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A fresh beginning: Muay Thai part of life change for Sterling man

Kyle Tyler spent the first 32 years of his life split between the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park and the campus of Kansas University.

It was a nice existence. He was sure he would live there forever. That's until 2011 when his wife was diagnosed with cancer.

Tyler and his wife had been married for a year. His son was just 3 years old.

In the middle of his spouse's fight against breast cancer, Tyler had lost his job and began working for his wife's family at a pizza restaurant.

Ultimately his wife lost her battle with cancer, and he found a job in Northern Virginia.

Tyler moved to an apartment in Sterling with his son.

"It's just the road he and I are on," Tyler said.

When he moved to Sterling, it wasn’t to escape; it was to restart. Tyler says he likes living in a world where he isn’t the widower.

“I needed a change, I needed something different,” Tyler explained. "It was what I needed, I felt, to grow and really to get over being the guy who lost his wife."

So he moved. Now he fights.

Fight night

For eight hours on July 26, Kyle Tyler sat in a baseball shirt, his earbuds connected to his phone, with a steely look on his face, waiting to compete in his third amateur Muay Thai fight.

He arrived at the nZone in Chantilly at noon. His upcoming fight was the 15th bout on the card.

Twenty-eight fighters did mit work, rubbed themselves with liniment oil and warmed up for their fights.

Each returned from their fights bloodied and swollen. Some were happy, some sad, some holding trophies, others holding babies.

Tyler waited his turn.

In his first two career fights, Tyler says he used up too much adrenaline early in his fights, so keeping relaxed before he enters the ring is important.

“I just went in to watch one of the fights,” Tyler said. “I had to come back in here in order to calm down.”

Finally, it's about 7:30 p.m., and he stands up to begin his pre-fight preparation by practicing hitting with his coach Steve Rossillo and making sure all of his pads are in the right places.

In the ring

Under a halo of light encircling a four-cornered boxing ring, an announcer for Thai Championship Boxing steps up and booms, “Weighing in at 145 pounds, from Capital MMA and Elite Fitness, it’s Kyle Tyler!”

A spotlight flicks on and Tyler makes his way to the ring, festooned with multicolored stage lights and all the pomp and circumstance of a professionally televised prize fight.

Two gentlemen stand on ladders – cameras on their shoulders – filming the fight for closed circuit viewing on large projector screens on the wall behind the ring and for future uploads to YouTube.

After a quick once over from the referee, Tyler ambles over to the blue corner and talks strategy with Rossillo.

Ding! As the bell rings and the fighters touch gloves, two dozen rows of fans sit in a pitch black arena cheering every grapple or take down.

Their faces are illuminated only by lights over the ring and the little bit of fluorescence that is spilling out from the doorway in the corner of the arena.

Tyler puts in a very strong second round and seemed to gain confidence as the fight progresses. He was dancing around and his coaches were very vocal throughout the performance.

It was the moment Tyler had prepared for. He had put in two hours a day, six days a week at Capital MMA and Elite Fitness in Sterling.

Starting Muay Thai in what is the twilight of most fighters' career means Tyler must train harder.

In fact, he trained so much after his second fight that he was diagnosed with Rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo, a breakdown of the fibers in muscles so as to release Myoglobin, which can lead to kidney failure.

Coaches and instructors have worked with him to reign in his workouts so as to not be so taxing.

His proclivity for punishing workouts didn't really begin until just after he moved to Loudoun and decided to start the fight game.

Tyler follows one hour of Muay Thai, a mixed martial art focusing on striking from a standing position. Another hour is devoted to crossfit, the trendy strength and conditioning program employing high intensity interval workouts.

So here he was holding the referee's hand waiting for a decision on the fight.

The culmination of eight weeks of fight camp came down to this moment, a decision handed down by judges.

"In a split decision," said the ring announcer. "Winner out of the red corner, Doug Roberts."

As his gloves were being removed, Tyler was lit only by the light of a cell phone screen. The participants for the next fight were being announced.

There Tyler sat, tired and disappointed with the decision. Just minutes earlier, an arena of fans had been rooting him on.

When asked about his age and ultimately what he plans to do with his fighting career, Tyler says he wants to chase that elusive victory. He says he'll give it a go until he can't.

Maybe one day he will coach, but until then Tyler fights on.


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