I first noticed Jens Pulver in 2000 when he beat Phil Johns, a pocket Igor Vov with more than 20 fights that a couple of the guys at my gym hoped to fight at some point. Then Jens put together some good wins and fought John Lewis, breaking Lewis's jaw not just horizontally, but vertically up towards the brain.
We heard that Pulver KOed a nationally ranked heavyweight boxer with one overhand right while sparring. A couple guys from the gym went and trained with him at Miletich's.
Then Jens Pulver entered history, fighting for the first ever UFC Lightweight title. He beat Caro Uno for the belt, defended against Dennis Hallman, and in one of just a handful of the best matches I ever saw live, he beat BJ Penn. Afterwards he took the mic and, in tears, thanked his father for beating the s--- out of him every day growing up. I cried along with him. I think everyone there did.
Manager Monte Cox said later he wished they had lasted longer, but negotiations didn't go well with the UFC, and Jens moved on. For the next few years he went 9-4 against generally strong competition worldwide.
He was brought back to the UFC where he went 0-2. The he moved down to the WEC where he went 1-5.
Now he is 3-3 against regional competition. Last night he suffered a devastating knockout in the second round.
Since Joe Lauzon knocked him out over five years ago, this is only his second loss via KO.
Stil, I am not a doctor, but it doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.
February 1st will mark Jens Pulver's fifteenth year in mixed martial arts. This is a dangerous sport. Because of the far wider skill set, and different training protocols, mixed martial artists do not sustain nearly the head trauma that boxers do. But there is head trauma.
Pugilistica Dementia does not just bring down old prizefighters. It has been diagnosed in football players, rugby players, hockey players, soccer players, and pro wrestlers. The contributing effects of drug or alcohol use are unknown and, oddly, almost entirely unexamined, and Jens has led a clean life, but at some point for many athletes head trauma accumulates, and it is not reversible.
Pulver does not look bad, at all. While his speed has declined noticably, his head movement, set ups, footwork, etc are all impressive. But he is losing a lot. And at this stage in his career, it is unlikely he gets a lot better.
Pulver survived a horrific childhood. Like many people in the sport, becoming a mixed martial artist aided him in his recovery from that. It would be a tragedy if that same sport brought him down decades later.
As a Jens Pulver fan for over now so many years, this is a respectful call for the man to sit down with his coaches, family, doctors, management, God, and with himself, and decide what is right.
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