When studying the history of MMA, it’s pretty hard not to come across the name Jens Pulver. A pioneer of the lightweight division and the first ever UFC lightweight champion, Pulver helped paved the way for the lighter weight classes that now regularly steal the show at UFC events.
After falling on hard times and being released by Zuffa following seven losses in eight fights, Pulver took a long look in the mirror to try and re-discover himself. It didn’t come to him right away as he continued to struggle to get over a “mental hurdle” but in his last bout, his bantamweight debut against Coty Wheeler, we saw the return of the Jens that fight fans fell in love with.
“I was dialed in as ever in my last fight,” Pulver revealed Pulver in an exclusive interview with Five Ounces of Pain. “I almost got hit with an uppercut because I heard my corner so clearly that I actually turned and looked at them and he fired a shot that nearly caught me. Then I heard the guys say, ‘don’t look at us’ and I remember yelling, ‘MY BAD!’”
Before he dropped to 135 in August, Pulver was once again on the losing end of things back in May when he was submitted in just 22 seconds against Armando Amezcua. In his post-fight interview, Jens defended his desire to continue fighting by saying, “I’ll retire on my own terms.”
Jens defended his comments saying, “I appreciate people saying they want me to retire, as long as they have a good reason and are looking out for me. But, I’m losing to submissions. I’ll be grappling until I can’t walk. They’re safe. I’m not going out there and watching my chin turn to butter and going out there and getting hit by guys not known for power and going to sleep for 10 minutes.”
According to Jens, physically he feels fine, but mentally he hasn’t been at the top of his game in some time. “The mental side of me died a while back and I have to find that guy,” said Pulver.
After over 40 career fights, main events, and UFC titles, it’s hard to believe that Pulver could lack mental toughness, but to hear him explain things, they begin to make sense.
“With so many years losing, I just had tunnel vision where I just wanted out of there. Either I knock them out quick or I got caught and I wanted out. I didn’t want to be in there. It’s like getting into a bad car wreck and when you get back into that card, you just want out. You’re not hearing anything. You’re not even hearing yourself, that inner fire just died. I’ve never been through something like that but it’s a bad situation. This last fight, I’ve never paid more attention to the mental side of things. I even had key words I kept saying to myself like ‘Bojangles’ which is my daughters nickname. So whenever I felt great in practice, that’s what I would say. It dialed me in.”
His victory over Wheeler marked the first time that Pulver had finished an opponent with strikes since 2006. Now training at Team Curran with jiu-jitsu expert Jeff Curran, Pulver has spent a lot of time working on his grappling but says that his striking felt better than ever against Wheeler.
“That was the first time in awhile I was like, ‘Wow, there it is.’ I was setting things up, moving to the right, continuing to circle, making him miss. My defense was on and I could see everything he was about to throw. It took a whole year to get there but it felt good.
“I kept telling myself that I was going to knock this guy out. He’s known for his chin and I was going out there to show everyone at this weight that, ‘I’m here, lets get it poppin’”
Jens is hopeful for a UFC return, but admits that he hasn’t talked to UFC president Dana White in some time. “I haven’t had communications with Dana White in I don’t know how long. That’s a busy guy.” He knows what he has to do in order to make another appearance in the octagon though, saying, “What it boils down to is proof. I can ask for it all day but if I can’t go out there and prove it then wants the point? I just gotta keep knocking people out and see what happens. It’d be a good way to say goodbye.”