MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Get up and get working. That’s the motto professional Mixed Martial Artist, Ashton Nemdhari lives by.
Pre-pandemic, this 31-year-old fighter’s daily training regimen included a two-hour midday practice, followed by evening practice split between jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, and weightlifting sessions. On the weekends, he would either do more lifting or extra sparring, rounding things out with a hot yoga session for some recovery.
Amidst lockdowns, Ashton’s had to get creative to maintain his skills – and future in MMA. Whether it’s training solo in boarded up gyms, or throwing down mats in a basement, this undefeated pro is determined to keep moving towards his goal – competing in the UFC – no matter how challenging the landscape looks right now.
“I’ve faced greater threats from my sport and life, so instead of buckling, I just keep going,” says Ashton, when asked about how he’s adapting to the restrictions surrounding training and competing during covid-19.
As a veteran in the sport, Ashton’s certainly had his share of challenges over the past 10 years. In between major fights, he’s endured a right shoulder labral tear, an ACL surgery re-tear, a pectoral tear, an Achilles tear, and a herniated disc. But he’s never let injury or surgery stop him from inching towards his goal of fighting with the best in the world. “I don’t want to be 55 and say, I could have,” he explains.
Ashton believes this hardwired mentality is a skill that gives him an edge in the sport. “Physically, I am strong. But I tend to never give up, I’ll show up every day.”
It’s this resiliency that allows him to continue pursuing his dream, even as his responsibilities grow and adhering to a plan gets more complicated. Married, with two young kids (ages three and one), and his own personal training business, Ashton is constantly evolving his strategy for himself and his family. Balance is not a term he likes to use. “Sleep is what it is. I used to get a lot, then I had kids,” he says. “To get a few quality hours of sleep, I have to sleep in a separate room from my wife and kids.”
Ashton says, on the plus side, his head has not taken the type of trauma a lot of fighters have, so if he can stay relatively injury-free, he still has a lot left to give to the sport.
Although, he admits, that’s his weakness. “I’m a chronic body abuser. I show up every day, regardless. The injuries mostly happened when I was training, but should have been resting. Recovery is something I’m getting better at. Learning to take care of the bumps and bruises, more self-care.”
Ashton also surrounds himself with a team of support that keeps him primed for success. He works with an array of coaches to ensure he takes a complete approach to his craft.
Many days, Ashton shows up ready to go to war during boxing/striking practice, but his coach, Grant, keeps things light and technical. Which allows him to show up the next day feeling relatively fresh and consistently build skills.
His Muay Thai coach, Kru Saj loves to go hard with pad work. Ashton says he enjoys the push. “He has a way of pulling more out of me when I feel finished.”
In between competitions, Ashton does a lot of building and maintenance with his strength and conditioning coach, PK Mills – a Canadian powerlifting champion, world medalist, and co-founder of Strong-Athlete. “PK is meticulous about strength training. He likes to focus on fundamental lifts, which has served me well,” says Ashton. Leading up to fights, they intensify weights, and PK keeps him focused.
Dreaming of a future in the UFC, Ashton finds himself reflecting on his past. When he got into MMA, he was part of an amateur program that often competed in Michigan. He wonders if his path will lead to the US again soon. “I don’t see myself competing, or even training here, when the pandemic is over. Many gyms will be bankrupt and are closing due to lockdowns,” Ashton says.
For now, he is focusing on being present. “I train, play with my kids, hang with my wife, run my business, and play Lego when I have time,” Ashton says. “I used to chase championships and medals. As I get older, I just want to fulfill my potential.”
This is an unedited user writing submission. The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Best Version Media or its employees.