Nico Ball

Nico Ball

Nico Ball recently left her life as a teacher to train mixed martial arts full-time in Brazil. Originally from Pennsylvania, she attended George Mason University in Virginia and received her Masters degree in Educational Psychology studying the impact of martial arts-based social projects. She's now living the fighter's life and pursuing her dream to become a pro mixed martial artist, alongside Jiu Jitsu legend Fernando Terere.


Articles by Nico Ball:

The 2017 IBJJF Europeans are just a couple of weeks away and athletes all over the world are either finalizing travel arrangements or lamenting the fact that they will be missing out on one of the best tournaments of the year. Competing on a budget isn’t as hard as it may seem, there are plenty of tips and tricks that broke jiu-jiteiros have been employing for years to finance all of their competition dreams. With a little creativity and a lot of flexibility to can make traveling and competing in exotic new places one of your goals for 2017.

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Inside The Danaher Death Squad
Published on by Nico Ball
Photos by Nico Ball & Jeff Chu

I recently had the opportunity to hang out at Renzo Gracie New York with Black Rob a black belt under Renzo that owns his own school in Hoboken, New Jersey. Black Rob gave me some great insight on the Danaher Death Squad and their coach, the mysterious man that has been drawing so much attention thanks to the recent success of his students.

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Photos by Nico Ball

Female role models in the sport are few and far between. Generally, we look up to male coaches and training partners to provide motivation to continue our journey. Recently there has been a growth in all female BJJ classes/open mats and seminars geared for girls but this is a phenomenon reserved mainly for big cities. I got a chance to bask in the awesomeness of Dominyka Obelenyte (black), Erin Herle (brown), and Vedha Toscano (purple), 3 badass females who all brought home double medals at the 2016 IBJJF New York BJJ Pro competition on November 19th. After watching them compete on Saturday, hanging out with them at an all female open mats on Sunday, and training with them on Monday, I was convinced that they are some of the hardest working females in the sport so I had to share their opinions on training and competing in the gentle art.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Chu @jeffreyschu

New York may be a notoriously rough city but the Gracie’s are known for being an incredibly resilient family. The fighting spirit runs through their veins and they’ve proven it time and time again in street brawls along the beaches of Copacabana, in front of thousands of screaming Japanese fans, and during the live T.V. broadcasts of the first ever UFC events.

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Photos are by Pierre Vicarini

Fernando Terere was one of the greatest competitors of his time. He had an explosive style that was unmatched by anyone else on the mats and a unique approach to teaching jiu-jitsu philosophy that helped shape champions like Andre Galvao , Charles “Cobrinha” Rubens, Jacare and Lucas Lepri. Health issues eventually kept him from competitions at the prime of his career, but athletes like the Mendes brothers still consider him to be one of their biggest inspirations in the sport.

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Photo by GIlmatic

Projeto Social Cantagalo is a small project that is located at the top of the community in a run down government facility that boasts a breathtaking view of Ipanema and Lagoa. There is no sign for the academy, so it’s easy to miss the small door nestled in between a mobile office and a pile of construction materials.

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Photos by: Gilmatic

Felipe Costa is a black belt under Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros. Costa earned his first gold medal at the 2003 Worlds, a feat that gained him considerable recognition in the BJJ world. He is also known for his annual Jiu Jitsu camps where he infuses intense technique packed seminars with relaxing vacations in places like Cancun.

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Photo courtesy of Hywel Teague

Ricardo De La Riva (pronounced HE-VA) is 6th degree black belt born and raised in Copacabana. He is a reserved guy with graying hair, and black glasses that at first glance seem more akin to a college professor than a Jiu-Jitsu black belt. His revolutionary contribution to the Jiu-Jitsu world was a result of the being constantly overpowered by heavier opponents in training.

