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‘Lights Out’ for Chris Lytle: A Farewell Letter to a Fighter’s Fighter

By Jared “DangadaDang” Jones

When asked to describe his career in his final post-fight interview following his submission victory over Dan Hardy, Chris Lytle summed up more than a decade’s worth of sport-defining battles with one word — “exciting.” And how appropriate a sign-off it was for the soft spoken, hard swinging Indiana born fighter. Over the course of 54 fights, 20 of which took place under the bright lights of the UFC, Lytle never once let a loss, an opponent, or a chance at title contention stop him from entertaining his audience.

In the fight game, both fighters and fans often look at success with tunnel vision, believing that the belt around one’s waist alone defines it. But even with the greatest champions, we sometimes find ourselves questioning their willingness to take big risks for the relatively small reward of the fans’ respect. And though he never donned UFC gold, it goes without saying that “Lights Out” was never one to take the easy road to victory. From his legendary slugfests with Paul Kelly, Thiago Alves, and Marcus Davis to his impressive and creative submission victories over Matt Brown, Brian Foster, and Jason Gilliam, Lytle always put the fans’ delight before his own, throwing caution, his health, and perhaps his better judgment to the wind in order to ensure that we all got our money’s worth. And his final battle was no exception; though he had a clear grappling advantage over Hardy, Lytle opted to slug it out with the dangerous striker, choosing to end the fight by submission only when prompted to by Hardy himself.

Even as a borderline robot when it comes to displays of emotion, I couldn’t help but find myself a little choked up when I found out that Lytle was walking away from a sport I so dearly love. Because “Lights Out” in a way represented the kind of everyman that not only reminds us of but inspires the incredible silver screen stories like Rocky that we find ourselves watching over and over again. But to group him with those mythical Hollywood creations would almost be an insult to a man who is not only a hero inside the cage, but an even greater one on the outside.

A father of four and full-time fireman, Lytle has built his career through a tremendous amount of sacrifice, and perhaps therein lies his readiness to go to war without so much as batting an eye. And for his sacrifice, not only were the fans repeatedly rewarded, but Lytle was as well. The man has received a record 10 UFC bonuses in his past 13 fights, including six Fight of the Night performances despite only headlining one of those shows, his bout this past Sunday. (His bonus total would at least be 11 if not for a certain someone deciding to display something other than a series of rapid fire hammer fists, but I’m getting away from the point). In a sport that so often baffles us, it is comforting to know that good guys like Lytle — who has never had a bad thing to say about any opponent in over ten years worth of competition — do occasionally reap the rewards.

Holding true to his character, Chris Lytle has decided to walk away from the sport he loves on his own terms, not out of necessity, but out of love for his family. There is no doubt in any of our minds that Lytle easily had a couple more good years left in him, but the fact that he is going out without ever being knocked out or submitted, and on an impressive win nonetheless, just goes to prove what kind of person he is, both as a fighter and as a man. Lytle has stated that in addition to devoting himself full-time to his family he is also looking into a run at the state legislature, and though history is against him, we all know that he won’t go down without a fight. A bloody, brutal fight.

So if this is truly the end of the road for Mr. Lytle, as one of your biggest fans I would just like to say on behalf of the MMA community, thank you. Thank you for all the beautiful memories. You are the epitome of what most fighters wish they could be, and if there’s any justice in the world, a future spot in the UFC Hall of Fame surely awaits you.

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Under Banga- August 17, 2011 at 5:18 am
Thanks for the memories Chris ....
XENOPHON- August 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm
In honesty, to the amazement of my squeeze and her rotten kid(s) in the room at the time, I also applauded.
Unfortunately, part of the applause was over what I thought at the time to be Hardys's party for - going home.
I think the "Outlaw" should start thinking about borrowing a page from that cat needs 9 lives.
Waldizzle- August 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm
When Lytle won, I deadset stood up and applauded, albeit at the TV. Lytle didn't win titles, didn't have that great of a record but he left it all in the cage, every time.
Gobbleston- August 16, 2011 at 10:09 am
Maybe it's just wishful thinking as a big fan, but I can't help notice that Lytle keeps saying "right now" to his family needing him more than he needs the sport. It makes me wonder if something comes along that really intrigues him, and he's in a good position to have a solid block for training, (summer time? Kids lounging around doing jack shit? Feeling the "itch" like a coke addict?) he might come back once in a while to put on the shows we all love him to put on.
XENOPHON- August 16, 2011 at 9:37 am
@Zee German
Yes, Jared writes well. And I have an affinity for German's and Scandinavian's, my people are from Friesland (Fryslân).

Lytle in or out of the ring is a stand-up cat. Yet, placing him into the Hall of Fame will take some more convincing for most.
He may have the fan base of local and state voters, plus all the fire and police behind him, but he is not naturally slick like a politician and may get eaten up and spit out during an election.
If Chris can get his ass elected in State legislature without committing a crime, then that would surely dethrone Sonnen.
You said: "Lytle (sic) doesn’t need scare tactics or big words, he’s just happy to be in the cage and fight."
Your right...and regardless if you like it or not, that's how a simpleton thinks. One wonders that as he mastered the fight game with tenure, how much higher would he have risen if he only understood the basics of the "psych-game?"
Sure he scores an "A" for determination inside and outside the ring, but when it comes to intimidation he gets a "D-".
Winning is all about the mind, the moment you sense the other man's mind is weaker or has been caused to weaken, you win.
This is where Lytle needs to focus moving forward.
XENOPHON- August 16, 2011 at 8:36 am

