Exclusive Interview: Chris "Lights Out" Lytle

By Jeff "State Of The Game" Young


Exclusive Interview: Chris "Lights Out" Lytle

This year a trend was starting to develop in the world of boxing. It is something that has been going on for sometime, but it seems that this was the year the MMA fighters began to make a few headlines in the world of boxing. It has been known for some time that MMA fighters have had to become more rounded in order just to remain competitive in their sport. No longer can a MMA fighter that has ground skills rely on just that aspect, the ones that have great stand-up has to learn the ground game and vice versa. What better way to do this than to box. Boxing after all is a part of the MMA concept, but some of these fighters have taken this one step further. Fighters such as Laverne Clark, Tra Telligman, and others have gone out and tried their hands at professional boxing without much success, and others have followed. This year seemed to take a different turn as these athletes have now entered into the sport and are starting to find success. Jens Pulver is on of these fighters that brought attention to the sport of MMA when he fought on ESPN and Teddy Atlas made some very favorable comments about the sport and what it does for his experience in the ring. Chris "Lights Out" Lytle is another fighter that is starting to make a move in the sport of boxing. A MMA veteran that has been in with some of the biggest names around his division, Lytle has now improved to a 12-1-1 6 KO's mark in boxing. He has fought some of the names that test young fighters and he has past the tests thus far. Boxingtalk had the opportunity to speak with Chris a few days ago as he discussed his future, his career, and what it takes to survive in both sports.

SOG: Chris, how is everything going?

Chris Lytle: Things are going real good right now. I am feeling good and I am actually getting time to do a little bit of training without having a fight like a month away. I have time to train without spending that time just preparing for the fight. I am trying to take things easy and work on some things.

SOG: Your boxing record is now 12-1-1 6 KO's, and on one site your MMA record is listed as 16-10-4.

CL:  That is actually not correct. I have had a lot more fights then that (MMA fights). That is what it says on the computer. It actually lists my first fight as being in Japan and they usually do not send you over there for your first fight. I fought in little events and tournaments, smaller shows. I have never been one that has worried about what these people have my record at as I have never really looked at my record. I think for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) when they counted all my stuff it came up like 30-10-4 or something like that.

SOG: Do you feel that in MMA people do not pay that much attention to records as there are so many variables that can end the fight and anyone can beat anyone at anytime, where as in boxing your record is looked at more because it is one of the things that everything is based on as far as your rankings.

CL: Completely. I think people realize in MMA it is a lot easier for anybody to beat anybody. In boxing, I think usually if the same guys fought each other the same guy is going to win 8 or 9 out of 10 times. MMA could be 5-5 you know because there are so many possibilities to win a no holds barred fight for some one that is not as skilled as the other guy. There are just so many different things that can happen.

SOG: I know you said that you watched the fights Saturday night, I thought that Joppy did well for four rounds and then in the fifth after the knockdown, Joppy went into survival mode.

CL: Yes, four rounds. That is what I though too. I mean, was it just me or was it like that Oliver McCall fight when he freaked out against Lennox Lewis in the rematch. Would not punch or anything. It was not to that extent, but I was like man what is Joppy doing. He was walking around, grabbing the ropes. It was not like he was winning the fight or anything, he was getting killed.

SOG: At one point I thought, OK, Joppy has seen Jermain tire in the later rounds before and maybe he thinks if he can get Jermain to chase him he can tire him out, but the problem with that thought was that Joppy was not throwing any punches to make Jermain work to tire him out.

CL:  Exactly. I have seen Joppy fight and I have seen Taylor fight and it did not turn out like I was expecting for the fight. I thought Jermain Taylor did a lot better then he usually does. He seemed to open up more. He did not just sit there and jab, he kind of came after him and maybe that was because Joppy came right at him to start the fight. Joppy actually looked good in the first few rounds, but I thought that Jermain looked pretty solid technically. It was an interesting fight.

SOG: The reason I bring up Jermain is because if you continue with your boxing career and you continue to have success, these are guys that are around your weight range. (Note: Lytle weighs 170)

CL: Yeah. That would be a tough fight right there. You know I would love to be up at that caliber at some point, but I have been boxing for only about 2 1/2 years while these guys have 10 or more years of boxing experience, my skill level is definitely not there right now, but that is my goal to improve.

