and bronze medallist in both the Commonwealth and Pan-Am Games.

The idea behind Niagara Top Team (NTT) evolved over the past 2 years when the pair found themselves traveling together around the NE United States with the athletes they trained.

“There is a need for high level coaching in the area,” said Prickett, “Matt has 19 professional fights, and the next in the area is Anthony Romero with 5 and he trains with us as well, so there’s not really another gym that offers that elite level coaching for MMA other than us.

Although Niagara Top Team provides the type of training needed by high-calibre professional athletes, DiMarcantonio notes that for him, it’s also about paying it forward and helping regular people and kids.

“We’re not just a competitive professional gym, we want to bring that family environment in here with the kid’s and adult program and really build that up.” DiMarcantonio says. “I’m getting a little bit older now, just had a kid, have a family, so why am I still in martial arts? What is my purpose? I’m trying to think bigger than myself. Maybe my goal is to pass it on the next generation? All these years of traveling around the world, it’s time to pass it on.”

“The goal is to build that confidence inside them, not just as athletes, but in everyday life,” DiMarcantonio continues, “walk with your chest out and not be scared. In MMA you learn more than just techniques, you learn about yourself and how you deal with life.”

Prickett finishes. “I think that just because it’s a kid or an adult who doesn’t desire to be a professional MMA fighter or a world champion, they should expect to have the best coaching and learn techniques that have been tried and tested and proven.”