Could it really be over? No one can say for sure whether Jens "Lil' Evil" Pulver will fight again, probably not even Jens himself. Any legend in any sport goes through the ups, the downs, the wins, the losses. They owe it to their legacy to consider walking away when the chips are down. Maybe not everyone would express those feelings to the public, but that's what makes Jens, Jens.
One thing is for sure, the words he spoke after he tapped out to Javier Vazquez's armbar in the first round at WEC 47, marking his fifth straight loss, led the MMA community to start thinking about just what it would be like to see Jens Pulver gone. A common theme emerged in the mass of headlines the following morning-Thank You.
"Jens Pulver and I trained a few times and I am a better person & fighter for it!"-Tim Credeur tweeted the morning after the Pulver-Vazquez fight.
At the post fight-press conference for WEC 47, fellow lightweights didn't hold back their thoughts and memories of him either.
"I had the pleasure of training with Jens for a couple of years in Bettendorf. He's a great guy, awesome fighter. I've learned so much from him, he's really paved the way for the lightweight guys. It really hurts me to see him, you know, not get the victories and do the things I know he's capable of doing." LC Davis praised. "But I'm just really thankful to be able to come across him, and train with him, and be with him."
He's served as an undeniable force in the growth of mixed martial arts and more importantly for the lightweight division. "Lil Evil" took away a majority decision over Caol Uno in February of 2001 earning him the first ever Lightweight Champion title in the UFC. This would eventually lead to the start of something great. The start of a weight class, that's potential was once plagued by skepticism, would turn out some of the most entertaining athletes and most historic fights of all time.
Beyond his skills as a fighter though, Jens has contributed great personality to the sport. You see the villains, the stars, and the jokesters, but there's something refreshingly different about him. He's a mix of the badass, the funny guy, the celebrity, with a side of straight up, down-to-Earth, relatable realness. As antagonist to BJ Penn on Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, he was unforgettable. He has never been one to run short of emotion. His tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve has led to one of the most unique relationships to bloom between fighter and fans. At WEC 47 when he cried, fans cried.
As the March 9th headlines addressed retirement, it seemed as sorry as MMA was to see him go, they were quick to say goodbye. Jens may be down on his luck as far as fights go, but with a track record like his, that doesn't automatically imply his talent is no longer intact.
At the still very ripe age of 35, he's not facing any serious injuries. For athletes who perform at the altitude at which Jens Pulver has, the sport isn't easy to let go of. For those of us who could never begin to understand the relationship between a legendary athlete and his sport, a part of Michael Jordan's basketball Hall of Fame induction speech sheds some light.
"Although I'm recognized with this tremendous honor of being in the basketball Hall of Fame, I don't look at this moment as a defining end to my relationship with the game of basketball. It's simply a continuation of something that I started a long time ago. One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50." (laughs from audience) "Oh, don't laugh. Never say never. Because limits like fears are often just an illusion."
A fighter, a coach, a commentator, Jens has done it all and done it all well. While his future is unclear, one thing has become apparent, he probably can't live without MMA and MMA shouldn't live without him. Never say never.