Whenever people find out that I fight, they almost always ask me about my record. I can’t blame them, as I’ve done it, too. It’s a very common thing to ask a fighter. As it stands, the number of wins on my record are currently equal to the number of losses. This doesn’t bother me at all, as I’ve never really thought of those numbers being definitive of my skill, ability, or identity as a fighter. Since I began fighting, my main focus has been to gain experience in any way that I can, so the outward impression of my record to other people is not something that has ever been a priority of mine. However, I realise that this view isn’t shared by everyone. I was recently asked about my record by a Thai trainer, my response to which was immediately met with laughter. Also, another fighter at my gym claimed that if he ever became a ‘fifty-fifty fighter’ , he would quit fighting altogether, which is slightly ridiculous to me. These two occasions lead me to think about what a fighter’s record really means.
While it is very easy to criticise someone’s record, it’s important to remember that the record does not define the fighter. Those numbers say absolutely nothing about the experiences that came with those fights, and convey no information about the opponents or any contributing factors that may have surrounded them.
In a short documentary on Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu called ‘Fighting the Dream’, she also addresses this topic, stating that ‘It’s not about perfection, it’s not about your record. It’s about adjusting from piece to piece, from game to game, to see what your holes are and how you want to change.’ I agree with this sentiment entirely. Just the other day, I was doing some boxing sparring with one of the Thai boys at the gym who is currently preparing for an upcoming boxing bout. When I do Muay Thai sparring, I usually feel fairly confident with my boxing, but when it comes down to boxing alone, this boy blows me out of the water. At the end of one of the many rounds we did, Master Toddy told me that I was improving in small increments every day, and said ‘don’t think about the things that you’re not doing right, think about the things that you’re getting better at and doing well’. If I approached it any other way, I would find it frustrating and disheartening, which would just be silly. I think the same applies to fighting. While you might strive for perfection in every fight and for a perfect record, it’s impossible – and that’s great, because each time, it shows you where you are and what you need to work on from there. The small victories, like being able to execute a certain technique in a fight, are far more important to me than the result of the fight itself.
Sylvie went on to make some excellent points about perceptions of fight records in America:
“It’s strange because it’s not the case of all American sports and its not the case of all international sports that you completely lose interest in a team when they lose, but when it’s an individual game; when it’s a fighter, for some reason, it becomes a value judgement of that person.”
In the West, there seems to be more of an emphasis on perfect records, with undefeated status being perhaps the ultimate achievement. Of course, being undefeated may well be the mark of a great fighter, but that is not to say that a fighter with a less impressive record may not also be great. In Thailand, fighters seem to be much more accepting of defeat, and less focused on their records. In fact, many Thai fighters are unable to recall their exact numbers of wins or losses. Of course, the situations of fighting in Thailand and fighting in the West are worlds apart. In Thailand, fighters are often fighting so frequently and from such an early age that it is impossible to keep track. Also, often the main reason for which fighters get into the ring here is to make money, so of course, an unblemished record is not only not the priority, but not something that they can afford. Leading up to my fight in the UK, I was alarmed by the amount of fighters that had pulled out of the show, some of them due to injury, some of them for reasons that seemed silly to me and some giving no reason at all. Of course, cancellations also happen everywhere, but in my experience of fighting in Thailand, when they have, there has usually been another opponent willing to step in at the last minute. At home, we often have the luxury of not having to go into a fight that we don’t feel ready for or comfortable with. Here, it’s not quite the same.
I think it’s hard to adequately explain to someone who has never fought or been around combat sports what the full experience of fighting is, and that it really is so, so much more than a matter of winning or losing. I’ve struggled to do so with friends and family in the past. However, the experiences I’ve had through my fights, along with the challenges and growth that have occurred as a result, go worlds beyond any outside influence. Sylvie said it well with this little nugget of loveliness:
A flawed record may seem unimpressive on paper, but those who view it as such are unable to take into account the various contributing factors. For example, times when a fighter has fought through injury or sickness, when they may have had many fights in quick succession, any differences in experience, skill or weight, or occasions when fights have been taken at short notice. These are all situations that seem to be part and parcel of fighting in Thailand. I read an interview with Melissa Ray (who runs the Muay Thai on the Brain site), a now retired world champion, where she also raised the same topic. When asked which question she most hated being asked, this was her response:
You can read the full interview here, which starts off with this wonderful quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
Now, that’s quite enough quotes for one post.
What Melissa says about those who only win not fighting good enough opponents can also be true. I’ve known fighters who’ve only gone into fights under the knowledge that their opponent was someone over which they had some sort of advantage, or whom they were sure they could beat. That’s all well and good if you’re just looking to protect your record, your image and perhaps your ego, but it’s not going to make you a great fighter. Fights like those won’t help you learn in grow in the way that a five-round war or a good old fashioned arse kicking will. A great number of losses doesn’t necessarily mean a bad fighter, just as a great number of victories doesn’t always mean a good one. Personally, I believe that no matter how your record stands, you should be proud of every one of the fights that hold it up. I also believe that being a remarkable fighter doesn’t mean always winning. Taking on challenges, accepting losses and setbacks, overcoming them and then coming back stronger are things that build great fighters.
I’ve gone off on a couple of tangents, but my main purpose for writing this post is simply to say ‘don’t sweat your record’, or anyone else’s, for that matter. I am in no way attempting to make excuses for my losses or to take anything away from fighters with great records, I just feel that there is so much more to fighting than tallying up matches in numbers. Although it’s not fun to lose, I have no problem with marking a loss in my book if I’ve been able to take something positive away from it, and am willing to admit that some of my losses were simply due to bad performances on my part. While I may still encounter others who have opinions of my record, I am in not ashamed of it in the slightest. Anyone can judge a fighter’s career, but only the fighter themselves can know what it truly means. For me, the fact that I am fighting itself is something that still amazes me, and I am willing to accept losses as part of a constant learning curve as well as the overall beauty of the journey I’m on. Of course, everyone would prefer to have a top-heavy record, something which for me, I’m sure will come with time. In the meantime, I’m enjoying every experience along the way.
Marq from Wombat Sports wrote this article, ‘What’s in a Number? The Ins and Outs of Wins and Losses‘ in response to this post.