SOG: In your last fight you won a unanimous decision against a tough veteran Verdell Smith who has been in there with everyone. Did that boost your confidence any?

CL:  Not really, because I have been stepping up lately in my fights. When I first started I was facing guys that I did not think were all that tough, but they did have more experience then me and I was winning a lot of those by early knockouts and I think that the people training me kind of figured out that I was not learning anything in those fights, just that I could take out these guys that were not that good. Then they started giving me guys that have fought a lot of people. I fought Reggie Strickland, who has fought everybody, I fought Jonathon Corn who has fought a lot of people. These guys do not get knocked out, because if they do the do not get to fight in two weeks like they do. I have learned more in those fights then I did early on. I mean if you get in there and go to the eighth round you are going to learn to fight a lot better so I feel that I am picking up things from these guys as they all have these crafty things that they do. Whether it is how they work their uppercut or whatever it is. I feel good that I go in there and win these fights convincingly and I try to pick up one or two things from them. I remember the first time I went to the eighth round I was smothering a lot of my punches and staying in there trying to throw real hard punches and I learned how to step back a little and throw those punches at the right time instead of just being on top of the guy.

I was watching "Left Hook" Lacy the other night and you know he knocked most of his opponents out and I was noticing things and I said you know I bet he is learning a lot of things from his fight with Omar Sheika. It was a very good learning fight and it reminded me of some of my fights that I had learned in. It was a good tough fight for him and I bet he learned more from it then his third round knockouts. I is a real good thing for him. He was smothering a lot of his punches, you know some of the same things that I have been doing. If you are actually in a fight you do not correct those things.

SOG: Jermain told me one time that if the guy does not want to be knocked out, you generally are not going to knock them out.

CL: Right, if the guy does not open up you are not going to hurt them. They are going to sit back there and block, block, block and only throw a punch when they know you are not in position to counter them. I do not care if you are the hardest puncher out there, if they are not opening up you are not going to get them.

SOG: When you look at the differences between training for MMA and boxing, what are some of the things that you have to do to prepare for each?

CL: Well the only thing about MMA is that it is a lot more time consuming to train. Not only do you have to work on stand-up, but you have to work on ground submissions and takedowns all in the same day where normally you would just work on boxing. There are so many different things you have to work on in MMA that it takes a lot longer and generally at the end of the day, my body is just worn out. I work on stand-up and then I work on the ground and you have different people jumping on you trying to do different things. You have to be well conditioned in several different areas. You might think that if you can do 15 rounds of boxing then you will be find. If you do 15 rounds of boxing and do not work on the ground, you will be tired in two minutes. I think it takes a lot more time to train no holds barred.

In boxing you have to be a little smarter on training. You have to know when to cut back, when not to do as many rounds. When to work on being sharp, when to get 15 rounds of sparring in. I know in one of my fights, the one I lost, it was my third fight in a two week period. I fought a MMA fight, a boxing match, and then another and I do not feel that I had the preparation that I needed to taper off my routine and in the fourth round of that fight, I had nothing left and that has never happened to me. I thought about it and I said you know Chris it may not be smart to take three fight in two weeks. It is amazing, no matter how good of shape you are in if you are not doing the right things it effects you in the ring.

SOG: So are you still getting offers form the UFC?

CL: Yes. we are still in negotiations.

SOG: You have had four fights with the UFC.

CL: Yeah.

SOG: I watched your fight with Robbie Lawler, but my thing with the UFC is that the matches that they do not show on the air, or the preliminary fights that they air later on the card, I cannot remember what was televised and what wasn't.

CL: I have been fortunate as my last three fights have been televised.

SOG: Jens Pulver came from MMA and fought a boxing match on ESPN where Teddy Atlas had a lot of positive things to say about his background. Did that help the image of MMA.

CL: That was a great thing, the only thing is that I wanted was that to be me being the first. I was glad it happened, and Jens beat me to the punch on that, but I have had my opportunities. There was talk before of getting me on ESPN, but it has fallen through for one reason or another, but I think it was a great thing. At some point it may get some more to cross over to MMA.

SOG: The argument always comes up on which one is better. It is always if this guy goes to the UFC or if this guy goes to boxing how would they do? This has been going on ever since the first UFC aired and now you are seeing a lot of MMA fighter go into a boxing ring. Jens is having success, you are having success. Do you feel if a MMA fighter wins a world title in boxing it will send a message to both sports?

