Chris “Lights Out” Lytle was known for his durability and heart inside the UFC Octagon. He was no easy fight for anyone.
Lytle, 42, earned Fight of the Night honors six times during his tenure in the UFC. He won the Submission of the Night bonus three times and Knockout of the Night once. He was the first fighter to earn the performance-based incentives in all three categories. The Indiana native retired from combat sports in 2011, but his fighting days didn’t end there.
In the five years since stepping away from mixed martial arts, Lytle has written a children’s book on bullying and started the Chris Lytle Foundation to raise awareness about Autism, suicide, bullying, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. The former UFC welterweight contender travels to high schools all over the country speaking to students.
“For several years, I had been going out and giving speeches on work ethic and whatever, going to schools and talking to football teams and wrestling teams. Finally, I decided that I was going to talk about some things that were important to me,” he said about the beginning of his community service.
Equipped with a highlight video and the status of a former UFC fighter, Lytle said that he’s able to grab the attention of his audience and gain immediate credibility with the impressionable teenagers.
“The thing I realized is when I go to a place and they show a highlight video, no matter what you’re going to talk about, these kids are actually going to listen. They see me as a fighter, and they see the UFC like I’m a professional football, baseball, or basketball player. They tend to listen a little bit more,” he said.
After seeing the potential impact he could make on young lives, the father of four decided to pen a children’s book, Lights Out on Bullying, to accompany his message.
“I decided that I was going to write this book to kind of help drive the point home after I’ve already spoken to them. Even if I’ve been there to speak to them, they can look at that. The message that I’m trying to convey is the same in the book as what I say,” he explained.
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Lytle’s presentations are interactive. He wants his audience to be engaged and fields questions from those in attendance.
“A big part of what I like to do is my question and answer session because I don’t like it where I just go there and tell people what I want them to hear the whole time. I want to hear what’s important to them and what their questions are,” he said.
After the success of his public speaking and interest in joining his effort, Lytle started the Chris Lytle Foundation. The foundation has allowed him to expand his efforts to create change.
“When I created the foundation, it was more than just bullying. To me, bullying is a mentality and a mindset,” said Lytle.
“You have a guy that’s a bully as a kid and never gets corrected. He’s going to grow up and he’s going to be – you might not call him a bully. You might just say that guy is a prick, but it’s kind of the same mentality. It’s that unwanted physical or psychological pressure this person is putting on somebody. We try and do whatever people need us to do to stop that behavior is kind of what our foundation is trying to do.”
Lytle’s activism began when he became a father. He has two sons and two daughters. His youngest child has autism. His concern about his son being bullied was the motivation behind the book.
“I have four kids and my youngest son, his name is Jake, and Jake has autism. It made me hypersensitive and hyperaware. I know my son acts different from a lot of kids. And I can see how other kids, when they’re picked on, how it affects them. The worst of all time is when kids commit suicide based on them being picked on and bullied. I can’t think of a worse thing as a parent, that helpless feeling,” he revealed.
The Chris Lytle Foundation was created partially because Lytle has two daughters. Women are victims of sexual assaults, domestic violence, and rape every day. Lights Out wants to prepare his daughters, and all women, for how to defend themselves in dire circumstances. He teaches women’s self defense classes based on real life situations.
“We talk about rape and domestic abuse. I have two daughters, and there’s a fear there that something negative could happen to them in that way,” he said.
“As a father, one of your biggest fears is when you’re not around. You don’t worry about it when you’re around, but people aren’t around your house 24/7. When they’re on their own, you’d hate to see something happen because you didn’t give them enough advice.”
Fatherhood was the driving force, but Lytle is making a difference in communities far and wide.
“I saw what’s important and what I needed to try and do to make the situation better. I’m not saying that I can always do it, but I promise one thing I can do is try to make it better. If you don’t really try to do something to make it better then you don’t deserve the right to complain when things go wrong, so I’m going to do everything in my control and power to try and make the situation better,” he said.
Lytle’s fight to make the world better has saved at least one life already and changed countless others. Through the efforts of his foundation, a once suicidal girl is alive today.
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“I spoke at a pretty big high school here in Indianapolis. Afterward, someone from my foundation was checking the email and there was a girl who said she was suicidal and wanted to her herself. We continued to talk to them and got them some numbers and continued to talk them down for a while,” Lytle said of the situation.
“We’ve talked to this person several times and she was just thanking us for how much we helped her and that she was in a better place now and not wanting to hurt themselves anymore. She said we absolutely helped her, so that was a real positive thing. You have faith for every time that happens, but not every time do you hear about it. Getting confirmation that some person was actually suicidal and we were able to help them was pretty awesome.”
Getting confirmation that he was making verifiable change, Lytle’s driven to do more.
“That was what we did then, and I’m glad we did that, but there are still more people out there hurting. Just like anything with me, I’m going to try and do more and more and more,” he said.
“I’m just trying to do what I can to make the world a better place to be in. That’s the goal. If we can get more people doing that type of thing, I think things would go a lot better,” added the 54-fight veteran.
“I’m just doing whatever little thing I can and hopefully I can affect a little bit of change. If everybody does it, I think things are going to work out.”
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