Marcos Avellan, along with his brother David, founded South Florida's Freestyle Fighting Academy (FFA) in 2001, and has trained fighters for the UFC, WEC, Bodogfight, EliteXC, Strikeforce, and dozens of other promotions. He is a writer for the website BlackBeltPsychology.com and is a leading expert in combat mental training.
Anybody that is involved with combat competition has either heard this before or told this to somebody... and it is pure bulls---. Nothing frustrates me more than when a fighter steps into the cage and misinterprets his/her loss for complete failure. I don't blame them, I have been the victim of these misplaced feelings myself... but I was fortunate to have a good coach that picked me up and reframed my mindset so I was able to grow from the experience and become a champion. So what did my coach tell me and what did I do? Let me share with you my perspective on losing.
First of all, there is a difference between losing and being a loser. There is a difference between temporary failure and complete failure. Nobody ever achieves success in a linear straight path of victories... NOBODY. For instance, most people think the path to becoming black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu looks like the diagram below:
White Belt ==> Blue Belt ==> Purple Belt ==> Brown Belt ==> Black Belt
But that is WRONG!!! The path looks more like the diagram below:
Being a success in martial arts is just like being a success in any other field.
The path to success is full of obstacles that are going to pop up along the way... it's never going to be a straight predictable path! The reason most people aren't successful is because the first time they take a step backwards - they quit! The ones who are successful are the ones who stay on the path - no matter how squiggly the path line is! They go backwards, forwards, sideways, in circles, etc. until they get to their goal. Successful people stay the course!
Everybody at some point is going to lose; it is part of the journey to success. However, many of us take these loses wrong and end up feeling like a loser.
Famous American inventor, Thomas Edison, when trying to invent the light bulb, had encountered plenty of failures along the way. It was reported that it took him about 10,000 attempts to invent the light bulb! When he had approached the 9,000 mark, he was asked if he felt like a failure with his endeavor to invent an electric light source, and his response was, "Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp!"
This is a very powerful quote from a proven champion of life... and understand that this isn't a word game - this is his actual perspective on life. For instance, if you have lost five fights in a row, you didn't fail five times - you learned five ways to not win a fight! Sounds funny but the fact is that one most usually learns much more from defeat than from victory. For instance, let's say you have poor takedown defense but have won all of your fights versus kickboxers who have not tried to take you down... you might not make any adjustments to your takedown defense; however, if you fought a strong wrestler in your first fight and he took you down ten times in the fight - I bet you would get to work immediately on your takedown defense.
So if your first five fights were versus bums that had no training and you managed to KO them within sixty seconds without getting hit once... or you had a single match that you lost by being taken down ten times... which taught you more? The five wins or the single loss? For that reason, you should be GRATEFUL for your losses! If your goal is to become world champion, you need to seek perfection, and our losses bring up our weak spots that need reinforcing. Our losses are literally tests. We want the test results - we don't want to be walking around with defects!
When I lost my first eleven matches in a row, my coach kept telling me, "It's OK Marcos, you got to pay your dues..." This is the truth! The greater the barrier of entry - the sweeter the reward. Why is this? Because the harder it is to become successful in a field, the less people that are willing to go through it - which means that when you bust through that threshold, there will be more rewards with less people to share it with!
Most people are not willing to pay the price to become a champion - which is why there can only be one. Most people fall off like ticks on a dog along the way. If you want to be a champion, you will have to "pay your dues" which is the pains of temporary failure.
Now these losses that happen along the way aren't just "paying your dues" but also a motivational force that makes you better! Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Wallid Ismael, famous for being the only man to have ever finished UFC legend Royce Gracie by submission, said, "Losing weakens the weak and strengthens the strong..." This single quote drastically affected my perspective on losing!
Think about it... the weak lose and start questioning themselves... "I suck... maybe I'm too old... I don't have enough time to dedicate to this... I've gotten worse over the years... I need a break from training for a bit..." while the strong get more determined to never lose again and head back to the gym the next day more pumped up and eager to train and overcome that temporary defeat. While they are hitting the bags or drilling their takedowns, they remind themselves of the moment they let victory slip, and it only energizes them to push harder and harder. You need to decide if you are going to be weak or strong. It is that simple.
I remember that when I was wrestling, there were times when a wrestler would lose that he would get off the mat and throw a temper tantrum... yelling, kicking the lockers, punching the walls, etc. My coach, Tirso Valls, would storm in and always say the same thing, "STOP wasting that precious energy! Save it for training!"
He was so darn right! If you start yelling, kicking things, etc., you are letting the energy out! It is best to sit down and bottle it in. Rechannel the frustration into determination... and either let it out that night in a run or save it for the next day's training session and take it out on the bags or in your drilling. I have seen losses completely transform an athlete's work ethic and take them into new levels as a fighter - they were strong - but I've also seen single losses destroy a fighter early in their career - they were weak. Life favors the bold and strong - make it happen!
The last thing I want to say about people who feel the urge to apologize for losing a fight... you owe an apology to NOBODY! It takes GUTS to step onto the competition arena, President Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Every competitor that steps up to the plate has my respect - win, lose, or draw. You owe an apology to nobody - it is actually an honor to be around such individuals. This applies for LIFE... not just fights... the competitions of life are when people step up to challenges that most people wouldn't dare because of the risk of "losing" and if you step up to the plate and lose... again, you owe no apologies.
I can keep on going on this topic but we’ll stop here for now. Come back to the UG and stay tuned for my next article! If you would like to learn more, you can visit my site at www.BlackBeltPsychology.com