A freshly retired Chris Lytle celebrates the Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night win over Dan Hardy with his family inside the Octagon. Image by Tracy Lee via Yahoo! Sports,
The kind of fighting spirit it takes to make a living getting beaten up every few months normally cannot be extinguished on a whim. It usually takes a few beatings and aggressive convincing from overly worried onlookers.
And sometimes the people in power have to make an executive decision to remove a fighter from competing in the sport he loves. This was not the case with Chris Lytle.
After 12 years in the game, the Indiana firefighter and budding politician made the decision that, at 36-years-old, it was time to step away from his life as a prize fighter and just go back to being good old dad.
He did it his way, going out with a bang by engaging in one last slobberknocker before submitting his opponent in the final round.
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Lytle talks retirement
"I've been fighting since January of 1998," Lytle told MMAjunkie.com. "It's all I know, I think. It's over a third of my life. My kids, that's all they've ever seen – me fighting. It's going to be real weird. I know that, and I know it's going to be very hard for me. What would have been more hard is if I didn't do this."
"I've never really seen anybody leave this sport on good terms, with wins. Everybody leaves when they get knocked out three times in a row. It's like, 'Well, that's it.' That wasn't the case. I wanted to be the only guy to ever go out on a good streak. I feel hopefully I did that.
"I had my knee hurt [this past February], and I had to take a lot of time off. I was at home a lot. When I had to get back in the gym and start training, it was difficult. Honestly, for the first time ever, I didn't want to go to the gym. I wanted to stay home and spend time with my family. I had to force myself and think, 'I can't do it. (UFC president) Dana (White) will beat me to death if I do that. I can't do it.' And I made myself go, but it was tough.
"When that was going on, I knew that I had no choice. If I don't want to be there? This is not the kind of sport (to compete in) if you don't want to be there. I felt like I was starting to slip, so I knew I had one more in me, and that was it."
"Obviously, I didn't get my title. If you're not fighting for the title, you need to reevaluate. I always have wanted that, but I definitely feel it's my time to move on to other things, and I'm going to.
"If I keep trying to go for a title, I'm going to have to change my style at some point and just try to get the win. I can't do that. I can't make myself do that. I won't make myself do that. I'd like to go out on top."
"You just try to get conservative and only throw punches at certain times and try to stay in position. I finally said, 'I don't care about that.' I'd rather lose a couple of close fights, which I have, because of that. If I would have done little things to get the win, I probably would have. But I've got some sort of sickness in my head that makes me do that. I don't know what it is.
"It sounds stupid, but I just said, 'I don't care. I'm trying to finish this fight. If it happens, it's cool. If it doesn't happen, then whatever.' Some people might say, 'You should try to win a little bit more.' But I've got to be me. I've got to fight the way I want to fight."
"I feel like I never really got the lucky break to get me where I needed to go. But I don't believe in luck anyway. I think you just need to make your own luck, and it didn't happen for me. I'm happy with my career, and I know I gave it my all.
"I still have a job at the fire department in Indianapolis. I have a family. I split up my time the best way I knew how to. I didn't ever move away and say, 'I'm going to dedicate my life to fighting.' I said, 'I'm going to do everything.' I love everything I do, and I'm going to do everything I love. I've tried to do that to the best of my ability."
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Lytle today told MMAjunkie.com Radio that the retirement is permanent.
"I didn't want to go out because I had to go out," said Lytle. "I didn't want that to be me.
"I'm not going to change my mind about retiring. It wasn't really a question in my mind (to begin with). I'm fortunate to be in a situation where I'm not in dire need to support myself and my family. If I were, it'd be a different situation. But thankfully, I'm not."
"This is not the kind of sport if you don't want to be there. I felt like I was starting to slip, so I knew I had one more in me, and that was it."
"I would have never really had the time away (from the gym if it weren't for the knee injury and the time at home) to pick up on what all I was missing back at home."
"It's exactly what I wanted for my last fight. I couldn't have asked for a better night than that."
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