AFAIK this statistic is not and never has been scientific; it is just a subjective estimate made up from observations of all kinds of unrelated “tussles” and passed on by word or promtotional literature (sports mag interviews).
I believe there might have been some numbers borrowed from a US police report on use of force incidents in the 1980s, which might have been picked up by a few members of the Gracie family who had recently come to the US and started teaching BJJ, or it might have been the other way around… in either case Rorion Gracie would have been the likely “spreader of the word” to or from the police and or public at the time.
He was a great promoter of his family’s grappling art in the US and behind all kinds of filmed challenge matches, instructional tapes, started schools, and started the UFC in the early 90’s. Royce was one of his younger brothers and chosen to represent the family in the cage; Royce didn’t do much talking at the time - that was Rorion’s thing.
At any rate that’s where the statistic got a lot of publicity, but I’ve never seen any legitimate science behind it. Even if it was loosely based on police info, it would be irrelevent. Armed officer’s trying to trip and handcuff drunks outside bars are not fights; they’re trained arrest procedures on subjects who are almost certainly not trying to actually fight them (just resisting).
There are way too many variables such as training, intoxication level, physical condition, environment, numbers, motivation, experience, size difference, gender difference, state of mind, weapons, age, etc. to label every case of forceful physical contact between people as a generic “fight” and treat them the same. Any such proper statistic would need to refer to one of several possible types of fight/confrontation…
demented seniors attacking nurses in retirement homes?
angry mother attacking a stranger trying to abduct her child?
trained professional boxers attacking each other in a ring?
police trying to cuff a man on PCP?
rapists attacking women in dark alleys?
an old catch wrestler teaching a young hoodum a lesson?
This generic stat was almost certainly not researched and calculated based on any kind of acceptible methodology. That doesn’t mean the claim is wrong though, people do indeed often end up stumbling around and ending up on the ground in a variety of different types of fight. But that’s just another observation…