First UFC lightweight champion. First man to blemish the career of future Hall of Famer B.J. Penn, and a man who defended his crown twice against top flight competition, cementing a legacy of accomplishment that harkens back to the early days of mixed martial arts–making him a pioneer of the sport.
So, with all of these accolades in mind, why does Jens Pulver still want to fight?
With over 12-years experience as a professional, “Lil’ Evil” has finally figured it out.
“I found the answer and it came to me yesterday, I think my wife tagged it—the reason why I keep fighting is because I want to make sure that I have no regrets”, said the prolific fighter, who this Saturday steps into the cage for 31st time.
“I’m fighting to have no regrets when my career is over. I’m fighting to give it one hundred percent, to learn, to enjoy it. I didn’t those first few years—a few many years, I wasn’t enjoying it for a period there where I was just miserable. I fight now to enjoy it. I know one day it’s all over and I want to make sure that I can walk away happy and not have regret and all that stuff.”
Once regarded as the best fighter in his class, Jens’ entire life has been a roller coaster of emotions, with the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Pulver has gone from fighting on the Las Vegas strip, to “free bacon night” at your local hole in the wall. His career found resurgence recently when he managed to pull himself from a career worse 6-fight losing streak when he paired back-to-back wins against WEC vet Mike Lindquist and the well traveled Wade Choate. However, a submission loss to Brian Davidson thereafter had people again questioning Pulver’s ability to compete in a sport that might have passed him by.
Finally, Jens and those closest to him had to make a decision. Either take this seriously, or be done with it.
“My wife, my manager, my coaches and people around me are going ‘alright man, enough is enough”, said Jens, 36.
“Make a choice: are you going to be a fighter or a businessman? If you’re going to be a businessman, let’s go learn how to be the best there is at that. If you’ve got fight, let’s go give it 125-percent and get after it.’
Admittedly, the mounting defeats took their toll on Pulver’s overall game. Taking a way a will to win, a will to train–but it’s a constant struggle that a lesser man may shy away from, but not Jens. He continues to plug away in the gym, at Jeff Curran’s academy in Chicago Illinois, far away from his wife and kids. It’s the kind of lifestyle that a fighter should be living, but Pulver has steered away from such due to his fiscal responsibilities. Allowing himself to be selfish for the first time in years has paid off and Pulver is now reaping the rewards. Will Jens win his next outing at MMA Fight Pit’s Genesis in August show opposite of Coty Wheeler? Who knows. Jens’ only desire is to leave this sport with no regrets, and that long road begins now.
“Are the demons gone? No way”, began the former champ.
“Do I have the confidence? Absolutely not. Am I working on it? Everyday. I’m just waiting for that switch to get flipped over.
“I don’t know if people think that I’m not really doing anything, if I’m not trying to do any soul searching, I can sit there and think about it, but it is what it is. Stop trying to hide from it, this is who you are, this is what you do, and your success in the past and the love and loyalty of your fans who put your name up there, I was running from it. You’re not going to get a quiet room; you’re going to have to get right there on the stage where you won your world titles. Let’s embrace it, stop trying to run from it and go hide in the corner and just try to win a couple of fights and get confident.”