Ultimate Fighting Championship
heavyweight champ Stipe
is famous for competing as a mixed martial artist while
working full-time as a firefighter. Of course, he was not the
first; years before Miocic was even fighting professionally, there
was Chris

“The whole time I was in the UFC competing I was a full-time
firefighter,” Lytle told

Now, the man who is entering his seventeenth year serving his
community as an active firefighter looks to blaze a new path in
combat sports as a bare-knuckle fighting competitor. With one fight
already under his belt, Lytle will make his stateside debut at Bare
Knuckle Fighting Championship’s Aug. 25 card at the Mississippi
Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi.

When Lytle chose to walk away from fighting in 2011, it wasn’t
because his best days were behind him. On the contrary, he was 5-1
in his last six UFC bouts, with wins over Dan Hardy,
and UFC Hall-of-Famer Matt Serra.
However, he worried that his full-time dedication to the UFC and
the fire department left his family neglected.

“I wasn’t really home a lot, I wasn’t spending much time with my
kids,” Lytle said.

Lytle has not fought professionally in MMA or any other combat
sport in seven years. For a fighter with 15 professional boxing
bouts and 54 MMA fights over a 20-year combat sports career, it can
be hard to fill the competitive void. In retirement, he has tried
to keep busy. In addition to his firefighting job, Lytle also
oversees the Chris Lytle Foundation, whose mission is to promote
anti-bullying campaigns at schools and in local communities. In
2012, he ran in the Republican primary for the Indiana State
Senate’s 28th district. The bid was unsuccessful, but Lytle feels
he learned a lot from the experience, not all of it good.

“I went into [politics] very naïve,” he said. Lytle — who
considers himself fiscally conservative but socially liberal —
felt he was viewed as a rebel by the party establishment in his

“They want yes men to go in [the state senate] and just follow the
agenda,” Lytle said. “They could tell right away that was not
really my plan.”

Lytle maintains he was motivated to run by a genuine desire to
improve his community, a motivation he feels many of the
politicians in office at the time didn’t share.

“It was very disheartening,” he said of the political process. “I
think those [politicians] in those positions…it’s not about trying
to do what’s best for the people.”

Although Lytle did think on occasion about returning to MMA, he
doesn’t miss the brutal training regimen of an MMA fighter.

”I love the sport of MMA, but it would be too tough on me and my
body [to have returned],” Lytle said. Lytle also maintains that
fighters coming out of retirement often experience disappointing

“From what I’ve noticed,” Lytle said, “When you come out of
retirement after several years, typically it doesn’t go real well,”
he says.

Even though a return to MMA was out of the question, Lytle remained
interested in competing again in some fashion. Then, last year, he
stumbled upon a Facebook post of his friend, fellow UFC veteran
, taking part in a bare-knuckle boxing fight. At first,
Lytle was shocked and dismayed.

“I remember thinking, ‘What is wrong with Joe, why would he do
that?’” Lytle said. It didn’t take long for his mind to start to
change, though.

“As soon as I got done watching it I said, ‘I’d kind of like to do
that’,” Lytle said. He was surprised at the level of technique and
strategy displayed in the bout, which he had expected to resemble a
game of human Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.

“It was much more measured and more calculated than I thought it
would be,” he said. “More than [even] regular boxing.”

Lytle made his debut in January in the United Kingdom’s Bare
Knuckle Boxing, winning by third-round technical knockout. The
experience left him with an even greater appreciation for the
technical subtlety involved.

“When you punch you have to be very careful, first of all, with the
placement,” Lytle said. “If you punch a guy on the top of the head
you’re going to break your hand.”

Lytle believes that since bare-knuckle fighters cannot simply throw
punches recklessly, the resulting careful, measured style helps
reduce the amount of head trauma they give and receive.

“Punching without a glove on — I’ve done that before — it’s a lot
less extreme [than punching with gloves],” he says.

Another aspect that appeals to Lytle is that he finds boxing
training less taxing on his body, an important consideration for
man who turns 44 days before the fight.

“I keep telling people; to do a boxing match is infinitely easier
in my opinion,” he said. “You go in [the gym], you jump rope, you
hit the mitts, maybe spar a little bit and that’s it.”

While Lytle is excited about this new chapter in his fight career,
he admits his friends and family do not share his enthusiasm.

“Most of them said ‘I thought you were done with this,’” Lytle
said. “[They] worry about me. I get their reservations, [but] it’s
hard, you have these competitive juices. There’s something about a
fight, [going] through a two month camp and goal.”

Lytle sees potential for bare-knuckle boxing as a sport as well as
for himself as a competitor, and claims his BKFC bout will not be a
one-and-done thing.

“I would like to have at least a fight or two and see what I think
about it,” he said. “I feel like this sport actually has a little
bit of a future. I think [25] years ago when the UFC first came
out, it had this kind of taboo [vibe] of what you’re not supposed
to do. I think this can grab that.”