OpEd: What’s In a Number? The Ins & Outs of Wins and Losses

A brilliant article came up this past week in the Female Muay Thai Group on Facebook. Muay Thai fighter Emma Thomas of “Under the Ropes” explored the idea of a “fight record” and how those numbers can be deceiving. She made some brilliant points, many that can crossover to other combat sports, and how a lot of journalists, like myself, cover them.

Coming from a journalistic prospective, I use records a lot, as do many sports reporters. I am usually pretty formulaic when it comes to making a fight announcement and that usually contains the fighters’ records and if they are on any certain streak. I also mention some of their notable wins, which enhances how good that individual is. I can’t go into a lot of detail since I don’t have a time to write a complete history of a fighter in each and every post. Nowadays, readers usually like their articles straight and to the point since many don’t have time to read a novel about an upcoming fight.

Thomas was writing from a fighter’s prospective on her article, and notes that a fighter shouldn’t take the number as seriously as what the fight outcome meant; e.g. a measuring stick on who they fought, what they learned, and how they have and can improve. Many fans can learn from this.

Thomas mentioned in the article:

“In the West (The Americas), 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.”

Modafferi
Modafferi

One of the best examples of this is Roxanne Modafferi. As much as Modafferi has lost her past 6 fights, the losses were against some of the toughest in the 125 and 135 division including former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman, and current InvictaFC champion Barb Honchak. Even though she is losing, she still has a legion of fans at her back and is considered a great fighter.

Same can be said of Molly Helsel. Even though she has an 8-13 record, she has put on “Fight of the Night” performances in a good portion of her losses.

Thomas also goes on to talk about the quality of wins. I have know several fighters who have “padded their records” as undefeated fighters in my years of covering WMMA, and many times this does more of a disservice than anything. As a promoter, you may be able to make money off making someone a star, but there is always the risk of someone upsetting the apple cart or fighters being less and less willing to fight just so the “star” can get an easy win. As a fighter, you may feel you aren’t testing yourself and ultimately not feel motivated. Not to mention ranking committees, like them or not, not ranking you due to not fighting high quality opponents.  

As for the losses themselves, they can be deceiving as well. Way too many times I have heard decisions go the wrong way, and even though we may disagree, it still stands as a loss in the record books. There are also sometimes when there are split decisions and the fans are evenly split down the middle on who won.

Haga with Joachim Hansen
Haga with Joachim Hansen

Weight can also be a factor. An example is MMA fighter Celine Haga.  Having gone 1-11 in her first dozen bouts, Haga dropped from 115 to 105. After the drop, she went on a four fight win streak. Even though her record is 5-12 now, it doesn’t reflect her now 4-1 atomweight record.

We should also mentioned in Haga’s only loss at 105, her opponent came in overweight.

Thomas goes to point out other factors, including undisclosed injuries and health factors, but there is always a choice to or to not fight at 100%. Injuries during a fight can also show as a loss, even though they may have been winning (see Miriam Nakamoto versus Lauren Murphy at InvictaFC 7). Emotional states can also be something that factors in.

The point is two or three numbers doesn’t tell a whole story. Most matchmakers worth their muster are aware of this. We also need to keep this in mind as journalists and fans – know that not every win or loss is as it seems, and don’t be so quick to jump off the bandwagon because of one loss.

As for those fighters under .500, there is always hope there if you are willing, able, and you have the mental strength to know you can get better every day. Dropping a weight class wouldn’t hurt either.

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