Chris Lytle – A Busy Man Finds Time for Serra on Saturday
By Thomas Gerbasi
He coulda been a contender. Chris Lytle, one win away from earning the welterweight championship of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’s fourth season on Saturday night, almost found his way to another reality series, ‘The Contender’, before fate (and weight) stepped in.
“Before I got on the UFC show, I tried out for ‘The Contender’, part two, and they called me back and said ‘Chris, we’re real excited about you, but we’re battling back and forth between two weight classes. If we go with your weight class, we want you to come out.’”
Then word got back to Lytle (13-1-1 with 7 KOs as a pro boxer) that the ‘Contender’ folks were going to head to the welterweight division for their second season, leaving the super middleweight out in the cold, since there was no way he was going to be able to cut to 150 pounds for the show.
But when one door closes, another opens, and Lytle (a card-carrying mixed martial arts vet with a 32-12-4 slate) soon got a call for Spike TV’s show, ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, and the rest is history – or at least will be after Saturday night, when he battles Matt Serra in the welterweight final. On paper, it’s an intriguing battle of a striker with a decent ground game (Lytle) against a ground ace who’s not afraid of a scrap (Serra). Even more interesting is the relationship between the two, with Serra even telling me in a recent interview that Lytle is so nice that if he was a fan he would be rooting for him this weekend.
“That’s just Matt,” he said. “Matt’s a great dude, I’m a real big fan of his, and I like him a lot too. He’s just a funny guy and the life of the party. I actually want both of us to do well, but I just want me to win.”
Serra’s right though. It is impossible not to like the soft-spoken Lytle, one of the good guys of the game and a fighter’s fighter. There’s no bluster, no trash talk, no BS – Lytle trains hard, comes to fight, and always leaves it all in the Octagon. You can’t ask for more than that.
“I never really thought about that before,” he admits. “I never tried to be that type of fighter or tried to present myself in that way. I just try to do that in my life, and I never try to act any different because I’m gonna be on TV or to try and make myself more money because people like the way I act. I’m just gonna go out and act like I normally do. It’s nothing planned. I have a lot of stuff going on in my life besides fighting, so I don’t really have time to think ‘well, should I act like this to achieve this?’ I’m just gonna be me, and whatever happens, happens.”
It’s worked so far, as Lytle has become a favorite of the hardcore MMA fans who appreciate a guy who brings his hardhat and lunch pail to work and does his job with little fanfare. As for his results in the UFC, he’s probably the best 2-4 fighter you’ll find in the welterweight division, and the fact that he was brought in for six fights lets you know that.
But now, it’s a clean slate for everyone on the TUF 4 show, and everything begins on Saturday. For Lytle, a win gets him that ever-elusive title shot against the winner of November 18th’s bout between Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre, both of whom were around during the taping of the show. Lytle has had his eye on his possible opponents.
“Even on the show, when I hadn’t even fought once, I was looking at those guys and thinking how I would fight them – what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses – and I definitely have a game plan on how I would fight each one of those guys,” admitted Lytle.
First though, he has to get through Serra, as well as juggle his roles as a husband, father, and fireman back home in Indiana. It’s no easy task.
“I gotta tell you, it became real hard now,” said Lytle. “Just being on the show let me kinda realize how I need to be training. Before, I never really trained more than once a day. I’m incorporating that into my training now, and it’s really, really difficult for me right now to achieve everything. I’m trying to go to work, trying to spend time with my family, and trying to get my training in. I have absolutely zero time for anything else. My friends ask me to do things and I can’t do anything.”
Winning on Saturday (with a $100,000 cash prize plus a $100,000 Xyience sponsorship deal) can be a life-changing experience though. Has Lytle thought about the day when he can toss the day job aside?
“I thought about it before,” he admits. “I tossed it back and forth in my head, but I’m just in a bad position now – actually, it’s a good problem to have because I really enjoy myself at the fire department too, so it’s not like I go to work every day and I’m bummed out about being there. I’ve got that going on, and it would be tough for me to give that up too. I’m just trying to take it one step at a time, so the best thing for me would to be put in that bad position where I have to choose. (Laughs)”
One thing is certain though, when it comes to fighting, Chris Lytle isn’t going anywhere.
“I don’t know if the word is that I’m addicted to it, but I just love to compete, and there’s nothing I’ve ever found to equal the overall feeling you get after you’ve struggled so much and put so much into something and then come out on top and achieve something,” he said. “Most of the goals you have in your life never become tangible at one point, but this does. You put everything into this one fight that you’re training for, and when you win it, it’s like everything you worked for in your whole life has been successful. It’s a great feeling. So I’m kind of addicted to that feeling.”