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Chris Lytle is a fighter that gives back. | Photo:

After seeing the world as a mixed martial artist, Chris Lytle realized that his hometown of Indianapolis is a pretty good place to live.

Now he’s trying to help out underprivileged youth in the city by improving a gym where they can learn MMA skills. The Police Athletic League has a club where the kids can work out for free, but Lytle said it desperately needs an upgrade.

“The gym they work out in and I go to help out with, it’s terrible,” Lytle explained recently on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “If it’s raining out, there’s water pouring in everywhere. The mats, I wouldn’t even roll on them. It’s disgusting. Very little gear.”

Pat McPherson, one of Lytle’s trainers, has submitted an application for $50,000 of funding for the club through Pepsi’s Refresh Project. Nearly 400 applicants are vying for votes online and through texting. The top 10 vote-getting ideas receive funding. At the time of this article, the Indianapolis PAL MMA idea had climbed all the way to No. 12.

“It gives inner-city kids who have no way of paying the money for different mixed martial arts [the opportunity to train],” Lytle said of the PAL club. “I know [training is] pretty expensive. These kids get to train for free and basically have good mentors, police officers and different fighters that they look up to in a way.”

As a firefighter in the city, Lytle has been moved to give back to his community.

“One of the worst things about [firefighting] is the things you get exposed to,” Lytle said. “What I mean by that is, sometimes I’ll go on a run and you’ll be in a house or an apartment or what not, and you’re just looking around and there might be three kids there. I’m just shaking my head thinking, ‘This kid doesn’t stand a chance in the world.’ There might be ridiculous filth in there. There might be a TV and a mattress on the floor, and that’s it. Your heart goes out to these people.”

Lytle has reasonable goals in mind for what a quality club in the city could do. Mainly, he wants the kids to be surrounded by positive role models.

“You can teach them that hard work pays off,” he said. “Maybe that will be a lesson that will stick with them for the rest of their life. I’m not trying to make a bunch of UFC champions here. I’m trying to make people better.”

Vote for the club. Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:13:13).

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