In the small college town of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, avid fight fans have few venue options where they can get their fix for UFC action. This means good things for Tailgates Sports Bar as well as fans that don't mind taking in the fights shoulder to shoulder with their fellow fanatics. Even better, Tailgates is known to welcome UFC fighters, both current and retired, to enjoy the fights right along side the fans. This past Saturday for UFC 148 it was retired UFC fighter Chris Lytle who made an appearance on behalf of his sponsor, Anheiser Busch. Beer in hand and sporting a UFC t-shirt, Lytle may have gone unnoticed by the casual fight fan and blended right in with the rest of the crowd. However it was the seasoned to hardcore fans that targeted him to chat about the night's fights, give him praise on his career, or in my case, to ask a few questions regarding his status as a highly successful and happily retired UFC fighter.
Unlike some fighters who jump up a few weight classes between fights or after retirement, Chris Lytle is sitting right around 185, an ideal resting weight for a welterweight that hasn't ruled out taking another fight.
"If the UFC gave you two, maybe three months' notice before a fight, would you take it?"
Before the question was even finished, his facial expression had already answered it for me. He elaborated- "If they gave me two, three weeks I'd do it".
This would allow him to satisfy his itch to fight again without taking him away from his family for a lengthy training camp.
"If you had the chance to fight anybody today, who would be your top three choices and why?"
Lytle gave this question some thought. After a few seconds, he counted them out one by one on his fingers.
"Carlos Condit, Jake Ellenberger, and Nick Diaz." Not at all surprised by his response, I asked him to elaborate. "I wanna fight guys that will one day be champion. I wanna fight guys that come to fight." The mentioning of Nick Diaz was especially interesting considering the two fought in the IFC in 2002 in which Lytle lost a split decision. When asked if a rematch was part of his motive for picking him, Lytle was all nods.
"Now that's gonna be a fight!"
On the subject of guys that come to fight, it seemed pertinent to ask about his success with a brawling style which tends to expose fighters to KO's, especially later in their careers.
"I learned how to hit guys, hard, without getting hit."
Although Lytle remains one of the most exciting fighters to have ever stepped foot in the Octagon, he did not always fight with the unrelenting, almost reckless aggression we got used to seeing later in his career. For instance, Lytle put up one of his more conservative fights in his first fight against Matt Serra and ended up losing by way of split decision.
"The [first] Matt Serra fight changed things for me." Having won The Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale, Serra went on to stun the world by finishing Georges Saint Pierre in round one of UFC 69 in Houston, Texas. He went on describing his efforts to step up the aggression while not leaving himself open after the Serra fight.
Although he lost to the occasional decision in his subsequent fights, Lytle went on to win a record ten "Fight Night" bonuses out of his next fourteen fights thus cementing him as one of the most entertaining fighters to ever swing in the octagon.
His always engaging fighting style, fan-friendly attitude and his storybook ending to his UFC career combine to make Chris Lylte one of the most beloved UFC fighters ever. As great as his career and exit from said career was, the fight fan in me definitely hopes that some unforeseen complication takes a welterweight out of an upcoming fight and Chris Lytle gets the call to save the day.