"1! 4! 5!"
Such was the battle cry of Jens Pulver after his 35-second submission victory over Cub Swanson at WEC 31 last December. Though some fans wondered if Pulver’s previous two losses in the UFC (to Joe Lauzon and BJ Penn) signaled that his career was heading toward its conclusion, the sheer dominance displayed in his first match as a featherweight proved that a new chapter was just beginning. And along with his fierce reputation, the win was enough to get him an immediate shot at the WEC’s featherweight title, which has been held by Urijah Faber since March 2006.
In his four title defenses, Faber has looked absolutely unbeatable. But he’s never faced anybody as seasoned or explosive as Pulver, whose 21 career victories include seven via stoppage in 60 seconds or less. The matchup, which goes down at WEC 34 (June 1st; Sacramento, CA), is easily the biggest 145-pound MMA contest in American history, and has all the ingredients to become an all-time classic. In advance of that fight, we called Jens at his home base in Bettendorf, Iowa, to discuss "The California Kid," his legacy, video games, and how his old rival BJ Penn will do against Sean Sherk at UFC 84.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: Talk to me about Urijah Faber — what do you think of him as a person?
JENS PULVER: Oh, I think he’s a great person. I like Urijah, man. He comes in great shape, likes to be explosive, and he’s really inventive out there in the cage. I think he’s done a real good job taking the reigns at 145, representing it, and trying to build it up.
So you don’t see yourself having a heated personal rivalry with him, like you had with Cub Swanson and BJ Penn? We’re not going to see any trash talking?
No, there’s no bad blood, no trash talking; it’s utmost respect. We’re gonna go out there and show everybody that we don’t have to have animosity to fight our hearts out. We’re going to prove that.
How much have you been studying Faber’s past fights?
I study habits. You don’t want to get too hard into what he’s done in the past, because he may change it up for me. So I just try to study things like how willing he is to stand up and when he’s going to shoot for takedowns. I study how hard a person fights, how hard they push things, and Urijah’s pretty much shown that he doesn’t fold. He had Curran on his back for almost a whole round and never panicked. He just stayed solid and waited for his opportunity.
Have you noticed any weaknesses in his game that you’ll try to exploit?
I wouldn’t call them weaknesses at all — like I said, he’s a great champ — but I have my plusses, and that’s what I’ll be going in there to exploit. I want to end up on top, I don’t want to be working my guard too much, and I want to control the pace. If he wants to box, I definitely want to be there to counterpunch and blast him with shots if I get those opportunities. If he wants to wrestle, I’m more than willing to use my ground game. It’s always been instinctual for me to keep fights standing, but the more I’m training and having fun on the ground, I’m trying to change those instincts.