(Pulver gives Urijah Faber a fight at WEC 34. Courtesy of Zuffa, LLC.)
On June 7, 2009, Jens Pulver expressed uncertainty about his fighting future. He had just submitted to Josh Grispi in thirty-three seconds at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. and didn’t know what was next.
“I’m this truck revved. I’ve got all the gas in the tank. I feel phenomenal. I’m ready to go. Man, I got choked. It’s done! Now what do I do? Now where do I go? What do I do?,” Pulver told FIGHT! Magazine post-fight, admitting he planned to take the fight to the mat, where he tapped out.
Setbacks are nothing new to Pulver. He’s been fighting his whole life: from escaping the grips of an abusive father to battling with the best in the world few knew about. Despite his current losing streak, the Washington-born fighter asserted he still has memorable outings in him.
“I proved I can take a beating; I went 25 minutes with [Urijah] Faber. I got knocked down, got back up,” he said. “I can fight. Physically, I feel great.”
Retirement talks in the media hardened the typically jovial Pulver because criticism made him feel old. The birth of his son Karson and the murder of longtime friend Justin Eilers shortened his camp for his rematch with Urijah Faber. But he was able to put that mindset aside for his training for Grispi. He took a full fourteen weeks to get ready. The results were the same—an early first round guillotine loss.
“You just knew it was coming,” said Pulver of the looming changing of the guard. His part in pioneering mixed martial arts’ lower weight classes made him feel like a “proud papa” but that doesn’t make getting beat up by his kids any easier.
Fans still support the former professional boxer though, silencing professional and amateur critics alike in his mind. It was apparent in Sacramento. He greeted fans starting with Grispi, the recipient of Pulver’s left-handed glove. Near tears, Pulver threw his t-shirt into the crowd. A father caught it and handed it off to his son. Pulver waved to both. The kinetic love of the sport motivated him to come back.
“I can still hit you, I can still hurt you. I can still beat you. I can still fight. That’s my motivation right now,” he said. “That’s what’s got me into this fight. That’s what’ll get me into the next one.”
The next one is a main card tilt with fellow member of the old guard, Javier “Showtime” Vasquez, at WEC 47 this Saturday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Pulver believes just one positive push is all the momentum needed. One swing away from everyone forgetting the losses, two wins away from never hearing about them again is his mantra. It’s the beauty of the sport, according to Pulver.
“I gotta keep fighting. Bruises and injuries don’t matter. I don’t got a million dollars. The sport mighta made a million dollars off me. But I ain’t got a million dollars,” he said. “Maybe I’m not the smartest guy in the world when it comes to bidness. Maybe I can’t sell clothes or whatever. That’s not why I do it. I fight; it’s the only thing I love to do.”
It’s been awhile since “Lil’ Evil” unleashed the hellfire of his big left hand. Jens Pulver understands it may never return but that’s not important. Whatever he accomplishes in the sport now is for his own peace—not his demons.
“That’s all I wanna do. I damn sure don’t care if I win a belt,” he said. “I just want to be competitive and I wanna continue to do it until I walk away.”