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Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC. Interview by Elie for MMA SPORTS®

When you’ve racked up so many fight of the nights, submission of the nights and knockout of the night in the UFC, then it’s only fair that you’re given a worthy title. And for this reason, and of course for the exciting fights he has put on over the years... MMA SPORTS awards Chris Lytle, “Number One All-Time Action Fighter in the UFC.

MMA SPORTS: Thank you for taking the time out to do this interview, what have you been doing since retiring?
Chris: I have spent a lot of my time training other fighters and promoting fights. I’ve also been working with Indy Boxing and Grappling, a local Indianapolis gym that is focused on getting kids off the street and into the gym. The thing I’ve been most excited about is my book, “Lights Out on Bullying”, and the anti-bullying movement.

MMA SPORTS: You’ve topped our list as the best all time action fighter in the UFC, how important was it for you to put on good fights, rather than put on a boring fight and win?
Chris: First of all, it is an honor to be considered the best of all time. Putting on those fights was paramount. That was exactly what I wanted to do. I had one fight in my career that I decided I wanted to win at all costs and when that didn’t happen, I decided I was never going to let that happen again. I wanted to win but I would rather lose a great fight then lose a bad one. My goal was for people to see that I was on the card and want to watch it. So that they knew there would be at least one entertaining fight.

MMA SPORTS: Your last fight was in 2011 where you took out Dan Hardy and won submission and fight of the night, how did it feel to end your career on such a high?
Chris: It was amazing to end my career that way. I had already decided and handed in my retirement letter before the fight. You never know how it will end up, but to fight how you want and turn out how you want is stuff you dream about. Fights rarely end the way you want them to. This one exceeded my expectations.

MMA SPORTS: How difficult was it to actually retire from competing in MMA?
Chris: It was very difficult because that had been my life for the last 13 years. It was all I knew and was a part of my life.

MMA SPORTS: What do you miss the most about fighting?
Chris: I miss knowing a definite direction for my life. I am a very goal oriented person. I knew when I was fighting and what I had to do to win. Not too many things are that cut and dry. I knew what I had to do and when I had to do it. I miss that and have had to find other things to replace it.

MMA SPORTS: On the other hand, what do you miss the least?
Chris: I do not miss the overwhelming time commitment that it takes to train. As a father of 4, I had to miss a lot of things in order to train.

MMA SPORTS: Your UFC career dates all the way back to UFC 28 in 2000, how much did the UFC change for you from then till when you retired?
Chris: There was a night and day difference. It’s almost a different sport now. Despite what a lot of people say, the pay was much better when I retired. If you were fighting for money back then you either were not very smart or you were bad at math. When I first started, the attendance was nothing compared to where it is now. The talent has also evolved into legitimate athletes. Back then you were good at one thing and that was what carried some people.

MMA SPORTS: Your MMA career started in 1999, what was the sport like back then?
Chris: When I first started they had no weight classes and head butts were legal. Also, when you told people you were a cage fighter, they looked at you like you ate babies for dinner for a living. They didn’t think it was a real sport.

MMA SPORTS: I’m sure you have fought under crazy circumstances and low budget events, what are interesting some stories when you look back?
Chris: The very first place I fought in looked like something from a movie. It was in the basement of a building; it was dark, and I’m pretty sure there might have been water dripping from the ceiling. We had to hold the cage up when the heavy weights fought because it was falling apart. Every fight had different rules. A lot of the time you didn’t know who your opponent was until you showed up or what the rules would be for that fight. None of those fights are on my “official” record. That was pre-internet day!

MMA SPORTS: You’ve fought in the U.S., Japan, England, Australia and Ireland, any favorites?
Chris: I really enjoyed traveling to those countries and seeing how they live, especially Australia.

MMA SPORTS: You’ve won numerous fight of the night awards, submission of the fight and knockout of the night, which one is most rewarding?
Chris: My last fight of the night and submission of the night was the sweetest one, because I knew it was my last fight. I knew I was going against a great striker and I was going out on my terms. I stood and banged for three rounds and he shot in with a minute left and I was able to submit him. Plus the Harley that I won didn’t suck.

