Losing a Muay Thai fights sucks. The first time I lost tears started streaming out of my eyes moments after I heard the decision. Knowing that I did everything I could to win the fight and still coming up short crushed my spirit.
Back then I was young and naive. I believed that I could and should beat anyone as long as I trained hard and believed I could win. While these were good principles to follow, they don’t necessarily mean you will win.
When I was winning everything was great. After every victory, my ego grew a little bit bigger. My confidence was correlated to my fight results. As long as I kept on winning, I kept on being confident that I would win again.
Eventually, I would learn that you can’t always win. Sometimes you lose.
Losing Makes You Better
If I could choose between winning and losing I would take winning all day long. Unfortunately, sometimes that option isn’t available. There are times when no matter how badly you may want to win, you will lose.
Winning will build confidence and help gloss over mistakes you made in a fight. If you have any weaknesses, it doesn’t really matter because they aren’t exposed. Winning is a signal to your brain to keep doing what you’re doing. Who cares that you almost got knocked out in the fight, the fact of the matter is that you won, right?
Losing on the other hand sucks. Losing exposes your weaknesses. If you have been getting away with sloppy defense, getting knocked out can give you a real wake up call. Maybe your coach was right, and you do drop your hands too much in sparring?
While you should learn more from losing, not everyone does. Some people refuse to accept any fault in the loss and try to blame everyone around them.
I’ve heard some fighters constantly say stuff like, “the judges were terrible, I was robbed” or “my trainer never prepared me for that fight,” and more commonly in Thailand “my opponent was too heavy for me.”
People who make excuses often associate losing as a reflection of their self-worth. If you lose, it means you are no good. Therefore you can’t be blamed when you lose. So by deflecting the loss and blaming people around them, they don’t have to feel like they lose any of their self-worth.
To learn from your losses, you need to know the process of improving. The following four steps will help you develop a strategy to come back from your losses even stronger.
Step 1: Accept Responsibility
Do not make excuses after you lose. While you might be trying to save ‘face’ and make everyone around you understand why you lost, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. I know some fighters who ALWAYS have some excuse to why they lost.
They will blame the bad judges, the meal they ate, their opponent, the weight difference, the experience level, or any other excuse they can think of. You name the excuse, and I’ve heard it. You will never hear these people EVER say that they were responsible for the loss. They always deflect the blame elsewhere. (usually, this pattern follows in all aspects of their lives)
If you want to get better after a loss, you need to own up to it. Accept the fact that you were the person in the ring. You were in control of your destiny. I know there are judges out there who don’t know what the hell they are looking at when they judge fights, but don’t use that as an excuse.
If you lose because of bad judging, accept your responsibility for leaving it to the judges. Next time, knock your opponent out, and it won’t matter what the judges think. The key is to accept that you did lose the fight, and you will be better because of it. Acknowledge your responsibility and tell everyone that you will be better.
Say this phrase: I accept responsibility for the loss. I can and will be better next fight.
Do not make excuses.
Step 2 – Analyze the Facts
Once you have accepted responsibility for the loss, now we can start learning from it. The next step is to analyze the facts.
What happened in the fight?
When you are analyzing facts, you have to remove your emotions from the equation and try to see the fight from a purely analytical perspective. Telling yourself that you got ‘smoked’ might summarize the fight, but it isn’t going to help you learn from the fight.
If you got knocked out, what was the cause of the knockout? Did you drop your hands? Were you too aggressive going forward? Were you scared going into the fight and unprepared mentally? Put yourself in the mind of a coach and try to figure out what you did well and what you can improve on.
Write down all the facts of the fight. You might after watching the fight that your left kick is particularly effective when you throw punches before the kick.
The more specific you get with your facts, the better. For example, instead of saying that your opponent had better boxing than you, try to figure out what aspects of their boxing gave you trouble. Maybe you freaked out when you got hit with a big shot or didn’t block the overhand right punches. Maybe they had a good lead jab that kept on stunning you.
Be as specific as possible when analyzing the facts. The more information you gather, the better equipped you are going to be moving forward.
Step 3 – Identify Areas of Improvement
Now that you have finished playing the role of investigator, you can now look at the hard facts and see where you need to improve.
If you got knocked out by a superior Boxer, you probably know that you need to work on your Boxing skills. Digging into more details of the fight can help you identify what areas of your Boxing needs the most work.
Perhaps you aren’t good at taking punches or freeze up whenever you get hit. This indicates that you should probably be working on your basic boxing and shouldn’t fight until you improve this. Maybe you noticed that your opponent was blocking a lot of your low kicks. You probably need to develop better timing to improve your low kicks.
Anytime you suffer from fatigue in the later rounds of a fight it is a sign that you need to improve your cardio and learn to conserve your energy better.
You may identify any number of areas to work on which can include: Low kicks, elbows, clinching, cardio, boxing, checks, teeps, combinations, blocking, relaxing, etc.
Step 4 – Create a Game Plan for Success
Now that we have accepted responsibility for the loss, analyzed the facts, and identified areas that could be improved, we can now use that information to create a game plan for success.
While you might be tempted to skip this step and tell yourself that you’ll work on everything in training, the more specific you are with your game plan, the better prepared you’ll be to improve. If you lost a close fight because you were unable to block body kicks, then you know that your kick defense is an area that you need to work on.
Knowing this information, you can work on specific drills with a partner that helps you develop better timing in your kicks. Targeting specific areas can help you simplify the learning process making it easier to improve.
If you got knocked out by punches, then you need to develop a game plan to improve your Boxing. Boxing sparring is a good way to get more comfortable dealing with a good puncher. If you don’t have any good Boxers at your current gym, look for local Boxing gyms and put in some work on your hands.
The goal here is to create a plan to improve upon each major area of your game that you identified in the previous step. By setting up a game plan for success, you will be better prepared to face your next opponent.
Get Your Coach to Help You
If you don’t have enough knowledge to accurately break down your own game, you should talk to your coach. Your trainer will be able to help you gather the facts, analyze the data and help you come up with a game plan to improve. That is their job.
Losing is a Great Learning Opportunity
As much as we all hate losing, it is important to stop viewing losing as such a negative. After the fight is over, there is nothing you can change. If someone is going to sit on the sidelines criticizing you for the loss, let them talk shit.
Too many people view fighting as a reflection of their self-worth and their ego. You need to realize that losing is not the end of the world. If you fight, you will win and lose. You will never have an undefeated record unless you are picking and choosing all of your fights or fighting bums.
The best athletes in every sport suffer losses. Serena Williams, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have all lost in the past. Does that mean they aren’t the best in their respective sports?
No, it doesn’t.
If the best Muay Thai fighter Saenchai, has over 50 losses in his career, how many losses do you think you will accumulate over the years? Unless you are fighting in a non-competitive weight category, expect the losses to happen.
There are too many factors that go into fighting that makes it impossible to win all the time. From the style matchups, skill level, sheer luck, to just waking up and feeling shitty one day, there are too many variables to win all the time. That is why you should never judge a fighter by their record. Always judge a fighter by how they fight and against the quality of opponents they fight.
So the next time you suffer a loss, don’t worry about making an excuse to the world as to why you lost. Focus on creating a game plan to ensure that you are better the next time you step into the ring.
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