You can place fighters in a wide variety of categories. Aside from obvious weight divisions, they can be separated by fighting style, size, shapes or skill level. Those are the tangibles, the more physical attributes that differentiate them from each other, but when it comes to the mentality of a fighter, most of them fall into one of only two categories. They either fight to win or fight to not lose and, more than any physical trait, this is what separates good fighters from great ones.
No matter which category they fall under, it all starts from their emotional core, their personal mentality and inner fighting spirit.
Fighters who fight to not lose are desperate. They are afraid of looking bad, performing poorly, letting people down or simply fear not being good enough. They are typically most concerned about what other people might think and how they appear. They're fighting less for actual personal accomplishment and more for acknowledgement from themselves and others watching. Not losing defines their self-worth.
Fighters who fight to win are focused solely on achievement. Whether it's for themselves, their own glory or to share their victory with others, their goal is simply to succeed. No matter how it looks, what price they have to pay or how they get there, from the start they are willing. They are confident in their skills, know their worth and want to put it on display, for everyone to see.
The first evidence of these two approaches to fighting might be apparent in their ring personae. Fighters who fight to not lose, do just enough without taking too many risks. They fight conservatively, within their comfort zone and don't want to do anything to press the action. They are content to swim in the shallow water where safe ground is just beneath the surface. Going out where the waves are bigger, the water is deeper and they have to actually swim is scary. When they find themselves in this situation, they quickly head towards shore where they can put their feet on a sandy surface again. These are safety-first fighters.
Fighters who fight to win, on the other hand, are willing to lay it on the line. That doesn't mean they take unnecessary risks, but a “calculated gamble” is part of the game for them and they understand that, with risk comes reward. They tend to live a little on that adrenaline rush they get from pressing the action and testing their opponent to see just exactly where his physical and emotional limits might be. They jump out in the deep to tread new waters and kind of thrive on the uncertainty of what lurks just beneath the surface of the waves. These fighters like the power that comes from controlling their own destiny.
Fighters who fight to not lose are reactive. Most every move they make, they expect something in return. They even dread it and fight in response to their opponent's moves, instead of imposing their own will. They are like a cornered cat. They can be dangerous when they feel threatened, but are content to rummage through the garbage and be “in charge” of the ring, without really doing much.
Fighters who fight to win are more like guard dogs, ready, willing and able to defend their territory. Even if an intruder is remotely close, they are ready to engage. Just the sense of a threat, alerts them into action - barking, biting, brawling and bloodshed is inevitable. These types of fighters are looking for a scrap. It is in their genetic make-up, part of what drives them. It's how they build self-worth and purpose for life. From the moment their prey is near, they begin looking for weaknesses and ways they can capitalize on their own strengths.
Then it all plays out in fighting style. Those who fight to not lose are predictable. They take no chance that would require them to leave their comfort zone and try something new, a different variety of punches or a nuance to a move. They would never, ever leave themselves seemingly vulnerable to “bait” their opponent in. They play it safe and stick to what they know and, in those times when they are forced to adapt or respond, they usually go on the defensive. They choose to do less, not more. More wins fights, but less protects what fighting spirit they do have.
On the other hand, those who fight to win, throw bombs, mix up the attack and test their opponents guard to find the weak spot. They don't recklessly allow themselves to get hit or carelessly leave themselves open, but taking one punch to give two, for them, is a worthwhile transaction. Every time their opponent connects you can bet they will retaliate and try to immediately turn the tide back in their favor. They are not only in the fight game to play, but to win. Passing GO and collecting $200 is not enough. They want to own Park Place, Boardwalk and draw every "Get out of jail FREE" card in the deck. This is the game of LIFE, Risk and Battleship all rolled into one and every move, every play is like a roll of the dice for them and they are betting it all on Lucky 7.
These two types of fighters may not be obvious at first glance. They may even be tough to recognize for a round or two, but once the action gets heated, the going gets tough and war begins to be waged, you see their true colors. Fighters who fight to not lose typically get just that. They maintain a certain amount of dignity. They don't do anything spectacular or exciting for the fans. They live to fight another day. They are able to talk about what they did do, complain about how they were robbed, how they were adored by their family or were seen on national TV. So, in that sense, they got what they wanted, they didn't lose, but when the scorecards are read or the final outcome unfolds, they oftentimes come up short. They were so focused on not losing, that they didn't win. You attract what you think about 100 percent of the time. If you're subconscious is constantly at work thinking, "Don't lose. Don't lose. Don't lose." then what is your focus on? On the flip side, if your attention and energy is directed towards winning and winning at all costs, your mind will help you get there. Even if the scorecards read differently in the end, if your goal was to win, isn't laying it all on the line, stretching your boundaries, going beyond your potential, living outside your comfort zone, being able to walk away knowing, really knowing in your heart that you fought to win…isn’t that winning? Whether it’s spiritually, emotionally or physically, fighting to win feels profoundly different than fighting to not lose.
Fighting to not lose is rooted in fear. Fighting to win is born from a desire to succeed. Which type of fighter do you want to watch? Which type of fighter do you want to be?