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Exclusive: Fighting in March, Jens Pulver Discusses Therapy, Rebuilding, and His ‘Last Ride’

(Photo courtesy of

By contributor Elias Cepeda

CAGEPOTATO: Jens, you’re fighting March 6th in Columbus, Ohio. You’ve lost four straight to some very good opponents. Any word yet on who you are fighting?
JENS PULVER: Nope. I don’t know yet. I told them I don’t even want to know.

You actually asked not to know?
Not until they really have to tell me. Who cares who I’m fighting? Opponents don’t beat me, I’m beating me. You’ve got all these guys saying I’m getting punchy. I got hit on the head against Leonard but the other two of my last three losses were chokes. With Faber I ate everything, Lauzon clipped me on the chin. I’ve never been knocked out to the point of four minutes later they are waking me up and I’m trying to figure out what happened, saying ‘shit, what happened?’ I’ve been clipped. I might get punchy at some point but come on, it’s not happening now. Let me get mine. What fucking part of guillotine chokes don’t people understand? I appreciate their concern all the same but people don’t pay attention. Where does most of the damage fighters take come from? Not from fights but from when we are sparring with pillows on our hands and we take hours of brain rattling. Fights are five to twenty five minutes long; the brain damage comes from sparring. You don’t ever hear people saying we should quit sparring. So I’m not really worried about who I’m fighting. I’m fighting me right now. I’m fighting against myself, trying to be the old me. I’m trying to beat myself.

You’re talking about the old vs. new you.
I’m not talking about the young bullet-proof me. I’m talking about the middle me that has gotten his ass handed to him. I don’t complain to people, I don’t bitch about income. Of how there are all these other guys who have made a lot of money. Maybe I’m not that savvy with business. I’ve had a rebirth with meeting my wife, having my son and my daughter getting older. The biggest thing for me was how we moved training camps, finally. This one in Boise, I’ve designed. You can see it at Just little things with this gym are going to make a lot of difference for me, I can’t even tell you. Our supposed great leader back in Iowa who didn’t even have a boxing ring or a cage — what kind of people fight in MMA and have never even sparred or trained in a cage? I’ve brought in Tony Fryklund and all positives happen with him around. That right there is leaps and bounds better.

You haven’t been full time with Miletich for some time but for your last few fights you’ve worked with Matt Hume and AMC Pankration in Washington. Does he have a cage or ring?
Matt Hume had a ring. That’s better at least because there is something to cut off. I got to train with Matt and them, right, but it was on short notice when I fought Faber and a lot of it was at their satellite school. They did a great job with me but it was a tough circumstance.

A lot of times fighters get cut after just one or two losses. What were your conversations with your bosses at Zuffa like after four straight losses?
I asked Dana White and Zuffa, ‘Please, give me one more shot. I’m going to make some changes.’ They asked, ‘What kind of changes?’ I told them that I was building my own gym and bringing it home to where I’m from. Bringing in Tony Fryklund, rebuilding everything, and I want to bring in the coaches like Duke Roufus and I’m working with BSU wrestlers. I’m bringing it back to where I started, training wise, and it’s a cool feeling. For me that’s what I needed. Its not just three people doing their thing then having to drive to boxing, drive to lifting, drive to another place to wrestle and then come back to the gym to train with one or two guys.

Now that you’ve got your own gym, do you plan to still keep training with Hume?
I’m continuing to work with Matt Hume. I love Matt, but all the skills in the world don’t matter if you don’t have your mind right.

