Stereotypes are difficult to overcome because often times, a good number of the stereotyped personify the stereotype. To the untrained eye, mixed martial artists are little more than shirtless barbarians who fight in a cage and beat each other to a pulp.
Anybody still holding that view in 2009 should have a conversation with Chris Lytle.
The man known to most of the MMA community as “Lights Out” is far from your typical fighter. While away from the Octagon, the Indianapolis born, father of four is a full time fire fighter. Fighting full time wears on the body; and even with the added pressure of saving lives for a living, Lytle is relaxed. He answers the phone as if he’s speaking to an old friend, instead of just another reporter in what can be an endless cycle of interviews before a fight. And though he’s less than a week out from a big fight at UFC 93, Lytle is calm and collected.
When the UFC ventures across the pond to Dublin, Ireland, Lytle will be matched up with a good friend, “The Irish Hand Grenade,” Marcus Davis. On paper, the bout looks to be an all out slug fest, since both men like to keep their fights standing. Though Lytle and Davis will look like gladiators when the cage door slams shut, both men hold a great respect for the other outside of combat. “We’ve done things in the past together,” Lytle says of his opponent. “Autograph signings and stuff like that.”
While Joe Silva, UFC match maker extraordinaire can take credit for the bulk of the organization’s stellar matchups, the decision to put Lytle and Davis together surprisingly came from Lytle and Davis.
“We figured they’d have us fight sometime, but it never happened. We talked about it and said ‘since they’re not making it happen, we’ll make it happen.’” The pair became impatient at the inaction of the powers that be and conspired to make the match happen. At UFC 89, both men emerged victorious in their respective bouts and both called the other out during post fight interviews.
It turns out, the UFC was listening.
“Within a week they were talking about [making the match],” he said.
Despite boasting a 36-16-4 record, the 34-year-old’s road to glory in the world’s best known promotion has been checkered and stands at 8-8. In 2006, Lytle fell short of becoming The Ultimate Fighter on season four of the reality show. After advancing to the finals, he lost a hard fought split decision to former welterweight champion Matt Serra. Looking back on the experience, Lytle is thankful that he was in the infamous fighter house with other professionals. Had he been paired with today’s young guns, we may have seen a highlight reel knockout occur outside the Octagon.
“It’s night and day,” he said of his experience in comparison to what he’s seen in recent years. “I couldn’t be on now. I was really lucky when I was on. Everybody I was on was already an established professional. We were a little older and more mature.”
Lytle admits that the crew of seasoned veterans he shared a house with did play jokes on each other, but concedes that the pranks Spike TV viewers are treated to these days far exceed anything that happened during his tenure.
“We kinda messed around and played jokes, but we didn’t have anybody on there that was just an absolute idiot. I’d go nuts.”