Former Charger Shawne Merriman starts Lights Out MMA league

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SAN DIEGO -- Former Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman is making plans to come back to San Diego with a new game.

The three-time Pro Bowler retired prematurely due to injuries back in 2013 at just 29 years old. After retiring, Merriman said he searched for a passion that engaged him like football.

Though Merriman has worked in television with Fox Sports, his competitive edge never went away -- so he has started an MMA league for guys like him.

Merriman, who became known as "Lights Out" during his football years, spent eight seasons in the NFL terrorizing quarterbacks. The former linebacker played with the Chargers and the Buffalo Bills before hanging up his cleats in 2013.

"I love football to the end," Merriman said. "I think football is the greatest sport on earth. Unfortunately for guys, it's going to come to an end and you're looking for the next thing to do. So for me, I wanted to do something that I can transition the brand and the name 'Lights Out' into and grow it in a different sport."

Merriman launched his Lights Out Xtreme Fighting league in May, catering to former athletes like himself who want another shot at competing.

"That first or second year when you're done playing is the hardest," Merriman said. "I don't care who you are. If you got things lined up, if you've got aspirations or other things you want to do ... not playing the game of football really leaves you in kind of a limbo."

The 35-year-old says he began MMA training during his time with the Chargers.

"I was told I could get better with my hand-eye coordination, better with my hips opening up," Merriman said. "I could become a better pass rusher. So I said, 'You know what, let me go and try this thing out.' I started to do it every off season and I fell in love with the sport to the point where I almost took a few fights after I retired."

The chances for a fight still look good. "There's a big possibility," Merriman said. "We've been talking about it for awhile. I wear a lot of hats and I can't wake up any earlier than 5:30 in the morning. I don't know what else to do, but if I got to start waking up at 4:30 a.m. so I can go and train and run the league and do all the other things I'm doing, then I will."

Forty fighters currently compete in the league based out of Burbank, but Merriman says he plans to bring Lights Out to San Diego soon.

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