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.