Andrew Holbrook prepares to enter the Octagon before his lightweight bout against Joaquim Silva of Brazil during The Ultimate Fighter Finale event at MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 8, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC)" align="center" />The voice on the other end of the phone is unmistakable – gravel and grit mixed with a Midwest twang that anyone who watched him sling leather and collect bonus checks in the Octagon knows as the distinct sound of welterweight veteran Chris Lytle.
“Lights Out” started fighting before fighting was cool and has the record that speaks to his early career exploits splitting time between competing under the Pancrase banner in Japan and facing future UFC competitors like Dave Menne, Nick Diaz and Aaron Riley as they all were on the come up.
After a couple early trips into the Octagon resulted in losses, Lytle eventually got cast on Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter and stuck around the biggest stage in the sport for good after that, developing a reputation for his Terminator-like ability to take punishment and delivering exciting fights each and every time out.
All he says is “Hang on” as he seeks to pass the phone to Andrew Holbrook, the Michigan-born, Indianapolis-based lightweight he’s cornering this weekend in Melbourne, Australia, but it’s enough to serve as an indication of the type of training the 30-year-old has been putting in since suffering his first professional loss back in the summer and a jump off point for our conversation.
“It’s real nice,” Holbrook says of having a veteran like Lytle to turn to for guidance as he embarks on his own UFC journey. “It definitely shows me good things to do and he’s a great person to be able to push you, too.”
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to win against him, but I try,” he adds with a laugh.
Holbrook may not be able to beat Lytle in the training room, but he’s won 11 of his 12 professional bouts to date. However, he enters Saturday’s contest with Jake Matthews in an unfamiliar position, having tasted defeat for the first time in his career back in the summer against Joaquim Silva.
The bout lasted all of 34 seconds, with the electric Brazilian catching an early kick and connecting with a big right hand as Holbrook tried to stand, the follow-up blows landing rapidly, forcing referee Dan Miragliotta to step in and stop the bout.
In a fight like that, the takeaways for Holbrook are limited and largely center around avoiding a similar fate next time out.
“Obviously, it was so fast that you can’t really learn much from the fight,” offers Holbrook, who picked up a split decision win over former TUF finalist Ramsey Nijem in his promotional debut in July 2015. “But you don’t want it to happen again, so you just get back to training and train hard again.”
Part of his training for this weekend’s date in Melbourne took place at Tiger Muay Thai, a long-time destination for between-fight training for various fighters that has become more of a year-round landing spot and a home to an emerging fight team in recent years.
After having spent some time at the Phuket-based fight camp in the past, Holbrook and his team decided returning prior to this bout would help acclimate him to the time change and climate he’ll face in Melbourne when he takes on Matthews.
While a trio of other competitors taking part in Saturday’s fight card at the Rod Laver Arena spent some of their training camps preparing at Tiger Muay Thai there as well, including flyweight Ben Nguyen and Aussie newcomer Alex Volkanovski, Holbrook only crossed paths with featherweight finisher Dan Hooker, but says the intensity and competitive instincts that kick in while getting ready alongside “The Hangman” provided a huge boost.
“I only ran into Hooker while I was out there,” explains Holbrook, “but you can see him pushing and that makes you want to push harder too. Competitive nature, you want to do better than the other person too, so you’ve got to make it look like you’re doing better.”
As for facing the 22-year-old Australian in what is essentially a hometown fight, the American wrestler sees it as just another day at the office.
“You just go out and fight like you would anybody else,” he says flatly. “I don’t see the difference if I fight him here or anywhere else; it’s the same fight either way, except he might be able to feed off the crowd a little bit.
“I guess it does put a little more pressure on me, but I don’t really think of it that way.”