You tell us what's more stupid?
Evan Tanner actually fought in multiple weight classes insider the UFC, and held title in both the UFC and many other organizations...with no mention.
The UFC placing a dead drunk who never fought in the UFC (with or without his face-paint) into their chessy Hall of Fame?
Ironic that a documentary about Tanner's life, travels, and philosophy is in the works from Tapout Films!
Ask Bas Rutten what he thinks, and then get back to me smart ass!
The Fresh One- August 16, 2011 at 7:08 am
Good article. Not the goat, but certainly really good. Anyone who has 20 fights in the UFC is worthy of their HoF if you ask me.
Socal Tot- August 16, 2011 at 6:01 am
Red Baron should read the article again. Nice tribute to Lights out. He was always that "every man" that you were happy to see on the card, and pleasantly surprised with his performance by the end of it.
Red Baron- August 16, 2011 at 3:55 am
See, this is why I've tried to stay away from these boards. Too many guys who've taken too many kicks to the head and their brains no longer function beyond just breathing and eating.

"Ltyle never was a contender for a title." Sheesh, you embarass yourself. The guy is a winner in every sense of the word. He chose to go out a winner rather than linger for a few more paychecks, a la Wandy, and Ken Shamrock.

There's more to the measure of a man than just MMA afterall.
Zee German- August 16, 2011 at 3:10 am
Like @Payday said: If Lytle was on the card, the card was worth buying – you know you were going to see a FIGHT. He is the kind of fighter (and person) you don't see around too often anymore. Doesn't need scare tactics or big words, he's just happy to be in the cage and fight. Obviously I'm a huge Lytle Fan and I wish him nothing but the best in the future. You will absolutely be missed, Sir. Thanks a lot. (Great piece, by the way, Jared.)
RwilsonR- August 15, 2011 at 11:31 pm
Congratulations XENO. You finally found a Wikipedia page with info relevant to your point. A stupid point, but at least it was on topic this time. Kudos.
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Todd M- August 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm
1jackal, Go fuck Yourself, Shit everyones entitled to their opinion but I will never understand why people have to run their mouth at moments like this. This thread is about respect for a legend, yes a legend, not some contrarian who wants to be controversial. Lytle has been relevant since before Zuffa bought the UFC and always put on the best fights. His scraps with Lawler, Alves, Burns, Serra 2 and last nights extravaganza are some of my favourite fights in the octagon, not to mention his countless others. I would argue Lytle is just as deserving of a Hall of fame spot as Mark Coleman or Ken Shamrock. Great article Dangadang
TIME_TRAVELER_FROM_THE_FUTURE- August 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm
"Lights Out" Lytle will always be remembered as a great in MMA.

It doesn't matter that he never held a belt, he ALWAYS put on a great fight. He fought because he loved it, and it showed. 20 years from now when ESPN is looking back at MMA we can only hope they give him a rightful place among those who made this sport great.
XENOPHON- August 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm
I take it all back. If Charles Lewis Jr. can make into the UFC's Hall of Fame, anyone can.
XENOPHON- August 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Lytle towed the party line, but that was about it. Kimbo will get in the HoF before Chris does (BIG GRIN)
mDino- August 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm
it honestly looked like dan hardy wasn't even trying to knock him out. he was holding back
RwilsonR- August 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm
No surprise that I agree. I said HOF during the live blog, and of course, I still feel that way. Sometimes HOF entrants don't necessarily need to wear gold, win a pennant, or wear a super bowl ring. Sometimes they bring something unique and immeasurable to a sport, and deserve to be recognized for it. Sometimes they are simply known for a special record, or they simply define the things we love about the sport, or even help build and expand the sport by building a dedicated fan base. Lytle may not have ever worn a belt or fought for a title, but he deserves recognition amongst those who have done the most for this sport.
He'll, if basketball will elect someone to their HOF for assists, I think most bonuses is as good a record as any to qualify Lytle in this sport.
ExpectJesusBro- August 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm
great artical sir. I applaud you.
UFC Hall of fame? of course!
MMA hall of fame yes, on shear number of win bonuses!
Catalyst8487- August 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm
Jackal makes a point actually..... Kinda. If we were considering the MMA HoF, then Lytle should not be considered. But given we are speaking of the UFC HoF, there is no good reason not to immediately include him.

UFC HoF includes Mask who never fought in the ring. The current HoF includes people that entertained to the fullest and Lytle definetely did that.
nesbitt- August 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm
Good article, but i will say that he did at least once let title contention get iin the way of entertainment, see tuf finale vs serra.
Payday- August 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm
1Jackal obviously felt that was far too long of an article to actually read.

Personally I'll miss Lights Out. If he was on the card it was worth buying - you know you were going to see a FIGHT, not some lay and pray bullshit. Glad he went out on a win.
DangadaDang- August 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm
1Jackal Says:
Mon, 08/15/11 - 02:25

was never a big fan of lytle. i know he is a good guy and had some good fights. but lets not forget, what did he do that was so great?

See above article.
1Jackal- August 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm
was never a big fan of lytle. i know he is a good guy and had some good fights. but lets not forget, what did he do that was so great? he never fought for the title, he was never even considered to be title contender-ship worthy. he never was never ranked in the top 10. and on his last fight he beat a guy that is on a 4 fight losing streak. big deal, and some how they made it to the main event of the card.
but he is a class act and an all around good guy
Strife- August 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm
3rd recommendation to the hall of fame.

Lytle truly cared about entertaining the fans and not just winning. I wish more people would adopt this style. Chris, I sir salute you.