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Thursday, 04/19/2012, 02:03 pm

Pulver Rising: Recent Wins, ‘Driven’ Documentary put Momentum Back in Lil’ Evil’s Corner


By George Deutsch:
By August 2010, a narrative had developed around Jens Pulver. He had lost six fights in a row and been cut by Zuffa’s World Extreme Cagefighting promotion. Many considered the first-ever UFC Lightweight Champion over the hill and ready for retirement.

What a difference two years makes.

Proving he ages like a fine wine, Pulver (26-16-1) has seemed more like a Renaissance Man than Zuffa reject as of late — demonstrating his expertise as a fighter, documentary star, radio host and family man. And if recent events are any indication, the 37-year-old bantamweight doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.

Consider Pulver’s latest MMA hot streak. He has gone 4-2 in his last six bouts, dating back to January 2011. Pulver bested Jesse Thorton at Operation: Fight Night in Fort Hood, Texas, over the weekend. Prior to Thorton, he defeated Mike Lindquist, Wade Choate and promising Coty Wheeler (14-4). Instinct MMA announced via Twitter this week that Pulver will appear on their June 2 card in Montreal, fighting fellow bantamweight Stephane Pelletier (6-1). For a guy who fought only twice per year from 2007-2010, suddenly Pulver’s dance card is very full.

And that’s just what Lil’ Evil’s been up to lately. For those too young to remember, Pulver is considered by many to be an MMA pioneer. Not only was he the first-ever UFC Lightweight Champion, he’s been fighting professionally for 13 years, with notable wins over Cub Swanson, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, Dennis Hallman, Caol Uno and this website’s namesake, B.J. Penn. And in all fairness, two of Pulver’s setbacks during his disappointing six-fight losing streak came against Urijah Faber, former WEC Featherweight Champion and current co-host of The Ultimate Fighter: Live. When you regularly fight some of the best in the world, you’re bound to lose a few.

Pulver’s recent success comes on the heels of the 2011 documentary “Jens Pulver: Driven,” which chronicles the fighter’s life, career and childhood, much of which was plagued by depression, violence and substance abuse. The film reintroduced Pulver to many current MMA fans and has received largely positive reviews, garnering a 7.0 rating on the IMDb website.

BJPenn.com readers were also in for a treat when Pulver joined Penn on the first episode of “Just Scrap Radio” this week. The two former rivals and opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 5 sounded more like old friends than anything else, exchanging war stories and expressing admiration and respect for each other.

“Sometimes the people that you’re the angriest at or who you use to motivate you end up being the coolest people you want to be around,” Pulver said of his relationship with Penn.

On the radio show and in the documentary, interviews and other media appearances, another image of Jens Pulver has emerged, that of a family man and MMA statesman. He seems to pull much of his strength from his wife Kannika and children Madeline and Karson. In listening to Pulver these days, he sounds more thoughtful, reserved and conscious of his impact not only on the world of MMA, but also on others. What becomes clear is that Pulver is still evolving — not only as a fighter, but as a human being.

And when does Lil’ Evil plan on hanging it up?

“I’m not gonna say the word ‘retire,’” he said on the radio show. “When I’m done, I’ll be out there fishing, or maybe be out there with [B.J.] surfing…”

Somehow, it seems like that might be a long way off.

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