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Jens Johnnie Pulver (born December 6, 1974) is an Americanmarker mixed martial artist (MMA). He was the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion, and was a coach on the The Ultimate Fighter 5 reality show, which aired on Spike TV. He is currently signed as a featherweight with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), which is owned by Zuffa (the parent company of the UFC). Pulver holds notable wins over Caol Uno, Rob Emerson, Joe Stevenson, and BJ Penn.

Early life

The son of a licensed horse jockey, Jens Pulver grew up in Maple Valley, Washingtonmarker (approximately one half hour drive from Seattlemarker). He was the oldest of four children (two brothers, Dustin and Abel, and one sister, Jamaica). 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 gun in Jens' mouth and then removing it, stating, “you aren’t worth the bullets.”

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 High School in Maple Valley, earning two state championships. 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 Universitymarker, 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, Idahomarker. 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.

During his early MMA career, Pulver trained with the Shamrock 2000 team, but eventually found his home with the Miletich Fighting Systems, a prolific group that then included former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes and former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia.

Professional career

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 World 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 saying 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.” This was BJ Penn's only loss at 155.

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. Though he would lose this fight, his toughness and striking ability were immediately apparent to both the fans and the promoters. This led to a match against Tomomi Iwama, which he dominated by knocking out his opponent one minute into the fight with a single left hook.

He then faced Japanese star Hayato Sakurai, who would go on to win 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. During the fight Pulver can be seen repeatedly rubbing his eye and wincing in pain. Despite being temporarily blinded in one eye, Pulver nearly knocked out Sakurai with a left hook in the latter part of the first round. Sakurai eventually won by TKO 8:56 into the fight.

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 by 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 make his UFC comeback.

Pulver was a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 5 reality television show, which hosted sixteen lightweight fighters, including Joe Lauzon. His counterpart on the show, and rival coach, was B.J. Penn . 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.


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 anaconda 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, Jeff Curran on the same card.

Pulver and Faber 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, 50-45, 50-44 and 50-44. 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 Leonard Garcia at WEC 36 on November 5, after the original date of September 10 was postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Ike. He suffered a TKO loss in the first round as the Greg Jackson-trained Leonard Garcia stunned Pulver with a left-right combination, then finished Pulver with more strikes as he went to one knee against the fence.

At WEC 38, Pulver lost to Faber in a rematch of their WEC 34 encounter when Jens succumbed to a guillotine choke in the first round.

After his second loss to Faber, Pulver replaced Frank Mir as color commentator for World Extreme Cagefighting at WEC 39.

At WEC 41, Pulver tapped out to Josh Grispi from a Guillotine Choke within the first minute of the match. An emotional Pulver stated that he believed this would be his last fight, after losing 8 of his past 11 encounters.

It is confirmed that Jens Pulver will return to the Octagon in 2010. He has said that he needed a new environment to train, thus he moved from Iowa to Idaho. He is currently training for his next fight.

Personal life

Jens has a five-year-old daughter named Madeline, and married his fianceé Kannika on July 4, 2009. The couple had their first child together, a son named Karson Jens Pulver on December 16, 2008.

Jens is an avid PC gamer, who has played World of Warcraft and Call of Duty 4. He appeared on the December 6, 2008 episode of the PC Gamer Podcast.