MMA SPORTS: You’ve had some great battles in your career with over 50 MMA fights, which fight is the one you look back on and say, ‘wow that was a great fight’?
Chris: I had a lot of fights I really liked, the obvious ones that everyone loves is the Robbie Lawler & Thiago Alves fights. Maybe one that a lot of people didn’t see was against Nick Diaz. The ones that weren’t title fights or about ranking… it was just two guys wanting to go in there and fight for the true love of the sport.

MMA SPORTS: In such a long career, you were actually never knocked out, only cut stoppages, is that something you were able to train or were you just born with an iron chin?
Chris: I would like to think it was hard work and determination that makes that, but I don’t believe it is. I think it is something you are born with or you aren’t. People ask me a lot why I chose to become a fighter… I tell them all the same thing: I didn’t choose it, it chose me. That’s not to say the training didn’t help. I had always trained for the worst case scenario and I think that helped on the occasions when I got knocked down or hurt. I just kept fighting.

MMA SPORTS: You were also on The Ultimate Fighter TV Series, what was it like to be on a reality show like that?
Chris: It was very different from what most people would think. We were put in a house with 15 other fighters, no TV, no Books, no phones, no place to go but the gym and no contact with anyone besides the other fighters. In many ways it was like being removed from society. Personally, I loved it from the standpoint of that it was the only point in my life I could dedicate full time to training. The rest of my career I was on the Fire Department and spending time with my family.

MMA SPORTS: Looking back, was there anything you would have like to accomplish that you never got to do?
Chris: Absolutely, I would have loved to have been the UFC champion. That being said, I had to try to fight my way… go for broke. I think that the higher people get on that ladder towards the title, they play it safer leading to more boring fights. I wanted to win but I wanted to win exciting fights which makes it very difficult to win that title.

MMA SPORTS: How do you think fighters have changed from when you started till now?
Chris: First of all, they are much better in a few ways. They are more well rounded, but you are also getting the most athletic guys in the world competing like NFL players and world champion wrestlers. Athletes are just better than they used to be. In some ways they have changed to where they are just in it for the money instead of the respect for the sport. You have to take the good with the bad though.

MMA SPORTS: You are involved in a program called Rise up against bullying; tell us a little about that? How it started, why you got involved, how people can help, what its about, etc.?
Chris: A couple of years ago I decided to write a book about anti-bullying. Like I’ve said, I have four children. My youngest son, Jake has Autism and bullying has always been something that’s worried me in regards to him. So I wrote a children’s book called “Lights Out on Bullying”. After writing the book I decided to try and get into schools to discuss what is becoming an epidemic. I’ve spoken all across the country about perseverance and determination, so I decided it was time to start speaking about something that was more important to me personally. I’ve teamed up with a group called Redemption Martial Arts and together we are spreading the Rise Up Against Bullying message. There are so many problems in the world today and this is one that we can solve. If anyone would like more information they can visit our websites: www.lightsoutonbullying.com and www.lightsoutlytle.com. If anyone would like to contact my team at The Chris Lytle Foundation in regards to having me out to speak, my email is chrislightsoutlytle@yahoo.com.

MMA SPORTS: What’s one thing fans don’t know about you?
Chris: I have the world’s largest amount of useless knowledge. I try to stay focused on the political climate and how that is affecting the world today.

MMA SPORTS: What’s the hardest thing about living the life of a fighter?
Chris: It is absolutely the level of commitment and balance of time that it takes, and the fact that nobody else besides other fighters can truly understand. In many ways you feel different from others who don’t get it.

MMA SPORTS: What’s the best thing about the living the life of a fighter?
Chris: All fighters are goal oriented people, the best thing is knowing exactly what your goal is, having a date for that, working towards that goal, and having a night to see if you can accomplish that goal. When you achieve that goal it is a culmination of several months of work and that is one of the best feelings in the world. That feeling of accomplishment is very addictive and you will do whatever you need to do to get that feeling. Even a loss that hurts so badly, that makes that feeling of success even better.

MMA SPORTS: How did you get your nickname ‘Lights Out’?
Chris: I got the name at my first pro boxing match. After my fight, one of the top ranked guys there asked me my name and then said that he’d call me ‘Lights Out’ because he knew I was going to KO a lot of people.

MMA SPORTS: I’m sure you’re still a fan of the sport, what direction would you like to see the sport take?
Chris: I would like to see it go more in the direction of the old Pride rules. I would like to see aggression and trying to finish the fight rewarded. People who always try to seek out a decision lose more then.

 

 
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