(Props: Karyn Bryant/MMA Heat)
When BJ Penn announced his retirement last night after getting smashed by Frankie Edgar at the TUF 19 Finale, it signaled the end of an era; yet another UFC legend from the last decade had finally accepted that he couldn’t hack it anymore. But while Penn got to make his final statement on national television to the cheers of an adoring Las Vegas crowd, one of the Prodigy’s greatest rivals made a much quieter exit from the sport.
In an interview with Karyn Bryant published yesterday, Jens Pulver — the UFC’s first-ever 155-pound champion — announced that he was officially retired. Pulver was in town for the UFC Fan Expo, working the FightMatch booth, and had this to say about his competitive status:
“I (competed at) 135 for a bit, and I hear everybody saying ‘time to retire’, this and that, and I refused to announce it or say it, but I think I’ve said it like three times today — I’m done. I mean, I’m done. And I think most people are like, ‘Well, you were done like five years ago’.”
It’s the kind of self-deprecating line that we’ve come to expect from the always humble Pulver, but there’s some sad truth to it. Pulver’s career peak came way back in 2001-2002, when he won the UFC’s inaugural “bantamweight” title with a decision win over Caol Uno at UFC 30, then defended it twice against Dennis Hallman and BJ Penn. Since then, his career has been in a long, steady decline, punctuated by just enough bright moments to keep him going.