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Jens Pulver Bio
Jens Johnnie Pulver (born December 6, 1974) is an American professional mixed martial artist and undefeated boxer and kickboxer. Pulver was the inaugural UFC Lightweight Champion in addition to serving as the head coach on The Ultimate Fighter 5 reality show against long-time rival B.J. Penn. In mixed martial arts, Pulver competed at the Lightweight, Featherweight, Bantamweight and Flyweight divisions in addition to competing at the Middleweight, Light Middleweight, and Welterweight divisions as a professional boxer. While perhaps best known for competing in the UFC, Pulver has also competed in Pride Fighting Championships, for the PRIDE 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix. He is to-date the youngest UFC Lightweight Champion in the UFC history, eventually relinquishing his title, after two defenses, due to a contract dispute. Pulver officially retired from combat sports in 2014. Pulver is considered the founder of the UFC lightweight division.
Nicknamed Lil' Evil, Pulver won the first UFC Lightweight Championship following his victory over Caol Uno at UFC 30: Battle on the Boardwalk. Pulver also held the UFC's all-time lightweight title defenses record for nearly a decade after his successful defenses against Dennis Hallman at UFC 33: Victory in Vegas and B.J. Penn at UFC 35: Throwdown. He remains as one of the most influential figures in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, due to his domination and undefeated reign as UFC Lightweight Champion in the early Zuffa era.
- 1 Background
- 2 Martial arts background
- 3 Professional career
- 3.1 Pulver vs. Hallman
- 3.2 Pulver vs. Penn
- 3.3 Leaving the UFC
- 3.4 Pride
- 3.5 Return to the UFC
- 3.6 World Extreme Cagefighting
- 3.7 Independent Promotions
- 3.8 ONE Championship
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Championships and accomplishments
- 6 Mixed martial arts record
- 7 Kickboxing record
- 8 Professional boxing record
- 9 Works
- 10 Notes
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The son of a licensed horse jockey, Jens Pulver was born in Sunnyside, Washington and grew up in Maple Valley, Washington (approximately an hour's drive from Seattle). He was the oldest of four children, two brothers, Dustin and Abel, and one sister, Jamaica. His sister, also a survivor of domestic violence from the father of her children and now ex Martin E. Garcia.
Pulver has heterochromia, a harmless medical condition that gives eyes different colors; in Pulver's case his right eye is blue, while his left eye is brown.
Pulver was raised in what he referred to as a "daily hell." His childhood house was one of continual violence and abuse, stemming mostly from his alcoholic father. Many examples of the abuse Pulver faced as a youth are depicted in his autobiography, Little Evil, One Ultimate Fighter's Rise to the Top, the most extreme of which include an incident where his father threatened the then-seven-year-old Jens by placing a shotgun in Jens' mouth and then removing it, stating, "Shit, ain't worth a bullet."
Pulver is the subject of the book NEVER by Timothy McKinnon, which discusses his lifelong struggles and successes with depression, family and religion, all of which are inextricably entwined with his career as a professional MMA fighter.
Martial arts background
The summer before he entered sixth grade, Pulver was introduced to a friend of the family, Jack Vantress. Vantress encouraged Pulver to join a youth wrestling program. He went on to wrestle at Tahoma Senior High School in Maple Valley, earning two state championships. He also began Boxing when he was a junior. Pulver wrestled for Highline Community College where he became an NJCAA All-American by placing in the top eight at the NJCAA National Championships. He then wrestled for Boise State University (BSU), before an injury (bilateral fracture of the wrists) eventually ended his amateur wrestling career. Pulver eventually graduated from BSU with a degree in criminal justice.
While in college, Pulver's interests shifted from wrestling to mixed martial arts. He found early success fighting in unsanctioned "underground" events, before befriending Lowell Anderson, the owner of a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) academy ninety miles north of Boise, Idaho. Lowell got Pulver involved in sanctioned MMA events, namely the Bas Rutten Invitational in April 1999. Pulver won one match, then lost the second due to his lack of martial arts training. He fought again in the third incarnation of the Bas Rutten Invitational, winning both his fights and impressing then-UFC matchmaker, John Perretti.
