In this day and age, everything is about winning. In the world of combat sports, people worship fighters who can maintain undefeated records, often viewing these fighters as invincible.
Casual fans are falsely led to believe that a fighter’s record determines how good they are. If a fighter is 15-0, he must be a lot better than a fighter who is 5-5, right?
While this is the perception that most people have when they look at a fighters record, the reality is much different.
What is much more important than a fighters record, is the quality of competition that a fighter faces. If a fighter is facing opponents who are at the same level as him, then there will be losses on the record.
Muay Thai fighter Ognjen Topic is a great example of someone who has a number of losses but is still a great fighter. When you dissect the losses of Ognjen, he is fighting some high tier fighters in Thailand. Given these even matchups, it is not surprising that he loses a good portion of his fights in Thailand.
When you compare Ognjen to fighters outside of Thailand with near perfect records, I would be willing to bet that he would smash most foreigners in the ring.
What is important is not a fighters win/loss record, but the quality of opponent’s a fighter has faced and the number of close battles they have endured.
Fighters who have undefeated records in any sport, simply haven’t faced enough competition yet.
Every fighter who thinks he is unbeatable simply hasn’t fought enough to understand the reality of the sport. It is only a matter of time before someone either makes a mistake, has a bad day, or simply faces a better opponent.
Casual fans see someone with a perfect record and think they are invincible (Ronda Rousey is a good example of this). While in reality, those fighters simply haven’t had enough fights to truly be tested. If Saenchai (the best Muay Thai fighter in the world) can be beaten, then anyone can be beaten.
When you look at my list of the best fighters of all time, you will notice that all of the fighters have accumulated a good number of losses on their record.
Losing Is A Part of Fighting
If you go into every fight within 80% chance of winning (these are very good odds), you can expect to lose 20% of the time you step into the ring.
Unlike Western Boxers who can pick and choose who they fight, most fighters in Thailand will fight whoever the promoter asks them to fight. If a Thai fighter is beating everyone in his weight class, they will make him move up in weight and fight harder competition.
Thai fighters don’t have 3-month fight camps to prepare for their opponent. Fighters usually know there opponent 3 weeks in advance and then train for them. If you are fighting in a smaller stadium, you will probably likely find out who your opponent is the day of the fight.
While some fighters will go on win streaks, these streaks never last forever. A fighter might lose once every few fights, but eventually, they will lose. Even Saenchai has accumulated over 50 losses in the ring.
Anyone who competes in a competitive Muay Thai division is going to lose a good portion of their fights, regardless of how good they are.
While casual fight fans have an obsession with undefeated and near perfect records, this is out of reach for most people.
Losses are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of experience. If you suffer close defeats, it simply means that you have been fighting guys that are giving you a challenge.
Promoters in the West are known for giving fighters easy fights so that they can accumulate highlight reel Knockouts over their opponents. You will notice that whenever the UFC adds a new star into the organization, they always give that fighter weak competition for their first few fights so they can build up their brand.
It is simply good marketing.
Factors that Affect A Fighters Record
- The Level of Competition: The most competitive Muay Thai divisions in Thailand are all under 155 lbs (70 kg). Foreigners who happen to be heavy weights won’t have any Thai competition when it comes to Muay Thai fights. Because of this, you will often notice bigger foreigners have much better records than the smaller fighters.
- The Amount of Fights: Someone who has 10-20 fights hasn’t been tested like someone who has 50+ fights. After enough fights, losses will eventually start to pile up.
- Significant Size Advantages: Fighters who have a significant size advantage over their opponents are often able to win more fights, than fighters who have no size advantage over their competition. One of the most famous fighters in Thailand was a fighter named Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn. One of the reasons why he was so dominant in the sport was because he was enormous compared to his competition. Given his height of 6’2″ (1.88m), he was able to tower over his competition and beat most of his competition.
- Bad Judging – Some judges in the West have no business judging Muay Thai fights. They score fights based on home crowd advantage, Kickboxing rules and have no background in Muay Thai.
Thai promoters might give a fighter a couple easy fights to see their skill level before they find an opponent with is at the same level. Because gambling is such a huge part of Muay Thai, Thais don’t want to see fights that can go either way, otherwise, nobody will bet on the fight.
The sign of a good fight is when the odds are 50-50 to win the fight. If you have people willing to bet on both fighters, that means that you will likely either win or lose a close fight. Even if you are the favorite to win with odds of 70/30, it still means you will end up losing 25-30% of your fights.
While skill plays a huge role in fighting, there are other factors that are involved that are often out of a fighter’s control.
Just because you are better than your opponent on paper, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will beat them. Rarely will you go into a fight being 100%.
Sometimes you might simply be feeling off that particular day because of something that is completely out of your control.
Given the nature of fighting and the uncontrollable factors that are involved, it is expected that you will lose some fights eventually. You might be able to tip the odds of winning most of the time, however, after enough fights, there are always off days where you don’t perform like you should.
This is not only true in Muay Thai, this is true in any competitive sport.
Experience is everything. Whether you win or lose, as long as you have a close fight, you will learn something and come back a better fighter. Fighting is all about developing your skills every time you step inside the ring. Instead of focusing on the outcome, it is better to focus on the process and doing everything you can to perform your best.
Win, lose or draw, your effort is what matters the most. As long as you give everything you have in training and in the fight, you should never be ashamed of losing.