(“I’d rather lose the best fight of my life than win the worst.” Photo courtesy of Sherdog)
On August 14th, Chris Lytle will step into the Octagon for the 20th time in his career, when he squares off against Dan Hardy at the aptly-named UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It will be Lytle’s first-ever headlining bout for the UFC — as well as an opportunity to re-claim the title of “Most Bonus-Worthy Fighter in UFC History.” (He currently shares the honor with Anderson Silva and Joe Lauzon.) We recently spoke to “Lights Out” about some of his most memorable UFC fights, his upcoming scrap against Hardy, his crowd-pleasing style, and the tough lessons he’s learned along the way. Enjoy…
“I’d been fighting for less than two years at the time, but as soon as I started training, I got really involved in watching the UFC. I knew who all the key guys were and I knew it was the pinnacle of the sport, so it was my goal to be there. We only fought two five-minute rounds [at UFC 28], and they’d started having fighters wear gloves not too long before, so it was just way different. Earwood was more of a wrestler — he just tried to hold me down. I don’t think they stood us up once.
Back then I was training with Jason Godsey and a few other guys maybe two or three times a week. Every one of us had real jobs, full-time jobs, and this was something we did for fun. I definitely felt like we were good fighters — Jason was King of Pancrase, and beat a lot of good guys — but we didn’t train every day. And after that fight I kind of realized…I didn’t feel like Earwood was any better of a fighter than me, I just felt like he had a better gameplan than I did, he stuck with it, and he trained more than I did.
He stood real close to the fence, and circled around the outside so he could use the fence to get a takedown and hold me down by it. It was little stuff like that. If I wanted to compete at that level I had to change things up, and I also realized that I had to get better at some aspects of the sport; I had to improve my standup game and my striking skills so that I could capitalize on them if I was going against a good wrestler. If I could land punches every time I stopped the takedown, it’s gonna benefit me, so I started going to a boxing gym, training and competing as a boxer as well.”
The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback
May to November 2006
“I thought it was a great because I’d never had a legitimate training camp where I could train with some of the best people in the world and dedicate my life to it. I’ve always had a full-time job [as a firefighter], and I have a family — I could never take off for an eight-week camp and go to Big Bear or something. Plus, the visibility you’re gonna get from being on TV will help your career, and financially it’ll be a great thing, so when that opportunity came up I definitely thought it was worth it. The only hard part is, my wife had to not have me around for six weeks to take care of the kids, which was a little difficult. Not being around them was hard. But it was a good experience overall.”
On losing in the finale to Matt Serra, who won the UFC welterweight championship in his next fight: “Of course you think, ‘It could have been you,’ but in many ways I feel that if I’d won that fight I’d probably continue to have the mentality of, you know, ‘Just do whatever you have to do to win,’ and that definitely changed. I’d rather lose the best fight of my life than win the worst. Initially I was so upset that I didn’t want to fight anymore. It was a very bad time for me, but I re-created myself, and knowing that I could overcome that loss makes me feel like I’ve grown as a person.”
CHRIS LYTLE vs. JOSH KOSCHECK
UFC 86, 7/5/08
Result: Defeat via unanimous decision
“I’ve been cut open many times in fights, and it doesn’t affect me too much. I’ve been knocked down many times too, and that doesn’t really affect me either. I think it just comes from all the experience I have. There was a lot of blood loss in the Koscheck fight and maybe my legs weren’t quite doing as well as they should have been, but I think it’s just about mental toughness and fighting through it. If you look at the end of that fight, it ended up with me on the feet landing some good punches, still trying to take him out.”
On never being knocked out or submitted in his entire career: “A lot of it is mental toughness, like I said. I have to have the mentality of, ‘There’s no way they’re gonna stop me, I’m not gonna get submitted, I’m gonna fight through it, and I’m not gonna get knocked out.’ But I also believe that you’re born with your chin, in a way. I’m lucky that I have a good chin. Some guys don’t. There’s no way to train for that, and there’s no way to practice it. Fortunately, I have it. I can get hit pretty good and get knocked down, but I don’t go out.”
On the next page: Bonus-collecting, redemption against Matt Serra, falling victim to a bad habit, and the Outlaw.