Pulver moved to Lockeford, California in 1999 where he briefly trained at the Lion's Den and then joined Shamrock 2000, a short lived camp formed by Bob Shamrock (the foster father of Ken and Frank Shamrock). Pulver noted that there was a little kid who would show up at the gym to hit the bags in those days named Nick Diaz with his younger brother Nate, both of whom later became MMA stars. Pulver, who hated his name because it was the same as his father's, even asked Bob at one point if he could take the Shamrock name since Bob was the first real father figure he felt he ever had. Bob told him: "You go out there and make the Pulver name mean something good." (Pulver would later go on to become the first 155-pound champion in UFC history.) Pulver wanted to fight full-time, but they did not have the right training partners for him. Shamrock put him in contact with Monte Cox and sent him to Iowa, where Pat Miletich was starting a camp where he could train full-time.
Pulver began competing in the UFC in September 1999. He fought four times in the UFC before gaining a title shot against top ranked Japanese Fighter Caol Uno in February 2001. Pulver won the title by unanimous decision, becoming the first UFC Lightweight Champion. He defended his title twice (against Dennis Hallman and B.J. Penn) before leaving the organization due to contractual problems. Pulver became famous for his combination of defensive wrestling and boxing strategies colloquially called "sprawl and brawl" in MMA circles.
Pulver vs. Hallman
Pulver's first title defense came against Dennis Hallman (best known for his two wins against former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes).
Following a second win over Hughes, Hallman dropped down a weight class and fought Pulver for the Lightweight Championship in September 2001. Pulver and Hallman had both wrestled in the same state (Washington) in high school. In pre-fight interviews, Hallman claimed to personally know and dislike Pulver, but Pulver denied any personal relationship, instead asserting that he only knew Hallman as a fellow state high school wrestling champion.
During the fight, Hallman secured an armbar on Pulver, but Pulver countered the technique and later landed a left hook flush on Hallman's chin. Hallman fought passively for the remainder of the fight, seemingly unable to recover completely from that blow, and Pulver eventually won by unanimous decision.
Pulver vs. Penn
Pulver's second title defense came against B.J. Penn. Before his transition to mixed martial arts, Penn was the most highly decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in America and the first American-born to win the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship (Mundials).
Upon his impressive debut against wrestler Joey Gilbert (a first-round TKO), Penn rose quickly through the rankings. Penn, already known for his grappling, quickly stunned the MMA community by showcasing incredible striking skills; quickly knocking out highly regarded Din Thomas, then knocking out Caol Uno within eleven seconds of the first round. Heading into the fight with Pulver, Penn had never fought longer than the first round. The speed in which Penn was defeating opponents had many MMA journalists suggesting he was unbeatable.
Pulver's performance in the fight is considered the high point of his career. Penn pressed the action early; taking Pulver to the mat numerous times, achieving a full mount on him twice in the second round and securing a straight armbar, completely hyper-extending Pulver's arm as the seconds ticked off the clock ending the second round.
Pulver battled back in the third round, successfully defending Penn's attempts to take him to the ground, and even scoring defensive takedowns on Penn. Pulver frustrated Penn with nothing more than sheer will power, not only winning the later rounds, but out-grappling the world-renowned Penn. In the fifth round, Penn, frustrated and down on points, chose to stand and trade with Pulver. For the entire five minutes of the fifth round the two stood toe to toe exchanging strikes. With 45 seconds left in the round, a left hand from Pulver staggered Penn, who looked in trouble. However, Penn countered with a right kick straight to the groin, resulting in a 50-second time-out. Although the time-out gave Penn time to recover, when the bout was restarted, Pulver staggered him a second time with 20 seconds remaining. However, the round drew to a conclusion and the fight went into the judges' hands.
Pulver won the fight via majority decision. Breaking into tears during the post-fight interview, Pulver shouted, "On the ground again!...I've been beat on my whole life, this is nothing."
Leaving the UFC
After leaving the UFC, Pulver's career slumped slightly with two consecutive losses. He regained his winning ways by dropping down a weight class (to 145 lb). Along the same time, Pulver also began competing as a professional boxer, winning all four of his fights in 2004, including a fight on the nationally syndicated USA Network. During this time Pulver fought in various other MMA promotions, including Shooto, Pride and the IFL, as well as one match in the Shootboxing kickboxing promotion, where he defeated 2004 Sanda champion Dai Chang Liang. After this match, Pulver moved back up to the lightweight division in December 2004 in the Pride Fighting Championships.