Mike Chiappetta recently reported that you had begun treatment for depression and anxiety.
I went to see a shrink, finally. It was humbling. But I needed to. It is bad enough to have depression and anxiety so crippling to your life in general, but when you are getting beat and you are also telling yourself "you suck, you’re gonna lose, you’re gonna get beat," where it’s a compulsive thought that you can’t get rid of, that’s bad. The second biggest thing to help me get my mind right next to medication for OCD and depression, was moving my training to Idaho. I didn’t even say goodbye, I just picked up and left with my wife and son. Everybody I know is gone anyway. Jeremy [Horn] is in Utah so I’m closer to him here in Idaho anyway. Matt [Hughes] and Robbie [Lawler] are in St. Louis. Tony moved up here with me and I needed to get back home to the mountains and to the water. It’s just a different environment for training. And we’re going to do some different things. For example, I’m going to open up my sparring sessions to the public and also have them streamed online for people to watch from wherever. I’m going to create my environment from the cage to the crowd and cameras. People will be able to check that out starting in a few weeks on our website,

So have you moved to Idaho or just moved your training?
I’m going to open up this school in Idaho but my residence is still in Iowa. Right now the plan is to go back and forth. I’m trying to figure it out. Fortunately for me I’ve got this good group of people taking care of the bills in training because I don’t have the money, that’s for damn sure. Winning woulda made life a lot easier, of course. But I’ve been real fortunate. I’ll always be out here to train and my residence will be back in Iowa but I want to stick around as long as I can. My family is with me. We packed up the car and drove out here.

A lot of times fighters separate themselves from their families during training camps. That’s something you did the last couple times. Why did you decide to have them around this time?
I don’t want to be three months away from them to fight. And all of our birthdays are in December and there was Christmas. They are good for me. It’s awesome training full time and running this gym with them here. I’m going to be here as much as I can.

You had a really rough childhood and many others in your family have also gone through a lot. What made you decide to get counseling and treatment at this point in your life?
My wife. She did.

A lot of people, and a lot of fighters, deal with issues like you’ve had — depression and anxiety — but many, especially men, seem to be unwilling to talk openly about it.
I got no problem talking about it. It is what it is. If a lot of people took time to look at their selves it would be better. It might be the reason for drinking and half of the criminals and addicts and sellers. They have something to compensate for and what they are lacking they try to fill with getting drunk. I’m not allowed to do drugs. If I was that might be my thing. I’ve gotta represent for them in this hard, hard battle to reach an even keel. One of our new t-shirts, it’s not out yet but I have one I’m wearing around the gym, says, “I battle depression for every day I wake it’s up and down and never in between. I would just like to get on an even ride. I am driven.” I couldn’t stand that stuff where you just make a lil mole hill into the biggest mountain on the planet. My wife is my solace. My wife, she told me, ‘it is what it is and you’ve got to fix it and go on and do your thing.’ She is just phenomenal and I’ve learned so much from her.

What type of effect did your depression have on your daily life and how has it been changing?
The depression and anxiety just feed on all the personal attacks out there. I became a procrastinator. I couldn’t bring myself to run. I would just lay there. As you start training it just piles up and gets worse. You think, ‘What’s the point?’ So I’ve got no problem talking about it. It doesn’t make you imperfect when you admit to your flaws. It doesn’t do anything but show you are trying to become better. I’m too old to play that BS. And I’m not saying that I’m done with it. I’m still battling it but I just finally realized that I needed help. Once I started getting help the changes in me were dramatic. After just ten days my wife gave me a high five and said ‘Holy Jesus, oh my God, where the hell have you been?’ When your wife can tell the transitions you’ve made and get you back, it’s huge.

It’s about getting rid of that anxiety and those fears so that I do have room for anger, for that aggression when I fight. Now I have all those things back. I have a place for the anger and aggression again. It’s important to realize that you’re not broken. I used to think they would put me in straight jacket if I got help. But everyone needs help one way or another and you can only mask it for so long. I had to face my mortality like, ‘Oh my God, they are talking about retirement. Everything I’ve ever known might be done.’ That’s the hard thing about being an athlete is that you have to face your mortality twice. The first way you face your mortality is when you are too old and when you have to give up doing all you know how to do. And then you face it a second time like everyone when you are done, its over and you are dead. When I began facing my mortality as a fighter I had an anxiety attack. I was driving and almost fell over at the wheel. I thought, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t breathe.’ I thought I was having a heart attack.

