Ashleigh has been in the MMA spotlight for over 10 years.
Ranked No. 4 in the UK featherweight rankings and current UCMMA FW Champion, Ashleigh holds significant victories over UFC veterans.
Known for his aggressive grappling, submissions and ground and pound, Ashleigh uses his Judo background to unleash a mix of powerful slams and takedowns, mixed with sharp stand-up skills.
We had the chance to interview him and this is what we talked about how he gets into Flow:
Elena: One of the main questions and what I’m very interested in is if you could tell me, if you can
remember one of your first flow experiences?
Ash: I think I had… I never had a competitive flow experience, in fighting, but I’ve had one in
training, where everything you did, it was… I didn’t have to tell my body to do it. Does that
Elena: Yeah, totally, in the Flow state everything works smooth and perfectly.
Ash: I just kind of did it instinctively. But then I don’t know if that’s flow state or I don’t know if that’s
just repetition of the training kicking in, but I remember that everything I wanted to do, I
needed to go and every position I wanted, my body just knew where to go.
Elena: It was like flowing?
Ash: Yeah. It was kind of like… I don’t want to say I had nothing to do with it because obviously it’s
me doing it, but I felt like it had nothing to do with me.
Elena: And what was that feeling like, what was the experience like and what happened after that?
Ash: Well, it was very short, it wasn’t something that was prolonged. It was possibly… I don’t want
to exaggerate, but I’ll say possibly 25 seconds long, just an exchange in combinations and
movement and then it kind of broke… Once the action stopped I kind of wasn’t in there
anymore, and it wasn’t something I could just get back.
Elena: Okay. This is also one of the charchteristics of flow, is an optimal state of consciousness, when you feel and perform your best. It’s the moment of total absorption. Time speeds up or slows down… How long ago was this?
Ash: The first burst ever? God, maybe eight years ago. Yeah.
Elena: And the ones that come to mind have been while you’re fighting, while training?
Ash: While sparring – training, yeah.
Elena: Have there been any other instances?
Ash: No, there hasn’t… I’m lying to you: there has been one time where I’ve done it in an actual
fight and actually won because of it. It was just… But yeah, I don’t know if it was instinct or
repetition, I don’t know, but I remember the entire sequence, the clinch, I threw the knee, he
came in, I jumped, got him and submitted him straight away. I was like, “How did I do that?” I
do remember that as well, that was quite good.
Elena: Okay. Outside your sport have you ever experience something like this?
Ash: No, not outside. There’s no everyday… It’s not every day that I have a flow state.
Elena: What do you think helped you at that time to get into that state?
Ash: I don’t know if I was caught up in a moment and just competing off of instinct and not thinking,
but at the same time obviously thinking, but I’m not… The thoughts aren’t coming from
memory, thinking, “I’m going to do this, I’ll do this.”
Elena: Yeah. When you’re in the flow state that self-criticism goes away and you’re just totally
connected with your performance, with your practice, with yourself and everything just
happens, as you were saying. You also mentioned repetition, and that’s part of it, trying to…
getting out of that challenge of self every time and then the flow state will happen. Let’s talk
about the first time it has happened. When was the most recent one? Can you remember?
Ash: I think I’d get one maybe… Now that we’re discussing it and going through, maybe I get one
every day, but it’s very… It’s like a 10 to 12 second burst of where my body doesn’t think, it
just does it. I probably had one yesterday in training, yeah.
Elena: And when you think about this and say you have one every day for 20 seconds for example…
If you go back to that moment, what is going on, what’s happening at that time? Is it at the
beginning of your training or during?
Ash: It’s just during the sparring, yeah.
Elena: During the sparring. For how long would you be into it?
Ash: I could’ve been half an hour into training.
Elena: So after half an hour?
Ash: Yeah, half an hour of going live and hard sparring, and then just kind of, “Oh, I’ve slipped in[to
Elena: That’s interesting. What would you say to someone who was listening to you and is also a
fighter or starting out? What advice would you give them to make this happen?
Ash: Again, I think I’d put it down to the old school, just continuous me doing it and repetition,
repetition, I think… Because I can’t tell you how it happens, I couldn’t say, “Do this and it’ll
happen.” I don’t know how to make it happen, I don’t know.
