Losing is every fighters worst nightmare. No one likes to lose in front of friends, family, team mates, the coach or themselves, especially after all the training and effort that went into preparation. Many feel a loss as a big let down, the hard work and sacrifice in vain. But… nothing could be further from the truth! I’ll get into why it can be a good thing but first, let’s list the reasons why you actually WIN, so when we talk about losing being a positive, it will make sense in the bigger picture.
WHY YOU ACTUALLY WIN
~ You were more skilled and/ or conditioned than your opponent on the day (The most common reason)
~ You dug deep and had more will power (Good on you)
~ Your opponent didn’t want to be there and gave up (Waste of time)
~ Fluke KO (Nice one for the highlight reel)
ARE YOU CHASING A PERFECT RECORD?
Let me start by saying if your goal is to chase a perfect record for validation or to inflate the ego then this article isn’t for you. I understand that in the big business of MMA or Boxing, undefeated records could be more marketable and better for business i.e. career fighters. But, most don’t enter Muay Thai for the money. It’s a poorly paid sport that few make a living off. Undefeated records are great- if it’s legit and you are fighting quality opponents. But those who only accept fights that they think are easy and dodge the ones that pose a threat are on different pages with me, so again, this article won’t apply. In Muay Thai your record isn’t what’s essential to making money anyway, it’s your marketability and how many people buy tickets or tune in to watch you. So now that the record issue is out the way…
(Legit) Muay Thai fighters FIGHT, and they become great by fighting strong competition not weak ones.
Look at all the top fighters and who they’ve fought. They’ve all stepped up and beat the best. Since you’re reading this, I’ll assume you want to improve as a fighter and be the best you can be physically and mentally. In doing so you will sometimes have to STEP UP and take on more experienced opponents, accept situations and fights against the odds and say YES to opportunities even when deep down you are shitting yourself. All for the sake of testing yourself and growing as a fighter.
If you are in the game long enough, very likely you’ll have to face a loss at some stage and when you do, it will be bitter initially. Trying to sugar coat it or positive spin it still doesn’t get rid of the bad taste. In our culture losing has a negative connotation to it. We are conditioned to believe losing is bad, starting from school, the media and movies. Its not negative at all. It is in fact very, very positive when used in the right way.
WHY A LOSS CAN BE A GIFT
When I reflect on my fight career, I am not nostalgic about my wins. I am nostalgic about my losses- by far. I treasure the memories of the times I stepped up, faced and conquered my fears. I am grateful for the mistakes I made and lessons learned, because without them I wouldn’t have had the adventure, knowledge and experience I do today. Even when I got KO’d- it was the best thing for me at the time. I was cocky and naive and needed a good sleeper to humble me so I can be open to learn again.
There are a lot of benefits and positives that come out of a loss, and the following list is not exhaustive but enough to get the point across;
1# It’s an opportunity to bounce back
You have to face your coach, team mates, friends and family. And most of all- face yourself. How will you handle the loss? Will you quit? Will you find inspiration to keep going? Will you be humble in defeat, learn from the loss and move on? Or will you make excuses and blame your loss away? Take this opportunity to be aware of how you think, talk and act after a loss. It will give you insight on how your mind works. From this you start the process of turning the negatives into positives and you come back. You come back bigger, better and stronger than before.
2# You’re forced to analyze and re-evaluate your game
No matter how much advice your team mates or coaches give you, if you fuck up in the ring then no one will ever need to tell you again. You’ll never ever forget the mistake for the life of you. Sometimes only the ring can show you what you need. You’ll need to look at all aspects of your life and training and ask yourself questions such as; was my conditioning good enough, was my training on point, did I have good enough sparring, how was my technique and what do I need to work on, was my food clean and consistent, how was my sleep quality, did I train as intensely as I could have, did I pay attention to detail, was my mental self talk positive and empowering… you’ll scan through all sorts of stuff and try find clues as to what let you down. And once you identify these clues and find out specifically what you need to improve then guess what?! You will improve them! And you’ll be a better fighter! Isn’t that what you want?
3# Direct feedback on your performance
You learn quickly what works in the ring and what doesn’t. Sparring at the gym is very different to fighting in the ring and what works in sparring doesn’t necessarily work in the ring.
There are many more variables in a real fight; speed, power, adrenaline, pressure, impact and balance.
What matters ultimately is what works in the ring. So, having a real fight experience in the ring and in this case of a loss, you’ll receive direct feedback of what works and what doesn’t. That’s what’s invaluable about experience in the ring- you KNOW what works and what doesn’t. You won’t have to guess, rely on peoples advice, or YouTube clips. Experience reveals all.
