Even with a record setting 10 post-fight bonuses, Chris “Lights Out” Lytle (38-18-5) is relatively obscure to casual fans. In a division that boasts the likes of Georges St. Pierre, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and many others Chris Lytle is often overlooked in terms of UFC marketing and therefore escapes the memory of many casual fans. So when Chris Lytle choked out Dan Hardy and announced his retirement to an ecstatic crowd, many fans probably shrugged their shoulders and went to bed.
True fans, however, shed a few tears.
The notoriously picky fans of sports are always looking for that ONE fighter. The fighter whom they can relate to, who manages to excite them without seeming other worldly, who never makes them regret a fight. It’s harder than you may think. Anderson Silva can’t speak English worth a damn, GSP’s fights are like watching paint dry, and it’s hard to root for heavyweights who could eat your children for breakfast. Even Brian Stann, the well spoken military veteran who has finished his last 3 opponents, is a little hard to relate to simply because he’s a war hero whose feats aren’t feasible for most citizens. Fans had long thought that would have to compromise in order to relate to these mixed martial artists.
The truth was, that mixed martial artist had always existed; his name is Chris Lytle.
At 5′ 11″ 170 lbs, he’s a guy that if you passed on the streets of his native Indiana you wouldn’t bother to look twice at. He and his wife have four children, and he works full time as a fire fighter while considering running for state representative next year. He’s a guy that if you met in a bar, you’d probably end up drinking half your body weight in beer and laughing so hard you’d piss yourself. Which makes it all the more special that he’s one of the most exciting fighters in the history of the UFC.
Since his loss to Matt Serra in the Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale in 2006, he won 10 fight bonuses in 14 professional fights which totals to over half a million dollars. When interviewed after his knockout of Kyle Bradley, Lytle stated in so many words that his ultimate goal was to excite the fans instead of worrying about winning. Think about how dangerous that is.
Chuck Liddell, Jens Pulver, and Wanderlei Silva had this philosophy with their fighting and you know what happened to them? Their chins are now so weak that you could fling a ping pong ball at their face and you’d have a 20% chance of putting them in a coma. The idea of “scrap first, think later” is entertaining but it has cost so may fighters their careers that it’s never considered wise.
Yet here Chris Lytle is . . . after going toe to toe in slugfests with power punchers such as Thiago Alves, Marcus Davis and Matt Serra. He’s a father and a fireman who has proven that even though he’ll never be a poster boy for the UFC, he’ll be etched into the minds of anyone who has watched him fight. More than his dedication to his fans, however, is the way Chris Lytle went out.
In the fight game, too many legends retire when they have no choice. Look at Chuck Liddell, whom Dana White forced into retirement before his consecutive knockout losses could cause permanent damage. Look at Randy Couture, whose two retirements coincided with two devastating knockout losses. Most recent is Matt Hamill, who was absolutely mauled by Alexander Gustafsson and walked away from the sport. Many fighters claim that they have nothing to prove in the sport or that they’ve grown tired of it, but it’s hard to believe when they make the decision with the back of their head resting on the canvas. Chris Lytle claimed the same thing, that he wanted to step away from the sport and spend more time with his family, whom he felt he was neglecting . . . after his upset loss to Brian Ebersole.
But just in case you didn’t believe him, he went out and out-slugged Dan Hardy . . . who slugged his way to a title shot against Georges St. Pierre in 2010. He sunk in the guillotine after a dramatic back and forth fight and then delivered a speech of thanks with two of his children at his side. Like I said before, many casual fans won’t appreciate what I’m writing right now. For those of you to whom MMA is just as viable a sport as football or basketball, you understand what I understand.
The UFC has suffered a great loss.