His first match in Pride was against then current and last Pride lightweight (160 lb) champion Takanori Gomi. Pulver and Gomi demonstrated excellent boxing skills and were both regarded as putting on the best boxing fight in an MMA bout. This was stopped short when Gomi delivered a vicious uppercut that knocked out Pulver 6:29 into the first round. This led to a match against Tomomi Iwama, in which he defeated his opponent via knock out one minute into the fight with a left hook.
He then faced Japanese star Hayato Sakurai, and would go on to lose in a fast paced see-saw affair that showcased both the toughness and heart of Pulver, and the experience and technicality of Sakurai. During the fight Pulver was accidentally thumbed in the eye by Sakurai which left a corneal abrasion on his eye. Despite the injury Pulver still managed to knock down Sakurai with a left hook in the latter part of the first round, though Sakurai eventually won via TKO.
His final fight in Pride, against Kenji Arai, was an entertaining battle of strikers which ended when Pulver knocked Arai down with a right-left combination, and finished him with a soccer kick to the head, earning the TKO.
Return to the UFC
At UFC 63 Pulver returned to the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the newly reinstated lightweight division. He was matched up against UFC-newcomer Joe Lauzon. Pulver was a 7:1 favorite to win the match, but Lauzon quickly defeated the former Lightweight Champion via one punch knockout at the 48-second mark of the first round. After the fight, Pulver apologized for his performance and indicated that he still desired to keep fighting in the UFC.
Pulver was a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 5 reality television show, which hosted sixteen lightweight fighters, including the man who knocked him out previously, Joe Lauzon. His counterpart on the show and rival coach, was B.J. Penn whom Pulver defeated previously before. The two coaches were scheduled to fight in the season finale, in which Pulver was defeated by a rear naked choke in the second round. After the fight, Pulver announced his intentions to drop down to featherweight and fight in the WEC. He also made overtures toward Penn to set aside their differences and train together but Pulver has also said that he would welcome a third fight with Penn.
World Extreme Cagefighting
On July 17, 2007, it was announced Pulver would be making his World Extreme Cagefighting debut against Cub Swanson at WEC 30 on September 5, 2007. Pulver had to pull out of the match with Cub Swanson due to a knee injury. The fight was subsequently rescheduled for the December 12 World Extreme Cagefighting card. Pulver won the rescheduled match by guillotine choke at 35 seconds of the first round and announced his intentions to make a run for the 145 lb title which Urijah Faber currently held and had defended successfully against Pulver's teammate and longtime Jiu-Jitsu coach, Jeff Curran on the same card.
Pulver and Faber finally met at WEC 34 on June 1, 2008. Neither man was able to finish the other and the fight went the full five rounds. The judges scored the bout a unanimous decision for Faber, 50â€“45, 50â€“44 and 50â€“44. This fight marked the first time that one of Pulver's fights at featherweight had gone to decision, the first time Pulver had been defeated at that weight class and also the first time one of Faber's fights in the WEC had gone the distance. Pulver stated after the fight that he wanted another shot at the title, but wanted "to earn it".
Pulver next fought infamous brawler Leonard Garcia at WEC 36 on November 5, after the original date of September 10 was postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Ike. In a surprising turn of events, Pulver suffered a TKO loss in the first round as the Greg Jackson-trained Leonard Garcia stunned Pulver with a left-right combination, then swarmed Pulver with more punches against the cage fence.
At WEC 38, Pulver once again lost to Faber in a rematch of their WEC 34 encounter when Pulver succumbed to a guillotine choke early in the first round.
After his second loss to Faber, Pulver temporarily replaced Frank Mir as color commentator at WEC 39.
At WEC 41, Pulver was submitted by Josh Grispi via Guillotine Choke within the first minute of the match. â€śI think I just ended in the same place I started,â€ť Pulver said emotionally to the crowd after losing 8 of his past 12 encounters. â€śIâ€™m not saying Iâ€™m done yet, but itâ€™s been incredible."
