No one wants to lose. Here in the western Muay Thai culture there is a lot of pressure to gain and maintain undefeated records. With an undefeated record you get more title shot opportunities. You gain a bigger fan base (which makes the promoters bend over backwards for you). And the sponsors are more likely to give you love. Here is the problem: EVERYONE loses. With very very few exceptions your fight record will have some “blemishes.” So, if we consider that in all practicality there will be a time when the person across the ring might do better than you, what should we do about this impending doom? I want to propose that losing is an essential part of being a true fighter.
Here are 3 reasons losing is not the end of the world:
1. Losing teaches you more about yourself than winning does.
I remember having a fighter go out into the ring against a very tough opponent. He was scared. But we did manage to win by knockout in 43 seconds. Typically after a fight I sit my fighter down and have them list the things that went wrong so we can make adjustments for future training and fights. In this situation we really didn’t have much to talk about. If every fight is meant to make you a better fighter, the truth is in this particular fight we didn’t have much to learn from. Now I have to say that when you win by knockout in the first round that is a great day. It really is. But on the other hand when you lose, and take the time to learn why, you have SO much more information about how to improve who you are and how to take your fight game to the next level. Yes, winning is good. But losing allows you more opportunity to overcome your shortcomings and make a better version of yourself. So, on the rare occasion that it happens you can leverage that for a better fight future.
2. Go to sleep knowing you fought the best.
I have seen a lot of coaches haggle to get their fighters an easy opponent. Someone who is likely to allow for another easy win to add to that precious record of wins. I do happen to think it is important for a coach to look out for his fighter by advocating for a “winnable” fight as opposed to blindly taking on any comers regardless of size or experience. But at the same time when you take on a really tough opponent and happen to lose most people would not hold that loss against you. If you sat down 100 fighters and asked them HONESTLY “If fighting is about building character, what would you rather do: win against a pushover or lose to the toughest guy in the room?” I have to believe that most honest and upstanding fighters would rather take the tough fight. There have been losses with my team. But when and if we lose it is usually the fight of the night. And that is something to be proud of.
3. Knowing you may lose can actually take the pressure off.
Sometimes before a fight I will ask my fighter what they are most concerned about. As it turns out most fighters are less afraid of getting hurt as they are disappointing people they love or embarrassing themselves. I then ask a series of very simple questions. If you lose will you survive? Will life go on? Will the people that matter in your life stop caring about you? Will your team kick you out? Will the world stop turning? Will you never fight again? The answer is obvious. In the unlikely event of a loss, you will survive. Not only that, as I stated above, you will have more tools to develop a stronger game. In a very real sense what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Once a fighter can actually consider whether or not they will survive the worst case they tend to have less stress about it. They can stop thinking about what might happen and start thinking about what they want to happen. It frees their mind from the weight of possible defeat and allows them to purely focus on how they can win.
Now please don’t misinterpret my message here. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t plan to lose your next fight. Always plan and train to win. Always. However, if you understand that at some point a loss is inevitable you should understand that not only is it survivable, it is incredibly fertile ground for growth and development. Take advantage of that opportunity when it happens. All of the best fighters do.
Ben Brown is the founder and Head Coach at PHAS3 Martial Arts, a Muay Thai focused martial arts school in Santa Rosa, California. PHAS3 offers a family atmosphere that welcomes students of all skill levels from beginners to the most competitive fighters. PHAS3 is a Woodenman Certified Muay Thai training school.