Chris Lytle knows he's better on the mat than Dan Hardy. He knows he could likely take him down and ground him out, following a template created by Georges St. Pierre and later employed by Anthony Johnson to beat the voluble Brit. But this isn't Chris Lytle's first rodeo - and he knows fighting is about more than just winning.
"I think the UFC has me in here for a reason," Lytle told MMA Nation Senior Editor Luke Thomas. "...Not to put on a boring fight. To put on the most exciting fight possible and that's what I plan on."
Lytle is the UFC's poster boy for exciting fights. He's won eight bonuses from the promotion, including five for fight of the night. Considering those bonuses come with a check for up to $75,000 attached, and you realize Lytle's approach to fighting may, ultimately, be as smart as it is reckless.
For the UFC, it's worth the extra pay outs to have fighters like Lytle on their shows. His appearance on the card essentially serves to guarantee fireworks - but that wasn't always the case. Like with most life altering decisions, there was a catalyst. For Lytle, everything changed one November night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Safe was out. Conservative was out. Lytle was going full speed until somebody dropped.
"It was a conscious decision to change, but it wasn't necessarily to say 'I want to win bonuses.' There was never that intent," Lytle said. "I had a fight in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 4 and I fought Matt Serra. The winner got a title shot against Georges St. Pierre and I went out there, and I'll be honest, I thought 'I don't really care what happens in this fight or if people like it or not. I gotta win. I gotta win. I can't lose this fight.'
"And I went out there and I put on a terrible fight. Boring. I think we both did. We both went out with the same intent - not losing. It was a boring fight and I ended up losing a split decision. It was pretty devastating to me; I didn't get my title shot, I didn't win the show, I didn't get all of my money, and I didn't fight the way I wanted to. And I still lost. I think right then and there I said 'I don't really care as much about trying to get the win. And that's not most important. From now on, if I lose, I'm going to go out there and say 'Hey, I fought the way I should have. No matter what.'"
The extra money has come in handy for Lytle, a family man who's had to disappoint his kids occasionally when making the tough choice about how to spend an extra fifty grand. Instead of a sports car and a McMansion, Lytle has paid off his home, his car, and made investments for the future. It's not sexy, but it is smart. His four kids, however, don't always understand.
"They want to go out and buy a new boat," Lytle said. "I'm always thinking more practical...they're always wanting to do kids' stuff with it and I'm usually thinking Man, we've got to plan for the future.' Paying off my house is good for me. That was fun."
Lytle, who has worked full time as a fire fighter throughout his competitive career, is closing in fast on 40. Still competitive, the soon to be 37 year old fighter isn't thinking about calling it quits just yet. But he's put himself in a position, financially and mentally, where he can make that decision when the time comes.
"I don't think I can really predict it that well. At this point I feel like I'm going from fight to fight. I've had a lot of injuries and I'm definitely one injury away from not fighting anymore. It all depends on how your body feels," Lytle said. "It was interesting, Matt Hamill came out the other day and said he was retiring. He said he just doesn't have that fire anymore. I think that's good. Some people fall in love with other aspects of fighting. The money. The notoriety it brings them and whatnot. And they keep fighting even though they shouldn't. I'm glad to see he was wise enough to say 'I'm done.'"