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Firefighting and MMA: The Perfect Combo?

Firefighting and MMA: The Perfect Combo?

ULY 03: (L-R) Matt Brown and Chris Lytle battle during the UFC bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 3, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. [AP]

September 24, 2010

Chris Lytle is one of a few Ultimate Fighting Championship veterans who still keeps his day job. Technically, it’s a day/night job. He’s a firefighter in Indianapolis.

Between his job, a busy fight schedule in UFC and his four kids, he has little time for anything else. He admits he doesn’t have other hobbies and says his many fight-night bonuses have gone toward paying off his house rather than any sort of self-indulgent splurge. And that’s all he wants at this stage of his life:

“That’s all my life really consists of. I spend time with my kids as much as I can, I go to the fire department when I have to work, and the rest of the time I spend training for fights.

“You just have to make decisions about what’s important to do. It kind of bothers me when (people) say, ’I’d like to do this — I just don’t have time.’ You find time to do things you want. This is what I want to do right now. I’m going to give it all I can while I can. When it’s over, then I’ll have time to do other things.”

Lytle’s opponent at UFC 119 on Saturday, Matt Serra, sees firefighting as a good fit for a mixed martial artist.

“Firemen got it made,” Serra says, only slightly tongue-in-cheek. “They run in buildings, they’re getting their cardio running upstairs, putting our fires and kicking down doors. Then when they’re not, they’re lifting weights and hitting the bag at the firehouse. He could have a worse job.”

Lytle says he sometimes spars with his fellow firefighters, tossing aside the boxing gloves when they need to go out on a call. But he laughs at the prospect of having a mini-Octagon in the firehouse. “I do have a heavy bag and a lot of workout equipment — cardio and weights.”

Serra could see more firefighter-cagefighter hybrids in the future.

“I teach a lot of firemen, and they love it,” Serra says. "One of the young kids underneath me — he’s 3-0 as an amateur — he got called in for the New York Fire Dept., and I told him, ‘Take that job, buddy. You’ll be the next Chris Lytle.’ "

Lytle’s experience shows how far mixed martial arts has come. In the 1990s, UFC 8 tournament winner Don Frye quit his job as a firefighter in Bisbee, Ariz. rather than accede to the firefighting union’s demand that he give up MMA competition.

The Ultimate Fighter has had at least two firefighters besides Lytle, who took part on Season 4 with Serra and lost to him in the finale.

Dan Barrera quit his firefighting job in Rupert, Idaho to compete on Season 6, where he wound up on Team Hughes, opposite the group coached by Serra. Barrera now works as a firefighter in Hilo, Hawaii, where he trains at BJ Penn’s gym.

Florida firefighter James Hammortree took part on Season 11.

Firefighters occasionally can be found on smaller shows. Another Florida resident, John Kelly, competed on a Bellator Fighting Championships card this year in his home region of Miami-Dade County. The San Diego-based Firefighter Fight Club has several regional MMA competitors on its talent roster.