Few get to leave their profession on their own terms like Chris “Lights Out” Lytle. | Photo: Sherdog.com
If Chris Lytle’s retirement seemed somehow less emotional than other in-cage farewells from recent memory, it was perhaps because Lytle’s send-off was not like most.
The Indiana native appeared every bit a man at peace with his place in the annals of mixed martial arts Sunday after topping Dan Hardy in the main event of UFC Live 5 at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center. According to Lytle, the feeling of tranquility set in as soon as the bell rang.
“I felt just so calm. It was weird. I just felt like nothing really mattered,” said Lytle, 36, at the event’s postfight press conference. “It was just going to be like me going out there, going to the gym and just sparring. I was really up for it.”
Word of his retirement broke Saturday after the 12-year fight veteran handed UFC President Dana White what Lytle termed a “thank you” letter informing the boss of his decision during the official weigh-ins. The turn of events came as a surprise not only due to Lytle’s headlining status on Sunday’s card, but because of his second-half career revival: Prior to being outpointed by fellow vet Brian Ebersole in February, Lytle had won four in a row, including victories over Matt Serra and Matt Brown.
However, Lytle’s recent run of success played an uncommon part in his decision to walk away.
“I’ve never seen anybody leave the sport on good terms, with wins. Everybody goes out when they get knocked out three times in a row,” explained Lytle. “That wasn’t the case. I wanted to be the only guy to ever go out on a good streak, and hopefully I did that.”
Of course, going out on top was not the only consideration. Four weeks prior to the Ebersole loss, Lytle had the torn meniscus in his right knee removed. When it came time to return to training after spending a considerable amount of time at home rehabilitating, “Lights Out” felt an unfamiliar urge.
“Honestly, for the first time ever, I didn’t want go to the gym. I wanted to stay home and spend time with my family. I had to force myself. It’s like, ‘I can’t do it. Dan [Hardy] will beat me to death if I do that.’ I made myself go, but it was tough. When that was going on, I knew that I had no choice. This ain’t the kind of sport that you do if you don’t want to be there, and I felt like that was starting to slip. I knew I had one more in me and that was it,” Lytle said. “[My children] need certain things and maybe I wasn’t giving it to them. I was a little bit too worried about myself and my glory. It puts it into perspective. They need their dad.”
With his dramatic, third-round guillotine-choking of Hardy, Lytle earned both the “Fight of the Night” and “Submission of the Night” bonuses from Sunday’s show for a total of $130,000 extra pay. It was a particularly appropriate way to go for Lytle, who pocketed more than half a million dollars in disclosed UFC bonuses between July 2007 and August 2011, earning a reputation as one of the sport’s preeminent crowd-pleasers. Such was not always the case with Lytle, whose view of fighting changed at the start of his final UFC stint.
“Before, I had the same skill set, I think, but you try to get conservative and try to only throw punches at certain times, try to stay in position. I finally said, ‘I don’t care about that,” Lytle acknowledged. “I’d rather lose a couple close fights, which I have because of it. If I would’ve tried to do little things to get the win, I probably would’ve, but I’ve got some sort of sickness in my head or something that can’t let me do that.
“It sounds stupid to say, but in a way, I said, ‘I don’t care. I’m just trying to finish this fight. If it happens, cool. If not, hey, whatever.’ Some people might say, ‘You should try to win a little bit more,’ but I got to be me. I got to fight the way I want to fight.”