4# Exposes weaknesses in your game
A loss exposes your weakness, raw and open for all to see and it’s the most honest and unbiased feedback you will ever receive!
Once you step into the ring- you’ve taken a leap from sparring; as I always say, sparring and fighting are two different worlds. Throw in the mix adrenaline, pressure, full power (which distorts balance from impact), full speed and you’ve got a fight on your hands! Inevitably there will be weaknesses in your game which will be exposed for your viewing pleasure. Analyze and capitalize on this information, don’t waste it. Go back to the gym with a list of things to improve on and work until you smooth them out for the next fight. Then repeat.
5# Know where you stand
No more guessing. No more wondering. You learn, and learn fast where you stand and what you’re made of every time you step into the ring.
As a fighter you’ll have plenty of people around encouraging, supporting and praising you and sometimes it gets a little one sided. If you don’t have good competition challenging you at the gym or in the ring, your perception of your skill and standard might become over inflated. The perfect remedy for that is to fight someone tough, more experienced, or better skilled than you. Step up and test your mettle. Stretch your (perceived) limits, then exceed them. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and find you’re better than you thought, or maybe you’ll fall short. That’s good too. It will put things in perspective.
You might be hot shit in your own gym but not out there with the real beasts. Or the other way rings true. If you train at a world class gym and you’re surrounded by champions and day-in-day-out is war, you probably don’t realize how tough you are. Only one way to find out- get in there and test yourself with good quality opponents. You’ll never know and never grow unless you test yourself.
6# Appreciate the wins
Losing in front of your friends, family, coach, wife or kids ain’t fun. The vibe after the loss ain’t fun. Sympathy pats on the back and the old “you gotta win some to lose some” or “ what doesn’t kill you make you stronger” ain’t fun either. Going back to the gym and having to face everyone and explain the loss and constantly being consoled get old real quick.
It’s like a black cloud follows you everyday until you get the chance to clear it in your next fight. When that day comes- and when you win- and win without those same mistakes- the feeling is orgasmic. You’ve opened the lid and released all the pressure, and you can finally put your feet up and relax. Nothing is more satisfying than to come back strong after a loss, and not necessarily a loss in result only, but I mean coming back from a mistake, or a bad performance and proving that you have indeed improved!
7# Builds character
To come back after a loss you must first ACCEPT the loss, which means taking responsibility and being humble. Then you’ll need to get on with the job of analyzing, planing and training smarter to overcome your previous setbacks. All this builds character and transfers to life.
Many times when I’m faced with fears in life, I always reference back to my fight experiences. I’ve been there before only in a different context. If you’ve learned to deal with fear, nerves, procrastination, negative mental chatter in fighting then in a similar way, you can deal with them in your life. If you’ve learned patience, discipline, humility, team work, etc. then in a similar way, you can apply them in your life too. Whatever skills, qualities, traits and experiences you’ve gained in fighting you’ve gained as a part of your character as a person.
8# Fear of another loss is a powerful motivator
No one wants two losses in a row. I always say watch out from the opponent coming off a loss. Assume he’s been training the house down as he’s had that “black cloud” following him throughout his whole training camp. No one wants to face his friends and family after a second loss. What will everyone say? The awkwardness is too much to bear. So the pressure before the next fight is heightened. The exception is a journey man who genuinely doesn’t care, and who’s had more losses than wins. But I’m talking about the majority who go in there to win (or fight their heart out to be more accurate).
I had always came back and crushed my performances after a loss. All that mulling over what I did wrong got me fired up- I risked more and was even more determined in the next fight. I didn’t want two losses in a row, so I told myself I’m going to go down fighting till the last drop. After a crushing win, I notice I’d relax a bit, but after a loss the burning desire was stronger. A little more motivation ain’t always a bad thing!
WHEN A LOSS IS A REAL LOSS
If you fail to learn anything from a loss; if you give up, shrug your shoulders, blame or make excuses- then, you REALLY have lost.
IT’S ALL RELATIVE
I think experienced fighters know the value of a loss, but fighters entering the game sometimes forget the big picture and take it too personal and think its them, that they don’t have what it takes. But that’s not true at all, it’s all relative.
Remember- it’s who you fought on the day, on any given time of your career and on any given time of your opponents career.
So a win and loss don’t say much; the yardstick should be your performance vs your ability. Another way to put it is how close was your ring performance to your best potential training session at the gym? The closer the better. The further away your performance from your full potential ability was in the ring, the worse. Losing is just information; cold, hard, raw, honest and specific to-you-information. Use it wisely, to become the best YOU!