Jens Pulver is still in shock after the UFC announced that he would be part of the promotion’s 2023 class of Hall of Fame inductees.
Pulver, who became the UFC’s first-ever lightweight champion 23 years ago learned he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year while hosting a UFC 284 watch-along on Twitch. An emotional Pulver embraced his son on the live stream following the announcement that was more than two decades in the making. Still riding high from Saturday night’s big reveal, ‘Lil Evil’ spoke with Ariel Helwani on Monday’s The MMA Hour to share how much the induction means to him.
“It’s the ending I guess,” Pulver said. “It’s something that… World champions can come and go, but the (UFC) Hall of Fame you get forever. They’ll always look at me as a champion and the first-ever UFC lightweight world champion. The godfather I say, but this is immortality and I think it’s just something to be able to hand that to my son. My daughter Hayden and my daughter Madeline. It’s like, I just want you to be proud of me.”
Born in Sunnyside, Wash, Jens Pulver was long associated with the legendary gym Miletich Fighting Systems in Bettendorf, Iowa. MFS produced a slew of mixed martial arts pioneers including former UFC champions Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Robbie Lawler, proprietor Pat Miletich, and Pulver himself.
Jens Pulver on why being inducted into the Hall of Fame is bigger than the world championship.#TheMMAHour pic.twitter.com/GrBD5cbGr2
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) February 13, 2023
Jens Pulver Reflects on a Storied Career Filled with Highs and Lows
‘Lil Evil’ made UFC history on February 23, 2001, when he earned a unanimous decision victory over Caol Uno to capture the inaugural 155-pound title. Pulver defended the title twice against Dennis Hallman and UFC legend BJ Penn. Pulver exited the company in 2002 due to a contract dispute but returned to appear as a coach on the promotion’s long-running reality series The Ultimate Fighter season five opposite former rival BJ Penn.
The season was notable for introducing a new crop of UFC stars including Gray Maynard, Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon, Manny Gamburyan, and Cole Miller.
After dropping the TUF Finale matchup against Penn, Pulver once again exited the promotion. ‘Lil Evil’ went on to compete in the WEC where he dropped six straight bouts against notables including Urijah Faber and Leonard Garcia. He also appeared in ONE Championship, Titan FC, and a shortlist of regional promotions before hanging up his gloves in 2013.
“I had so many regrets,” Pulver revealed. “You know, woulda, shoulda, coulda’s in my career. Moments at the end. The losing streak and stuff and I never knew if this would happen. It means everything to me because this is such a rare moment and it’s been building up every year. ‘You should be in it, you should be in it’ every year. This is unbelievable. I’m stunned, but to me, this is bigger because I guess the timing of everything. The timing and when it’s at. It’s perfect.”