Retirement. It's a period in one's life that can bring great happiness or sudden anxiety. For those who are working jobs that are solely a means to making a living and supporting a family, retirement is a joyous conclusion to the endless cycle of getting out of bed, trudging into work, and putting yourself through a daily grind that you're not thrilled to call a career. There are others who love what they do, and they attempt to stave off retirement until they are no longer able to physically do their jobs. As mixed martial arts' fans, we can relate. We've seen a number of combatants fight well past their primes, fading into the abyss as forgotten talents who were once considered the best of this sport.
Try to imagine yourself as a small boy or girl who finds a hobby that they absolutely love. Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. Then think about what your mentality would be if you worked a job that involved that hobby. Myself, I loved hockey, played collegiately and took a stab at fulfilling a lifelong dream when I was younger. Unfortunately, my body couldn't withstand the physical punishment, and I washed out with a rash of injuries. I have no regrets.
For others, those dreams came true, and their jobs are something so ingrained in who they are that leaving it would mean a part of them would die. Fighters have proven to fit into that mold time and time again, holding on to the only thing they truly know. Jens Pulver and Ken Shamrock are two perfect examples, and while Pulver is stringing together a few wins to ultimately go out on his own terms -- Shamrock, from the viewpoint of most fans, is continuing a downward spiral to an embarrassing finish to his career.
It's difficult to tell a fighter that he should retire. Even in Shamrock's case, who are we to tell someone to give up what they love so dearly? I'm as guilty as anyone, stating that Fedor should hang up his gloves and ride off into the sunset after succumbing to the beastly size of Antonio Silva in February. But the true purpose of my own wishful opinion was to see a legendary fighter leave the sport on a high note, not follow the footsteps of countless others by getting battered to a point in which someone else forces them to quit.
On Sunday night at UFC on Versus 5 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, fans were treated to the quintessential retirement party in which fifty-plus fight veteran Chris Lytle was the star attraction. Lytle told reporters prior to his bout with Dan Hardy that the main event bout would be his last, citing that he needed to put his family first for once instead of himself. In a fashion that we've come to know and love, Lytle laid it all out on the line, chaotically moving in and out of Hardy's range and uncorking combination after combination to his ribs and chin. Every single intangible that Lytle was loved for was on display, proving that his chin was still made of granite and his style of fighting was the epitome of dynamite in a bottle. Chris Lytle took the idea of ending a career on a high note and surpassed every expectation.
Lytle, who was 5-1 in his last 6 appearances in the UFC, was far from a mediocre welterweight fighter who was holding onto his job by a thread. He was considered one of the most exciting fighters to ever grace the inside of the Octagon, recording ten bonus checks over the course of his illustrious career and battling in some of the most memorable wars in the history of the promotion. He isn't considered a legend of the sport, nor a championship level fighter, but Lytle will go down as one of the only fighters in the history of the sport who left on his own terms, for the right reasons, and with his hand held high with the adoring public praising his efforts.
During the post-fight interview and press conference, Lytle was honest with himself. He had sacrificed time with his family to be a professional fighter. He talked about how he didn't believe he had been a great father to his children, a difficult statement that any father would have a hard time admitting. Lytle bravely accepted responsibility for the lost time and vowed to follow through with his plans to be more of a father in the future. Chris Lytle retired from a sport that he dearly loves in a beautiful way on Sunday night, and he'll continue to exemplify what it means to be, as Joe Rogan pointed out, a beautiful person. Farewell, Chris. We'll be rooting for you.