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Although she is relatively unknown in the international Jiu Jitsu community, Tayane Porfirio has been smashing her opponents in all of the major Jiu Jitsu competitions, bringing home double gold on more than one occasion. Her most notable victory was against Mackenzie Dern, one of the most accomplished female black belts, at the Abu Dhabi World Pro in the combined brown and black belt absolute division.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Chu @jeffreyschu and Alberto Marchetti

Abraham Marte is the only high-level black belt competitor from the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean island that is relatively isolated from the rest of the Jiu Jitsu world. Despite living in country with very few academies and no competitions, Marte has never had a problem getting in the training he needs to compete major competitions. Marte sat down and talked with us while visiting GFteam in Rio de Janeiro to discuss what it takes to become World Champion and to give some advice to other athletes who are also training in isolated areas.

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Photo Credit: Hywel Teague

Alan Nascimento, better known as Finfou here in the Cantagalo Favela, is one of the many names that I often hear repeated both inside and outside of the academy. Finfou started Jiu Jitsu here in the Cantagalo favela alongside Fernando Terere, Rico Vieira, Leandro Martins, Jackson Sousa, and Bruno Matias. Like the rest of them...

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Photos by Nico Ball

Most people that know me are accustomed to my random acts of madness, so it shouldn't have come as much as surprise to them when, two years ago, I decided to pack up and move to Brazil. It was a spur of the moment decision that I made based on a one lined piece of advice given to me via Facebook from Kyra Gracie, the only female face I was familiar with from the BJJ world at the time.

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It is easy to lose sight of the holidays when you are dealing with 90-degree weather, grueling training sessions, and tiresome weight cuts, but that did not stop us from celebrating the holidays in our own special way here in the Cantagalo favela. Cantagalo, located above the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema is home to several internationally known names in Jiu Jitsu...

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I recently had chance to spend a couple of days at Rio Fighters with UFC Veteran and Luta Livre black belt Milton Vieira. Milton Vieira, a student of Murilo Bustamonte from BTT, founded Rio Fighters in 2013, which is located in the Humaita neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro...

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Photos courtesy of Connection Rio

I was overcome with laugher at my friend Pab's description of the drilling class that we had just finished up with Dennis Asche, the owner of Connection Rio BJJ Hostel. They were now sprawled out on the floor of the apartment they were renting in Ipanema. Pablo Carela and Fernando Reals, a purple and brown belt under Vitor Shaolin, had decided to escape the Bronx from the summer...

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5x World Champion Fernando Terere is known for being one of the most charismatic people in the Jiu Jitsu scene. In addition to coaching top competitors, Terere also runs a social project that offers free Jiu Jitsu classes to the kids of the Cantagalo favela. It only took one class for me to be instantly sold on his passionate teaching style and overzealous personality! Terere and the members of the community adopted me into their family and now, over the last two years, I have been living and training with the legend in his academy located in Rio de Janeiro at the base of the Cantagalo favela. One of the biggest things that sets Terere and his school apart from the rest of the BJJ academies is the amazing vibe and a sense of camaraderie that they foster. Jiu Jitsu has created numerous opportunities for athletes like Terere who hail from some of the poorest communities in Rio. Now, thanks to his hard work and dedication to the sport, kids from the favela have the opportunity to learn and train alongside psychologists from Argentina, Teachers from France, and lawyers from Australia. (All Photos by Hywel Teague)

5x World Champion Fernando Terere is known for being one of the most charismatic people in the Jiu Jitsu scene. In addition to coaching some of today's top competitors, Terere also runs a social project that offers free Jiu Jitsu classes to the kids of the Cantagalo favela. It only took one class for me to be instantly sold on his passionate teaching style and overzealous personality! Terere and the members of the community adopted me into their family and now, over the last two years, I have been living and training with the legend in his academy located in Rio de Janeiro at the base of the Cantagalo favela. One of the biggest things that sets Terere and his school apart from the rest of the BJJ academies is the amazing vibe and a sense of camaraderie that they foster. Jiu Jitsu has created numerous opportunities for athletes like Terere who hail from some of the poorest communities in Rio. Now, thanks to his hard work and dedication to the sport, kids from the favela have the opportunity to learn and train alongside psychologists from Argentina, Teachers from France, and lawyers from Australia.

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