“How Do You Recover From a Loss?”
More than any other sport that I can imagine, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts requires mental toughness, equal to any other attribute a fighter must bring into the cage with them. We have seen many competitors at the highest level of this sport (UFC) not only excel but earn the title of champion simply because of their hard work and their mental toughness. I cannot think of a better example than former UFC Champion Forrest Griffin. But I’ll go more into that later and using him as an example.
Let’s get back to what this article is about, a simple question, how does a fighter recover from a loss? Let’s look at the structure of our major professional sports. For most people we’re looking at four sports, or the “Big 4”, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL.
NFL: The NFL regular season is compromised of 16 games over a 17 week season. For example over sixteen opportunities at victory the Philadelphia Eagles won thirteen match ups. Today we know them as World Champions.
MLB: The regular season for Major League Baseball teams is made up of 162 games. The Champion, the WORLD CHAMPION, lost 61 games.
NHL: The span for the National Hockey League regular season consists of 82 games. The Pittsburgh Penguins won only 50 of those games and at the end of the season they held the coveted Stanley Cup above head and popped champagne in celebration of their World title victory.
NBA: The National Basketball Association, like the NHL has their regular season consist of 82 games. Last season the World Champions were crowned as the Golden State Warriors, they lost 15 of 82 match ups over the 82 game regular season.
I am not taking anything away from these sports or the individual athletes that compete in them. However what I am trying to point out here, more than anything else is VOLUME. The volume of opportunities to excel for these athletes and their window of opportunity for having a successful career is far greater than that of a professional Mixed Martial Artist. At most if a fighter is healthy and marketable a professional MMA fighter will get the opportunity to compete 3 times per calendar year. Thus not only limiting their earning potential but limiting their ability to advance in rankings for which the division and organization that they compete.
One loss can be career changing, so how does a fighter bounce back? Often times we will see fighters take drastic measures by switching weight divisions or changing camps. I don’t necessarily agree with this. Look, you made to the SHOW…the biggest platform that our sport has to offer to its athletes. You got here fighting at that weight, you got here fighting with that team. I’m not saying that once you get to that level that are aren’t possibly some changes you need to make in order to stay there, simply stating that I don’t believe that a loss is grounds for doing anything drastic. Let’s not reinvent the wheel here.
I believe in order to bounce back from a loss there is a certain protocol that most MMA fighters should follow. First you must take a couple weeks and decompress, relax, and unwind a bit. After you’ve had some time to collect your thoughts, sit down with your coaches and management and go over your steps towards preparation for the fight. Was there anything you could have done better? Next you and your coaching staff sit down and watch the fight a couple times to see what you didn’t do correctly or failed to execute in the fight, whether it be technical issues or execution of your game plan. Finally, accept the loss and get back in the gym. Take the advice of the coaching staff and management that you put in place, you hired them for a reason.
Bully fighters are those who do a great job of being humble and professional when they’re winning but find themselves in a state of disarray and confusion the second a speed bump winds up in the middle of their road. Champions are those who dig deeper, learn from mistakes and losses, and approach the gym and their preparation just as it is was another day in the office. A long time ago a coach told me in Martial Arts there is no losing, only learning. If you approach a loss this way and commit to the changes that you have admitted needed implemented then your chances of bouncing back are much greater.