Smiling Fighters are More Likely to Lose

Even if you aren’t a fan of UFC, you’ve probably seen a pre-fight face-off picture or two. Fighters mug for the cameras after their weigh-in, and researchers have found that those fighters who smile are more likely to lose.

A new study (pdf warning) published in Emotion has found that not only are fighters who smiled more intensely in their pre-fight picture more likely to lose, they’re more likely to be knocked out, hit more times, and more likely to be wrestled to the ground. By contrast, fighters who kept a neutral expression were more likely to win by knock-out or submission.

To conduct the study, researchers had four non-expert participants ignorant of the study’s aims analyse the faces of 152 fighters in seventy-six face-offs, rating the presence and intensity of fighter’s smiles. Researchers then compared these results with the actual fight records.

However, when it comes to explaining the results, researchers are in the dark. It’s possible that the lesser fighter is exhibiting subconscious submissive behaviour, or it’s possible that a non-smiling fighter reads his opponents behaviour as weakness and is therefore more aggressive. Whatever the case, if you’re betting on the fight card, maybe skip the guy channelling George Foreman the grill pitchman, and go with the one channeling George Foreman the boxer.

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