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Depressing News Alert: Jens Pulver to Keep Giving It ‘One More Shot’

(PicProps: MMAConvert)

On a personal note, we’d like nothing more than to see Jens Pulver at the top of the heap when it’s all said and done. Though we admit we’ve never met him, Pulver has always seemed like one of MMA’s truly stand-up guys. Exciting in the cage, straightforward and honest (maybe to a fault) outside of it, it’s hard not to root for him. It’s also been difficult to watch him slump through the last few years of his rapidly fading MMA career, including establishing his current six-fight losing streak and dropping eight of his last nine bouts overall. It’s that innate likability that additionally makes it downright heartbreaking to read Pulver’s latest interview with MMA on Saturday, where the aging former UFC champion indicates he’s just going to press on with his career until he “gets it right.”

"I’m trying to put ‘Lil’ Evil’ to bed, if that makes sense, so I can retire the right way, and so I can be done the right way,” Pulver says. “I can’t go out the way I’ve gone. Not from being a world champion to losing six fights in a row. I want to give it one more shot."

Look, we’re not psychologists, but we understand that stepping away from a successful career in athletics is one of the world’s most difficult things to do.  Almost no one makes a graceful exit. The kind of unwavering determination and blanket self-deception that are required to make it in the first place also make knowing when, where and how to hang it up nearly impossible. Not to mention the physical rush, the emotional high of performing in front of people, of being known and admired. Athletes get “old” at such a comparatively young age that it feels inconceivable to them that the ride might be over. They always think they can give it, as Pulver puts it here, “one more shot.”

That’s why we can’t be surprised or even particularly upset with Pulver that – like the true fighter he has always been – he says he looked at his current losing streak and after much soul-searching finally decided the problem was everything besides his own deteriorating skills. The problem was distractions, or doubt, or not enough training and the problem could be fixed by, as Old Dad describes it, “going all in on an attempt to resurrect his career. No more half-measures. No more second-guessing himself.”

"I think before, I was stuck," Pulver says. "I was stuck wondering, what am I going to do now? Am I going to put on a tie and go to work, or am I going to fight? I really hit a crossroads. I felt like I was stuck in between, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do."

What he wants to do, of course, is give it “one more shot.” The only problem with that is that “one more shot” so often begets one more shot, begets one more shot. Pretty soon you’re riding a six (or eight or – we shudder to think – 10) fight losing streak and you’re living in a tiny room above Jeff Curran’s gym in Illinois with no TV and no computer, continually promising yourself that all you need is just one more win before you walk away.

"You’re just sitting there going, this is terrible,” Pulver says of his recent struggles. “I can’t even buy a win. It’s so frustrating. And then, how do you find the happiness and the willingness to go train? It’s a huge crush to your self-esteem. You just can’t win. But you have to sit back and look at what you’re doing wrong. It doesn’t help anything to sit there saying to myself, you’re a loser."

Pulver is scheduled to fight at XFO 38 on Jan. 22 and, goddamn it, we hope like hell that he wins.

Cagepotato Comments

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stopdrinkingpee- January 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm
@ goog: Wandy lost only to top-tier opponents, including a pair of very close decisions. Jens has been getting finished by increasingly weak competition. Silva has looked competitive in defeat. Jens has just looked defeated. He hasn't made it out of the first round in more than 2½ years. Wand won his last fight.

Sure, Silva's getting to the point you wonder how long he can safely keep up this line of work. Pulver, it seems to me, clearly has crossed that line. I don't see the comparison.
Goog- January 16, 2011 at 7:58 am
@ stopdrinkingpee

It's typical when a guy goes on a losing streak to start pointing the finger at his age if he's over 30. Pulver hasn't been getting embarrassingly manhandled. His fighting is fine, he's just not winning. In a few of his last ones, yeah... one time he got caught and put down quick. That happens to everyone. Just happened to Matt Hughes. Big deal. One time he got caught in a quick guillotine... you know, the way Mir put one on Kongo immediately. Stuff happens. So just looking at a guy's record isn't reason to wish him into retirement.