Elena: So it’s more like a feeling.
Ash: Yeah, and it’s also having to switch on.
Elena: Yeah, that’s how it sometimes happens. But it’s related, as you said, obviously with that
repetition. What else do you think is related with that?
Ash: Maybe it’s the mind state going into it, I think. Like I said, I could be making stuff up.
Elena: There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s just what works for you. But yeah, it’s also that mind
state. So what’s that mindset for you? How are you feeling at that moment?
Ash: I’m not sure, maybe it’s just… I just think, “Alright, it’s time to do what I do. This is my job, this
is what I do. Let’s go live.”
Elena: Sounds like you trust yourself?
Ash: Yeah, just believe in the training and just go for it. Yeah.
Elena: Yeah, that’s cool. Me asking these questions is also an opportunity for you to think about it
and say, “Okay, it’s happening, but how I make this happen is…” And as you say, it’s that
trust, it’s that repetition. What does your body feel like? If you go back and try to remember
that moment, how is your body feeling? Is it light, heavy, more tense, more relaxed?
Ash: It’s definitely not tense… I don’t know. I guess you could say you flow, which sounds really
stupid when you say it, because it’s a flow state, I get it, but you kind of just… Everything just
seems in sync, everything just seems in time. It feels like you do 100 things in two seconds.
Elena: Yeah. This is another quality of flow, sometimes time slows down or something, it passes
really, really quick while this is happening to you. I think we’ve talked about this before, but do
you have any preparation before a competition, mental preparation or something that… You
told me that you don’t work as much on the mental side, but any routines or…
Ash: Yeah, I have. A good friend of mine, a client of mine in fact… He was a big time trader on
stocks and shares, and for every fight he’d remind me “Who you are,” that’s the main thing.
He would say, “Ash, write down who you are and think about you competing against you. And
just remember, this is who you are. Remember, you can accomplish this, you’re good at this,
you’re good at this, you’re good at this… Really remind yourself.” We used to do that every
day leading up to…
Elena: Connection with yourself and really believe in yourself.
Ash: Yeah, just kind of remind me that, “This, the guy you’re competing against has to compete
against all of this,” and if you really think about it you can write quite a list.
Elena: Yeah, for sure. Anything else, any routines for example?
Ash: No, I’m not superstitious in the slightest. [laughs] I’ve had a lot of fights: it’s just get up, go to
Elena: Yeah. But you don’t have any set routines that have been developed over time, like getting ready or
listening to some specific type of music?
Ash: Oh, no. No, no. I have no problem sleeping, no problem. Music? No, I’m alright. Sometimes I
guess… There a motivational speaker called Eric Thomas, I sometimes listen to some of his
speeches, he’s very, very powerful, he’s quite good. But I listen to him every day anyway, so
Elena: What do you like about him?
Ash: The positivity, the positivity. And it’s the… It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re going. To lose is
to never try, that’s the thing. The loser is the person that never gets up to actually go and
actually try and put something into action, that’s the loser. So yeah, I listen to him.
Elena: What about the end of the competition or the end of training? I can see that you pay attention
to your nutrition and what you eat. What do you do to recover and get ready for the next day
or the next fight?
Ash: I eat quite clean nutrition wise. If I can, I try and have like an hour nap in the afternoon as well,
and I go to bed relatively early. I mean, my first client of the day is usually at 7 AM anyway, so
I have to go to bed relatively early and get up at 6 AM to make it. But other than that, that’s it. I
look after my body; I am healthy, I sleep well, I eat well.
Elena: You don’t do anything special after a fight?
Ash: No, just… Life goes on.
Elena: Keep it simple. [laughs]
Ash: Yeah, I don’t need to do anything… My last five fights I’ve gone abroad the next day, after a
fight I’ve just gone on holiday for a week.
Elena: Okay, that’s a good way to recover. [laughs]
Ash: Yeah, because the wife… ~It helps calm her mind~.
Elena: Yeah, yeah. And where do you go on holiday?
Ash: Wherever she says! [laughs] Yeah.
Thanks Ash for this interview!