Jens ”lil evil” Pulver (born December 6, 1974) is an American mixed martial artist. He was the inaugural UFC lightweight champion and was a coach on the The Ultimate Fighter 5 reality show, which aired on Spike TV. He is one of only two men to defeat BJ Penn at lightweight, the other being fellow former champion Frankie Edgar.
The son of a licensed horse jockey, Jens Pulver grew up in Maple Valley, Washington (approximately an hour’s drive from Seattle). 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, “Shit, ain’t worth a bullet.”
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. 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.
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.
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