Wanderlei Silva has lost 5 of his last 7. He's almost 35 now. Better drop the curtain on him, too, I suppose.
RearNakedSpoon- January 16, 2011 at 4:08 am
This made me want to look at the trailer for the documentary DRIVEN about Jens. Turns out its on DVD release now and available for I bought a deluxe copy :D
Will be hard to watch when in the trailer he talks about being upset that his family had to watch him lose the last 4 fights and his family deserves this next win against Javier Vazquez...but he had 2 more loses coming :(
stopdrinkingpee- January 16, 2011 at 12:53 am
Goog: Your analogy to the Lions, Pirates, and Wizards doesn't make any sense, because getting older doesn't make those teams get worse. Fighters' skills diminish with age and beatings.

You wrote, "If Jens is healthy and can put food on the table doing this, I hope he fights 6 times a year." I don't think anyone disagrees with that. But what on earth leads you to believe he is healthy, or that he can still put food on the table doing this? What he's doing is risking not just his legacy, but his long-term health.

Jens Pulver is one of the most beloved athletes in MMA. That's why people want him to stop fighting. It's the same reason we wanted Chuck to hang them up. Chuck can still fight -- he looked great for 4:30 against Rich Franklin. It's a health issue. But Chuck was still getting big paydays. Pulver's not even fighting on tv any more. I hope he wins this last one and then finds another way to support himself and his family.
Ballkick- January 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm
This whole thing makes me sad,...Pulver has given so much of his life to this sport and You can bet that his bank balance is really the driving force behind his decision to continue to fight. Jens was big back when MMA and the UFC were not. That aside he never made the big coin that should have secured a future for him and his family.
The paltry sums of money that he will be making trying to reclaim his glory days sadly will not give him the bankroll to achieve this either.
I wish him all the best,....but do not see any gains for him stepping back into the ring, at some point the cons outweigh the pros,....Jens has reached this point.
Clyde- January 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm
Goog, I don't think the issue is that he's not entertaining enough. And as for Doctors clearing you to fight, so what? It's not like one of the tests for your license is the doc hitting you progressively hard to see how good your chin is, or seeing how sturdy your joints are should someone lock on a heel hook. The issue is it's getting close to (if not already past) the point where he's not safe doing this any more.

Hindsight is 20:20, so if something where to happen after this fight, we can all say "well... he shouldn't have done it" but it's a bit late then. People have been cleared to fight and died before. I know it's not likely, but you've got to look at that losing streak and think, enough is enough.

If he loses, he may try again (and again and again), and if he does get on a win streak and starts getting better opponents again, then what. Like any great fighter, he wants another shot. Do you want to see him fight Jose Aldo?

No one likes it, but this isn't a sport where you can fade out and retire after a few years of cashing big cheques and playing in lower leagues. Even in the lower levels of competition, you're playing with your life to some extent.

Reality sucks.
dlb- January 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm
What is he doing? He was world champ! He has millions of dollars to fall back on... Hundreds of thousands?.. Tens of thousands?... One thousand dollars?... They get paid what? Uh oh. WAR PULVER!
DARKHORSE06- January 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm
How is it possible he hasnt earned enough money to open his own gym and teach the rest of his life. Quit aready!
Goog- January 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm
@ LAS I get what you're saying. But fighting is really one sport where the guys can make up their own minds. They don't worry about getting cut or traded. If a doctor clears a fighter for a license... who are we to sit here and say he shouldn't do it just because he isn't entertaining enough? If it doesn't make sense financially for the UFC to try and put asses in seats with him as a headliner... fine. That's just business. But I'm simply saying that if he's healthy and that's what drives him... I hope he does it.