Pulver returned at WEC 47 to face Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Javier Vazquez on March 6, 2010. Pulver lost via submission due to an armbar at 3:41 of the first round. Pulver has lost 9 out his last 13 fights.
In the aftermath of Pulver's loss at WEC 47, UFC President Dana White confirmed that Pulver had been released from the WEC.
Pulver met Diego Garijo on August 14, 2010 in Irvine, California, losing the bout by submission via guillotine choke in the first round. This was Pulver's sixth straight loss.
Pulver was next scheduled to face Frank Johnson at CFX/Extreme Challenge 170 on December 11 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But Pulver pulled out of the fight for unknown reasons and was replaced by Mitch Jackson.
Pulver headlined XFO 38 against Mike Lindquist on January 22, 2011, where he won the fight by submission (rear naked choke) at 0:49 in the first round. This marked Pulver's first victory in just over 3 years, snapping a 6 fight losing streak.
On March 5, 2011 Pulver defeated Wade Choate by split decision despite breaking his foot in the first round of the fight. The victory marks his second consecutive win.
Pulver fought fellow World Extreme Cagefighting veteran, Coty Wheeler at MMA Fight Pit presents "Genesis" on August 13, 2011 in New Mexico. Pulver won the fight via 2nd-round TKO in a dominant performance.
Pulver fought Tim Elliott at Resurrection Fighting Alliance on December 16, 2011 and lost the fight via second-round knockout by a knee to the temple. In a post fight speech, Elliott thanked Jens for accepting the fight, and referred to him as his number one inspiration for being a mixed martial artist.
On March 26, 2012, it was announced that Pulver had signed with UK promotion Cage Warriors.
On April 14, 2012, Pulver defeated All Army Combatives Flyweight Champion Jesse Thorton by unanimous decision in Fort Hood, Texas.
On August 31, 2012 Pulver moved back up to 145 lbs to face undefeated Filipino fighter Eric Kelly in his own country. Pulver hung in tough with Kelly but fell in the second round to a TKO after Kelly landed a solid body kick followed up with some punches.
On October 6, 2012, Pulver returned to ONE Championship in entering their Bantamweight grand prix. Jens took on Chinese prospect Zhao Ya Fei, Pulver won a technical decision after taking an illegal groin strike and the fight went to the judges score cards in the third round.
Pulver faced Masakatsu Ueda in the Bantamweight grand prix semifinals on April 5, 2013 at ONE Fighting Championship: Kings and Champions. He lost the fight by submission.
Pulver has a daughter. He married in 2009. He and his wife have a boy who was born December 16, 2008.
Pulver is featured in a documentary about his training camp, personal life and difficult childhood called "Jens Pulver: Driven."
In 2014, Pulver makes a cameo on season four of The Vanilla Ice Project on DIY Network. He is a part of a computer case and video gaming team called, Red Harbinger and goes by the gamer name, "Little Evil". He and his team are called in by Rob Van Winkle (aka Vanilla Ice) to supply custom computers for a video game room Winkle designed in a mansion he renovated in Palm Beach, Florida.
Championships and accomplishments
- Ultimate Fighting Championship
- UFC Lightweight Championship (One time)
- Two successful title defenses
- First UFC Lightweight Champion in UFC History
- First UFC Lightweight Champion to defend the title in UFC History
- First Lightweight to headline a UFC Event vs. B.J. Penn
- PRIDE Fighting Championship
- PRIDE 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix Quarterfinalist
- One of only two UFC Lightweight Champions to compete in PRIDE FC
- World Extreme Cagefighting
- Fight of the Night (One time)
- ONE Championship
- ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix Semifinalist
- Fight Matrix
- 2002 Most Noteworthy Match of Year vs. B.J. Penn on January 11, 2002
Mixed martial arts record
Professional boxing record
- Pulver, Jens and Krauss, Erich (2003) Little Evil, One Ultimate Fighter's Rise to the Top, ECW Press
- List of male mixed martial artists
- List mixed martial artists who did Pro Boxing
- Jens Pulver official website
- Professional MMA record for Jens Pulver from Sherdog