Jens Pulver was the first ever UFC lightweight champion. Not only did he get through John Lewis and then Caol Uno to win the belt, he successfully defended it against another legendary fighter, current champion B.J. Penn.
But a career can’t be fought forever on the glories of the past… and Pulver knows that.
He was submitted by Javier Vazquez in the first round on Saturday night at WEC 47. The loss brought his current losing skid to five straight bouts. That’s a tough stretch to come out of.
Pulver has fought nearly 40 times since his professional debut at the little known Bas Rutten Invitational in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. And although he’s only 34 years old, he’s among the elder statesmen of mixed martial arts.
After his fight with Vazquez, Pulver did leave the door open a tiny crack, refusing to say he was done fighting, but the truth is, he made his farewell speech Saturday night before 8,345 fans at the Nationwide Arena and thousands more watching on TV…
“If you look down at this TapouT shirt, I just want to show you something about it. This is the old Punchout, the old Tyson, the vintage, authentic… and it’s over.
“The vintage, the authentic (pointing at himself).
“I don’t know how many more times I can cry in front of all y’all. I love y’all way too much to keep putting you through this.
“I’ll never say (I’m done), but I love you all way, way, way too much to put you through this again. You guys have made my life a miracle. I don’t make a lot of money doing this… you’re the only reason I’ve been doing this from day one.
“My momma, she’s in the crowd. My son Karson, I love you. My daughter Madeline, I love you. My wife Kannika…
“God dang it, I apologize, I didn’t get this W.
“Dana White, you gave me that second chance, I apologize. You gave me my first chance, my third chance. You’ve made everything for me sir. People talk about Dana, he’s got a rough texture, but the one thing I love about him, you’ll never guess what he feels about you and in this world that’s pretty stand-up.
“I can’t say it enough, I love you guys very much.”
It may be Pulver’s farewell to fighting, and it was fond, from the ovation in the arena to the unanimous words of admiration from the other fighters and WEC general manager Reed Harris at the post-fight press conference, but it isn’t goodbye to the man.
Pulver has become one of the better broadcasters in the sport (spending several early gigs honing his chops with MMAWeekly.com founder and close friend the late Ryan Bennett), he has opened a gym in Idaho with his buddy Tony Fryklund, and will likely continue to be one of the most sought after spokesmen for the sport.