That sounds debilitating. What has been the key to getting through it?
One reason was my wife. I get nothing but positives from her. I only hope I can do the same for her. I told her, ‘what if we lose everything and we end up living out of a cardboard box?’ She said, ‘Well at least we’d have each other so we just get the nicest box we can.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ She meant it. She is 84 pounds and I lean on her. She’s my pillar. My family and [my manager] Monte Cox and his family give me great support. They are all the same thing to me: family

Having someone like my wife puts you in a safe and secure place, the type of place I never had before. You have to remember that I was a kid that got the shit beaten outta him and was crying at night. It is huge. Now I’m taking on the things I’ve been procrastinating with. Coming out here and building a gym and knowing I could do this a little different than what I was doing before allows me to sit back and enjoy myself.

There was a decent amount of outcry when after your loss to Urijah Faber, the Versus commentator asked you if you were still relevant in MMA. You didn’t seem to get mad but implied that you would perhaps retire.
That’s the mortality of it. I was pissing it away and I didn’t know what to do. Here he is just jumping in with something that I’ve gone over in my own head with conversations with myself 999 times before and he asks it one time. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m sorry he had to be that guy but I had already been asking myself that question. That’s when I started going, ‘Damn, it’s gotten to that point. I’m such a joke now that I’m being giggled at.’ That’s what was so tough about it, that I thought it had gone this far. It was heartbreaking.

Obviously you’ve made the decision to keep on fighting. What did your coaches, teammates and family tell you while you were weighing your options?
I made the decision to keep fighting on my own. My family and coaches gave me the window that I needed, the time to sit back, except for Monte. I’ve always got Monte. I owe Monte everything. I was talking to him and apologizing to my agent and talking to Dana, Lorenzo, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby to see if they’d let me fight again. I have to thank them because they are not writing me off yet and I love them for it. Something has got to be said for those guys. They put the work in when nobody knew what we were. When they first bought the company I was there and they’ve turned it into this powerhouse from a little piece. I don’t talk to them like I used to but at least I had that conversation and I’m not taking it lightly. I’m pretty excited to have it. It’s my last ride.

How do you look at the rest of your career and how long you want to do it? Do you have a set amount of time that you want to do it for?
It’s not a time thing. I’m taking it fight to fight.

You talk a lot about doing things differently. Do you have regrets when you look back?
You’ve got to hug it, embrace it and enjoy it. Looking back on my youth I would have told myself that you see opportunities along the way and that you need to snatch them up because that day does come. I don’t say, ‘where did the time go?’ I just sit there and think of the road trips and all the things and its all good, all cool for first time in a while. I’ve really enjoyed watching BJ Penn do his thing. It’s been really exciting to me and extremely motivating the way he has turned himself around. Now, I’ll never be as skilled as that kid but the way he turned it around for himself is great to see. I realize now at 34 years old — all these listings have me as older but I’m 34 — that this is my last ride. And I’m not going to sit back, I’m going to go after it. I’ve got great family support and all the negatives, money grubbing people, I’m in the process of getting rid of them. I’m making everything the way I always wanted it. I’m staring at the mountains here in Idaho, not far from where Justin Eilers was buried, and I’ve got my whole family around me. This is my last ride and everyone is saddled up.

Cagepotato Comments

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Big Jumpin Dad- January 11, 2010 at 5:31 am
Big Jumpin Dad- January 10, 2010 at 9:31 pm
UFC " 1 time shirt winner" fan... Congradulations UFC fan, every body is very happy for you. Im sure youre grandkids are gonna be so happy to hear that you won a shirt once every christmas, thanksgiving and birthday.

And big jumpin dumbass? Are you serious bud? I thought you were supposed to be a comedic genious?

What the hell are you talking about? Pull the other nut while Im down there??? Down where?? Its not even clever, its just down right retarded.

