Gettin' Pulverized by Jens "Lil Evil" Pulver
By Rae Elise
AMAM: As a kid, were you an easy lad to get along with on the schoolyard?
JP: Yes! No, actually I wasn't...no, I was wild. I was kinda small and got picked on alot. I was picked on by a lot of the kids because I was so little. No, I don't think it was until later on actually that I had any kind of respect. No, I probably wasn't very easy to get along with then, I gave teachers a hard time, I pulled girl's hair and everything else...ya know. (Laughs)
AMAM: You began Wrestling at an early age, how old were you and what originally motivated you to enter the sport?
JP: Well, my mother's best friend was my coach starting in the 4th grade. He saw this little kid and said, "You ain't doing nothing, you got to get out here and get going." My mother wouldn't let me play football, would never let me do anything like that. So, I said ok and started up in Wrestling and fell in love with it!
AMAM: In college, a serious wrist injury ended your amatuer Wrestling career. What then inspired you to enter into MMA?
JP: Well, that was NCAA at Boise State when I got hurt. But, I didn't have anything else to do, I didn't wanna stop training, I didn't wanna be done. I was already addicted to that kind of training so, the only thing I could do was fight. Might as well, it was time to fight!
AMAM: Please describe the early years of MMA training with the Shamrock camp at the Lion's Den.
JP: You know what I liked about then, I love Bob Shamrock because he taught me alot. He was a great man, he did alot of good things for us kids. He's kinda one of my greatest motivations to do the things that I do for youth now.
What I loved most about being there with Bob, and I remember guys like little Nick Diaz being there too, is we were there to train 24hrs. I was there to make that my job, but the sport was still small, it was just starting out. Most people still had to work so you wouldn't catch them until after 5:30, then the gym would be full for two or three hours. During the day it would be kinda empty and I would get lonely, so the ol' man Bob Shamrock and the gym owners stayed there with me to train. Nowadays its different, people will train all day to become fighters.
AMAM: What ran thru your mind right after you were announced as the first 155-Pound Lightweight UFC Champ?
JP: That was the day I changed the name of Pulver. When I won that, I remember I went and cried and I called my mom, it was so emotional.
The irony was that we had to take off right after that and fly to South Carolina to do a seminar early the next morning. So, I wake up in the morning and the first thing that hits me is that it really happened.
That's when I realized that I'd finally changed the name of Pulver from the kind of man my dad was into a champion. When I started out after that World Title, I started it to be a different Jens Pulver than the ass-wad my father was. And, when I called my mom again I was a snivellin' little boy. (Laughs) That was great!
AMAM: Your classic bouts with B.J. Penn are revered by all your fans, how do you feel when you reflect back on those epic matches?
JP: Well, I love the first one because I was the champion and people kept doubting me, sayin' "You're not gonna be able to beat that kid, he's a phenom." Even though I was the champ, I felt disgusted by hearin' it! So, just to beat him with what I knew how to do to win; with the grit and the heart, with sheer will-power and determination...it really means everything to me.
The second time, I knew I didn't stand a chance. (Laughs) I said it when it began, I said "B.J. Penn comin' in at 155 pounds, he's come down to kill someone, this kid's bad!" The second time, yeah, I knew I was in trouble. (Laughs) Ya know what, it ended a 6-year feud that we had, he beat me and I beat him and now we were even. Afterwards, we became better friends and now we can move on from it.
AMAM: In 2004, you chose to leave the UFC to pursue other avenues in the Fight-World, please tell us all about your thoughts at that time, what were your goals then?
JP: Well, at the time I just wanted to be the highest paid Lightweight. I didn't seek a specific big amount of money, meaning other Lightweights were gettin' paid more than me and I wanted to be the highest paid Lightweight of all.
There was a discussion with my manager and the UFC about this, but we were refused. So, when my manager said we're leaving, I wasn't gonna disagree and bail on him, I went along because I'm loyal. It's kickin' me in the sack now, but I'm still loyal. (laughs) I'm loyal to him, but Dana hates his guts and it's not a good thing to have him hate your manager.
AMAM: Later in your career, you not only returned to compete in the UFC, you also became a coach on the Ultimate Fighter television series. Did you enjoy that experience?
JP: You know what, I've never watched a season since, B.J. Penn drove me absolutely nuts! The whole 'raise your hand' thing pissed me off. He did it, he said, "Everyone who wants to be on my team raise your hand, raise your hand if you don't want to have a thing to do with Jens Pulver." That got me going, so we started going after each other from that point on.
But, you know what...I think the coolest thing about it was to see the young fighters like Nate Diaz, Corey Hill, and Gray Maynard, all of them. When they came in with the fire in their eyes...I knew this is my opportunity.
It woke me up pretty fast and made me remember why I was there. It made me think I may be taking advantage, maybe I was taking it for granted after having been in the UFC for so long and I'd forgotten how special it was.
That's the biggest thing I got outta that. Seeing all that young talent really made me appreciate it all over again.
AMAM: Did it make you remember why you chose to do it?
JP: Exactly, it made me go, "Man, I remember that." It made me appreciate it more and think that I don't have many years left, better get your ass out there while there's still time.
AMAM: Would you ever do Dancing with the Stars?
JP: You know what, I'm tryin' man, I'm waiting. I'm ready to go! Ya know, Dana White chimed in before and said put Chuck Liddell in there...so I don't know, we'll see. Let me tell ya something, I can get down, I got all the moves and I'm ready to do it. I'd love it! (Laughs)
AMAM: Having already fought successfully in Pride, IFL, Boxing, Shooto, Kickboxing and the UFC, what also drew you towards entering the WEC?
JP: Ya know, the thing was, they were owned by the UFC and they had much bigger guys comin' in. That's the other thing I learned during the Ultimate Fighter...I was no longer a 155 pounder. When a 6'-4" Corey Hill walked out and 6'-2" Nate Diaz stepped in, I knew I'm not a 155-er no more?
So, I wanted to go in at 145. Since there was no chance in the UFC, the only way I could do that at that time was to go into the WEC and give it a shot. It was an easy transition and I had a good time!
AMAM: Whom would you describe as your toughest overall opponent thus far?
JP: I've said it, I'll always say it...and it isn't just 'cause I won...when B.J. (Penn) beat me, he just out-skilled me, but, the fight that I had that hurt me the most was with Stephen Palling in Hawaii.
He hit me so hard, sometimes I was thinking, "Oh my god, I wish I was knocked out" because it hurt so bad!
It was a horrid fight, just walking into Hawaii with all his hardcore fans there who didn't care about any bullshit, they'd just go all gangsta on ya, they would. And, to go in there and fight one of their boys and then to get the kind of respect they gave me afterwards for fighting as hard as I did...it meant alot to me and is still one of my favorites of all time, it really is.
AMAM: On behalf of myself & American Martial Arts Movement, we'd like to thank you so much for allowing us to conduct this wonderful interview. We really enjoyed watching your movie "Driven" tonight!
JP: Thank you too, thank you for being here.