  • First UFC Lightweight Champion

MMA record

Result Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 21–12–1 GrispiJosh Grispi Submission (Guillotine Choke) WEC 41: Faber vs. Brown 2 2009-06-07 1 0:33 Sacramento, Californiamarker, United States
Loss 21–11–1 FaberUrijah Faber Submission (Guillotine Choke) WEC 38: Varner vs. Cerrone 2009-01-25 1 1:34 San Diego, Californiamarker, United States
Loss 21–10–1 GarciaLeonard Garcia TKO (Punches) WEC 36: Faber vs. Brown 2008-11-05 1 1:12 Hollywood, Floridamarker, United States
Loss 21–9–1 FaberUrijah Faber Decision (Unanimous) WEC 34: Sacramento 2008-06-01 5 5:00 Sacramentomarker, Californiamarker, United States For WEC Featherweight Championship
Win 21–8–1 SwansonCub Swanson Submission (Guillotine Choke) WEC 31 2007-12-12 1 0:35 Las Vegas, Nevadamarker, United States
Loss 20–8–1 PennB.J. Penn Submission (Rear Naked Choke) The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale 2007-06-23 2 3:12 Las Vegas, Nevadamarker, United States
Loss 20–7–1 Joe Lauzon KO (Punch) UFC 63: Hughes vs. Penn 2006-09-23 1 0:47 Las Vegas, Nevadamarker, United States
Win 20-6-1 Cole Escovedo KO (Punch) IFL: Legends Championship 2006 2006-04-29 1 0:56
Win 19–6–1 AraiKenji Arai KO (Soccer Kick) Pride Bushido 10 2006-04-02 1 3:59 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 18–6–1 SakuraiHayato Sakurai TKO (Punches) Pride Bushido 9 2005-09-25 1 8:56 Tokyo, Japan
Win 18–5–1 IwamaTomomi Iwama KO (Punch) Pride Bushido 7 2005-05-22 1 1:00 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 17–5–1 GomiTakanori Gomi KO (Punch) Pride Shockwave 2004 2004-12-31 1 6:21 Saitama City, Saitamamarker, Japan
Win 17–4–1 PallingStephen Palling KO Shooto Hawaii: Soljah Fight Night 2004-07-09 3 1:47 Honolulumarker, Hawaii, United States
Win 16–4–1 UematsuNaoya Uematsu KO (Punch) Shooto 2004: 3/22 in Korakuen Hallmarker 2004-03-22 1 2:09 Tokyo, Japan
Win 15–4–1 HessRichard Hess Submission (Choke) IFC: Battleground Boise 2003-10-25 1 2:14 Boisemarker, Idahomarker, United States
Win 14–4–1 JordanJoe Jordan KO Extreme Challenge 52 2003-08-15 2 3:12 Rock Islandmarker, Illinoismarker, United States
Loss 13–4–1 MaxwellJason Maxwell TKO (Strikes) HOOKnSHOOT: Absolute Fighting Championships 3 2003-05-24 1 4:54 Ft.marker Lauderdalemarker, Floridamarker, United States
Loss 13–3–1 LudwigDuane Ludwig KO (Punch) UCC 12: Adrenaline 2003-01-25 1 1:13 Montrealmarker, Quebecmarker, Canada
Win 13–2–1 MurahamaTakehiro Murahama Decision (Split) UFO: Legend 2002-08-08 3 5:00 Tokyo, Japan
Win 12–2–1 EmersonRob Emerson Decision UW: Ultimate Wrestling 2002-06-29 3 5:00 Minneapolismarker, Minnesotamarker, United States
Win 11–2–1 PennB.J. Penn Decision (Majority) UFC 35: Throwdown 2002-01-11 5 5:00 Uncasvillemarker, Connecticutmarker, United States Defends UFC Lightweight Championship
Win 10–2–1 HallmanDennis Hallman Decision (Unanimous) UFC 33: Victory in Vegas 2001-09-28 5 5:00 Las Vegasmarker, Nevadamarker, United States Defends UFC Lightweight Championship
Win 9–2–1 UnoCaol Uno Decision (Majority) UFC 30: Battle on the Boardwalk 2001-02-23 5 5:00 Atlantic Citymarker, New Jerseymarker, United States Wins UFC Bantamweight Title
Win 8–2–1 LewisJohn Lewis KO (Punch) UFC 28: High Stakes 2000-11-17 1 0:15 Atlantic Citymarker, New Jerseymarker, United States

Loss 7–2–1 ThomasDin Thomas Submission (Heel Hook) WEF: New Blood Conflict 2000-08-26 2 0:33 United States
Win 7–1–1 RoqueJoao Roque Decision UFC 26: Ultimate Field of Dreams 2000-06-09 3 15:00 Cedar Rapidsmarker, Iowamarker, United States
Win 6–1–1 HiblerEric Hibler KO WEF 9: World Class 2000-05-13 1 1:54 Evansvillemarker, Indianamarker, United States
Win 5–1–1 VelasquezDavid Velasquez TKO (Strikes) UFC 24: First Defense 2000-03-10 2 2:41 Lake Charles, Louisianamarker, United States
Win 4–1–1 JohnsPhil Johns KO (Punch) WEF 8: Goin' Platinum 2000-01-15 1 0:33 Romemarker, Georgiamarker, United States
Draw 3–1–1 AlcarezAlfonso Alcarez Draw UFC 22: Only One Can be Champion 1999-09-24 2 5:00 Lake Charles, Louisianamarker, United States
Win 3–1 StevensonJoe Stevenson KO (Punches) Bas Rutten Invitational 3 1999-06-01 1 0:38 Coloradomarker, United States
Win 2–1 MoralesRay Morales Submission (Guillotine Choke) Bas Rutten Invitational 3 1999-06-01 1 0:51 Coloradomarker, United States
Loss 1–1 HarrisDavid Harris Submission (Toe Hold) Bas Rutten Invitational 2 1999-04-24 1 11:57 Littleton, Coloradomarker, United States
Win 1–0 HillCurtis Hill TKO (Towel) Bas Rutten Invitational 2 1999-04-24 1 3:00 Littleton, Coloradomarker, United States


  • Pulver, Jens and Krauss, Erich (2003) Little Evil, One Ultimate Fighter’s Rise to the Top, ECW Press

See also


  1. The Fight Network

External links

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