I may just say random retarded things that arent made out to be funny they are just made out to be the stupidest thing i can possibly think of to piss off fucking jellyheads like you, but I think the most embarrasing thing is when somebody is trying to be so clever and so witty and they say such lame excuses for jokes or shootdowns...ex: big jumpin dumbass and pull the other nut while youre down there...
UFC fan- January 10, 2010 at 9:07 pm
great, just what we needed another delusional dick. welcome to cagepotato big jumpin dumbass.
cute reply BTW, pull the other nut while you are down there.
Big Jumpin Dad- January 10, 2010 at 4:57 pm
And Its MISTER Big Jumpin Dad to you buddy
Big Jumpin Dad- January 10, 2010 at 4:55 pm
Excuse me Ufc fan, but I AM and ALWAYS will be funnier than you. You can keep verbally attacking me and showing everyone youre insecurites, itll get you a laugh alright, A CHEAP LAUGH! SOOO many people say im Thee most hiilarious person theyve ever seen in potato nation, from the likes of Rex13, 831 Son, Robocopdidnttap, Harry Nips, Dan the Viking and many, MANY more. I didnt want to tell this to you cuz I knew you'd be all but hurt, but both the Bens said I was downright the most funny person theyve ever met on cagepotato and cyber space in general, they booked me a suite at the Taj Mahal for theyre appreciation of me basically keeping this website running.

La Hoo, Za Herr
UFC fan- January 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm
big jumping dumbass, hey man don't bother showing us or anyone that you are a wacky son of a bitch you already done that.
you are right it changes nothing, you are non funny, whacko.
Do I care if you keep repeating yourself ? no.
just want to point out, you are still a babbling moron with nothing of value to say, but by all means keep on plugging away.
Oh and don't be confused, I am not offended by you. Know the difference, your boring, and stupid, not offensive. Stop proving it, and don't force it, we got it already, whacky, non funny guy, that's you, OK everyone's on the same page you dead horse beater.
ReX13- January 10, 2010 at 11:58 am
I'm going to disagree with Skeletor on this one; this was a good piece from Elias. Not what i'd normally come to CP for--a straight interview--but a good subject and good questions.

I do find it interesting that robthom was the only one to say what others normally have in other posts mentioning Jens: that he is past his prime and needs to hang it up. Funny how a little social pressure can make people say things they don't mean, eh?

Jens has had some tough losses, but i don't think he's endangering himself by continuing to compete, and he still has plenty of fans who enjoy watching him fight. Best of luck to him.
Big Jumpin Dad- January 10, 2010 at 11:50 am
UFC Fan i think youre replying to me under the wrong account. Clever little quips and over the top sarcasm arent the only thing thats funny guys. Arent theyre enough Dane Cook's on this website? And of what importance is me addressing my thoughts on a random cagepotato article, it means absolutly nothing what you or I have to say on this topic, it changes nothing. If you honestly take commenting on posts so seriously that some radom guy can say stuff to you that makes absolutly no sense and you are deeply offended, you need to check youre life bud.
So next time you or Robthom call me a wacky son of a bitch, ill show you what one of those really is you goober headed FREAKS!!!!
peanutbuttter- January 10, 2010 at 11:34 am
I like Jens Pulver a lot. But FUCK boise state and their god damned blue field. I hope a player of theirs' gets punched at the end of every single game next season.
skeletor- January 10, 2010 at 10:31 am
Jens is an exciting fighter and an interesting dude. But Elias could make a lesbian orgy seem boring. I've said it before and I'll say it again quit giving this guy assignments it's a waste of time and money. Unless it's like an inside joke at the office and you guys are just laughing at him behind his back, then it's all good.
831 Son- January 10, 2010 at 8:56 am
CagePotato hasn't covered the WEC 46 event AT ALL. What the fuck kind of MMA site has this come to. Instead your taking up room with this dude Elias' boring shit. Learn to cover MMA events Bens what the hell is wrong with you tools. You guys have done this shit before too where it almost seems you two forget that events are even happening. Get your fucking heads out of your asses and cover some god damn MMA. Idiots..
UFC fan- January 10, 2010 at 8:46 am
Big jumping dad, haven't I told you this before... you make no sense. you just mumble to hear your head rattle. you post the dumbest shit ever.
speaking of racist nazi shit, are a you just a stupid german nigger or what? I haven't figured that part out.
Maybe you are pedophile. did someone touch you in a bad place?

