MILWAUKEE (AP) — Chris Lytle got the best of Dan Hardy, putting him in a choke hold and forcing him to tap out with the seconds ticking down in the final round of the fight.
Then “Lights Out” flipped the off switch on his UFC career.
The Indianapolis firefighter announced his retirement immediately after beating Hardy on Sunday night in the main event, adding a show-stopping twist to the UFC’s rousing debut in Milwaukee.
From now on, Lytle said he’ll put his family ahead of the octagon.
“I realized I’m not being as good of a father as I should,” Lytle said. “They need certain things, and maybe I wasn’t giving it to them. I was a little too worried about pride, myself and my glory. It puts it in perspective. They need their dad.”
The Wisconsin card was made possible when the state government decided last year to formally sanction mixed martial arts events.
A fired-up crowd of 6,751 filled most of the lower bowl at the Bradley Center, home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. The upper deck was closed off, with giant video screens showing every punch, kick and submission hold while the arena’s sound system pumped out a steady stream of eardrum-shattering anthems.
Addressing the crowd via the arena’s public address system after the main event, Lytle said being a part of the UFC meant more than anything to him.
“Except for one thing,” he said. “That’s my family.”
In other action on the main card, lightweight Ben Henderson beat Jim Miller by a unanimous decision of the judges — and might have earned some new fans with his enthusiastic displays of emotion both during and after the bout.
“I beat people up,” Henderson said to the crowd. “That’s my job. That’s what I do.”
One of the biggest cheers of the night came when the video board showed UFC fighter Anthony Pettis, a Milwaukee native, sitting ringside.
The crowd also got behind Lytle early, chanting “USA! USA! USA!”
Hardy, a native of England sporting a brash red mohawk, walked out to a throbbing punk-rock song with the chorus, “England belongs to me!”
Maybe, but the bout belonged to Lytle.
The fight seemed fairly even through the first two rounds, with both fighters swinging away wildly. Lytle landed a big left-hand punch to Hardy’s face just before the end of the second round. Hardy then made his decisive move in the third round.
Afterward, Lytle said his decision to retire came after a knee injury left him with more time at home.
“I had to take a little time off, and I was at home a lot,” Lytle said. “Just when I had to get back in the gym and start training, it was difficult. For the first time ever, I didn’t want to go to the gym. I wanted to stay home and spend time with my family.”
Lytle said he will continue to work for the fire department.
Hardy said he’d likely take a step back from the sport after his loss, perhaps spending some time working on new techniques.
“If they are going to give me one more fight, I really need to take some time and come back reinvented,” Hardy said.
Hardy also joked that it was a good thing he didn’t win the Harley-Davidson motorcycle awarded to Sunday’s winner.
“I’d have probably wrapped myself around a tree,” Hardy said.
In another lightweight bout, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone scored a technical knockout of Brazilian Charles Oliveira. Duane Ludwig beat Amir Sadollah by unanimous decision in the welterweight division to kick off the main card.
Ludwig kicked off the televised portion of the event by landing a series of hard punches to Sadollah’s head late in the first round. Sadollah recovered to land a few blows of his own — but not enough to win, as Ludwig was ruled the winner by unanimous decision of the judges.
Cerrone took on Oliveira in the next bout. But it didn’t last long, as Cerrone landed a relentless series of kicks, including a knee to the head, then began to swing wildly as Oliveira was on the ground. The referee stopped the fight with 3:01 left in the first round.
The fight was stopped briefly earlier in the first round when Cerrone kicked Oliveira in the groin. Cerrone left the ring wearing a black cowboy hat.
In the second-to-last bout of the night, Henderson dominated much of the first two rounds, only to end up in a leg hold by Miller midway through the second round. Henderson slipped out of it, then landed more blows on Miller, whose head was bleeding heavily by the end of the second round.
Miller took more hits in the third round but held on until the end of the fight, when Henderson was declared the winner.