CL:  I think it would have everybody step back and say, man these things are not that far apart. This person is able to get to that level it not only says a lot about the person, but it says a lot about being in the ring. It translates over very well. I did not have any amateur fights, but I had 30 NHB fights before I ever stepped in a boxing ring and I came in there and fought a guy with about 50 amateur fights and two pro fights and I got a draw out of it and it shocked a lot of people, but I was thinking that I have been in the ring, I am comfortable in the ring. I am used to people being able to throw punches, kicks, and go for takedowns against me and now to have someone throw two fists at me it makes things a little easier.

SOG: Is it easier defensively?

CL: Yeah, to a point. The only thing I have to worry about is two hands. I do not have to worry about kicks, or some one trying to shoot in on me. It is easier theoretically, but there is so many different ways they can throw those punches, combinations, it is a total different science to it. It is easier to understand but takes a lifetime to master if you know what I mean. It is something that seems easier, but I notice that I do take too many punches, I tend to come straight in and I am working on being slicker. My trainer says you know there is only like five punches you are going to throw, you just have to learn how to do it properly.

SOG: Does it help to have someone like Keith Palmer in your corner?

CL: In my opinion he has been very good for me boxing wise, and at the same time he has done a good job not trying to change me. He does not say you have to duck under this or you have to duck under that. He knows it can mess me up in a NHB match. If I duck too low in MMA I am going to get kicked in the face. Keith says when you have a boxing match we need to work on these things, but he is not trying to change me as a fighter where I am just going to be a one dimensional boxer where it will not translate to NHB. He is unique in that aspect and there are not too many good boxing coaches that have been able to adapt to that change.

That is a mark of a good trainer. Everyone has different attributes, different skills. They are not built to fight the same way. You cannot have everyone in your gym fighting in the same style. If you have a guy that is real aggressive, you have to go with that but you have to say we have to work on this or that. The same way if you have a guy that is real lanky and has a good jab, a good boxer, you cannot make him go out there and be real aggressive. You can teach them, but you cannot change someone totally up. He has been good at that for me.

SOG: Now you have been in there with a lot of talented fighter in MMA, is that one of the reasons the UFC looks at you to bring you back to the shows?

CL: Yeah it is one of the things, and it had hurt me as well as I have fought in Japan and on a lot of other cards where I fought out of my weight class and lost some close decisions like that. I know now that a lot of those guys have turned out to be excellent fights and it has helped me grow in my career. In my fights, I just try to go out there and make it an exciting fight. I am not real sure if they have looked at all my fights or if it is that I go out there and try to mix it up, keep it on the feet and if it goes to the ground work for the submission.

SOG: You have a KO victory over the very tough Aaron Riley as well.

CL: Yeah, that was one of the first fight after I started boxing and I was starting to feel very comfortable on my feet. From the beginning I felt his style was perfect for me. He is not a slick mover, he was going to come right at me and I was going to come right at him and I felt that I was going to beat him to the punch and it worked out that night.

SOG: Now there has been a lot of talk about the Octagon or the Ring. Which do you prefer?

CL: I like the Octagon. I have had a couple of fights in a ring where you get caught up in the ropes and they yell stop and they drag you to the middle and the say start. You are never in the same position. If you are about to roll some one and that happens, you are not going to roll them because you are not in the same position, or if you are about to hit a good move and they stop it, there is a break in the action. I do not care for that, it kind of taints it. When you feel you are in a good position, they take you out of it and I do not care for that.

SOG: Is your schedule free until after Christmas?

CL: I was actually looking for another boxing match for this month. I do not like to sit idle. I like to have something to work towards. I haven't anything lined up right now, so I am taking it easy and learning right now. I will have to train hard for some up coming fights, but right now I pretty open.

SOG: What would you like to say to your fans?

CL: Just thanks for supporting me, and I am going to continue to work on becoming a well rounded fighter where I can stop you on my feet or on the ground, at anytime the fight can be over. I am working towards giving the fans more excitement to where the fans say man don't blink this could be over at any moment. I want people to think of that when they watch me.

SOG: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.

CL: No problem, anytime.


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