oh and dude you are not ever funny, that has to suck to try so hard and fail to get a shirt.
of course I wouldn't know, I did win one...keep trying, but be less niggered up ok?
TapOrDie- January 10, 2010 at 8:45 am
It's sad to watch the decline of a legend. Jens had a great career and opened the door for the lower weight classes. But please hang em up and stop dissing Pat...I don't remember any complaints a few years back when Jens, Matt and Tim were all champions. Much respect to Jens, but you have to recognize when your time is up.
Harry Nips- January 10, 2010 at 8:36 am
"Our so called leader back in Iowa"
I would like to hear what really went down @ MFS to make Hughes, Lawlor, Pulver, Fisher, etc. all pick up and leave.
kellyman- January 10, 2010 at 7:32 am
Pulver's a legend, one of my favourites, and I can't wait to see him fight again. Great interview.
robthom- January 10, 2010 at 2:48 am
Fuck you dude.

I've seen your posts around.

Have you ever even heard of MMA?

I've never seen you addressing an article that your commenting under, or even mentioning anything about MMA at all.

All I've ever seen you doing is posting unfunny inside jokes to yourself and starting shit with people.

You could go do that anywhere.
Maybe youtube, or digg, or more appropriately an ACME douche bag forum.

You're imagining that you're cute, but your just an asshole.
Big Jumpin Dad- January 10, 2010 at 12:38 am
Robthom, Buddy, Long time no see braa! Listen, I know everything didn't turn out as planned but my people will talk to youre people, youre people will talk to my people, we'll set something up, dont worry so much.

P.S: When i checked youre fridgerator i noticed something a little smelly but couldn't find quite what it was:S hehe. And next time I babysit your'e cats make sure you leave me with a clean litter box not a "clean" litter box lolz robby you silly man:P
robthom- January 10, 2010 at 12:20 am
BJD you braindead scumbag.

Your mumbling pseudo wordplay posts are more offensive than any racist I've ever met. I'll make sure to hang around just to molest your days you crayon dicked pansy.

Now go fuck your mother.
shitbag- January 9, 2010 at 10:18 pm

You, man are simply one of the greatest people in MMA
Dr Garbo- January 9, 2010 at 9:49 pm
Its really a shame that there wasn't a decent 145 class earlier in his career. Even Gomi and Mach were sooo much bigger than him. He still gave them hell, but young Jens in the WEC would have been an exciting prospect.

One of the best CP articles i've seen!!!GJ
SiDeBuRnZ- January 9, 2010 at 9:09 pm
MrFeexit- January 9, 2010 at 8:48 pm
I would hope that at some point someone picks up Jens as a commentator. He knows his stuff and is fun to listen to. Jesus they gave Tito Fivehead a shot and my dog can do better than that bone head did. At least Jens is intelligent and witty. And he wont "Let me know how I feel"
Dagnut- January 9, 2010 at 6:07 pm
It's the sad thing about being a fight fan you get to watch the demise of once greats...I think more than any another sport mma highlights your demise quicker than other sports..which goes to show the levels of physicality involved....for me particularly I've been an mma fan for more than 10 years and I've aged with these guys..I did some training in my time and now I'm glad I didn't have the talent to be a fighter and I have a relatively easy job sitting at a computer..It's a hard life being a fighter and my respect goes out to these guys.. especially Jens who always lays it on the line and always expresses himself openly.
Probably doesn't fit in with the the "in" jokes but I like an article like this it pays homage to the quality of the guys.
iDestroy- January 9, 2010 at 4:44 pm
Boring column. He just kept repeating the same crap. The Gary goodridge story was way more depressing.
Soda Popinski- January 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm
for real cp, one of the best pieces you've ever done.

my best to you jens.