I like the guy personally, too. If he were Tim Sylvia or James Toney-like in his attitude telling everyone why he's the shit and deserves to be overpaid on his losing streak... or he was just hanging on for an obvious paycheck and puts forth no effort... then I'd feel differently. Just my opinion, though. If there's a spot for a guy like Jens on the card and he's safe doing it, I'm all for it.
NinjaNerd8- January 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm
Goog dropping the truth bombs all over CP's negativity.
Chri534.- January 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm
This reminds me of a Harlem Globetrotters game that I went to. After the pregame warmups, one of the guys walked out onto the floor mic'd up saying he was going to make a left handed hook shot from half court on the first try. He missed the first one and kind of laughed it off, saying, "One more time." Everyone in the crowd believed him and watched attentively as he went back and tried again. After missing again, he had the same reaction - he laughed it off a little and then got serious and said, "One more time."

This went on for six or seven tries with the same exact response each time. By the time he finally made it, everyone in the crowd had already been hoping someone would take the ball away from him three attempts ago so they could just get on with the game already.

...But I guess he did finally make it. So, uh, maybe Jens knows what he's doing after all.
RearNakedSpoon- January 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm
A very heart felt article, nicely done. I just fear that if he does win it he will be less likely to pack it in. Hope this isn't all too much strain on his family.
LAS- January 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm
Goog, certainly you can see the fault in the analogy between a franchise with a shifting roster of players, most of whom are in their mid-twenties, or even a professional golfer who might break a sweat on a tough day at the course, and a combat sports athlete aged 36 with barely any tread left on his tires. Pulver has taken a ton of beatings in his career, and I'm not sure that getting ChokedTFO, which has happened to him in his last 4 fights inside of one round, is a whole lot better than getting KTFO at this point. It's hard to imagine fighting hasn't impared the guy's long term health, and each fight he takes at this point, he's one step closer to being the Chuck Liddell of 145ers, except with no prospects for a lucrative career once he hangs it up.

I don't think anyone should tell the guy what to do, but I personally can't believe anyone would pay money to see Jens, who is basically a shell of his former self, fight some jobber just because the guy can't figure out another way to make a living. Who finds something like that enjoyable? Really, it's astonishing to me he hasn't tried to cash in on the value of his name by opening a gym, which you have to believe would be a great way for him to make a living, and a hell of a lot safer.
kellyman- January 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm
Amen, Goog!
Goog- January 15, 2011 at 11:09 am
Tell you what... I'm all for Jens quitting as long as we can also dissolve the franchise licenses of the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Washington Wizards. Why is is okay for the Pirates, for example, to lose 130 out of 180 games and no one calls for them to turn in their gloves?

Pulver isn't getting KTFO and being advised by doctors to quit. He goes for it and doesn't always win. Big deal. This guy has been great for the sport and people still like watching him, win or lose. You root for the guy. Hows that different than rooting for the Patriots all season and then watching them lose in the playoffs, or worse... in the Superbowl? Should they just quit because they haven't won the championship for a few years now?

If Jens is healthy and can put food on the table doing this, I hope he fights 6 times a year.

By the way, Tiger Woods won 71 PGA tournaments and had 91 overall professional wins in his first 13 years. In all of 2010, he didn't win a single tournament. Nothing. Interestingly, the ratings still almost double if his name is even on a card. But as we all can agree here, I'm sure... it's time to burn the clubs.
torxxx- January 15, 2011 at 9:44 am
Jens needs to retire. He's out of his prime, I cant stand watching him fight anymore cuz you know he's gonna lose...
Joe Daddy- January 15, 2011 at 9:36 am
As much as I love Jens Pulver, the dude's gotta hang it up. Yeah it'd be great to see him win, but then he'll keep fighting and watching him lose again would suck for Pulver fans. IMO there's no shame in retiring now after all the stuff he's accomplished.
myklhoey- January 15, 2011 at 9:24 am
Smitty- January 15, 2011 at 9:07 am
^^ I agree. If he wins, he'll just want to keep it going. Next thing you know it'll be "Just one more run at the belt". He just needs to bow our gracefully.
Sudos KFC- January 15, 2011 at 8:21 am
he is doing exactly what he should do to that aim. He is fighting a 6-19 journeyman, he will be just fine CP.