On Saturday, June 23 at 9:00pm, BJ Penn will get his long-awaited rematch against Jens Pulver at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas on Spike TV. The Ultimate Fighter 5 coaches and former UFC champions will step back into the Octagon together for a rematch nearly half a decade in the making. The main event will culminate an action-packed fight card which includes the live finale of The Ultimate Fighter 5 lightweight tournament.
BuddyTV had the privilege of sitting down with UFC’s first-ever lightweight champion, Jens “Lil’ Evil” Pulver the other day to talk about his career, the show, and of course, his thoughts around his upcoming fight against rival BJ Penn.
Check out the full interview transcript and listen to the mp3 audio below.
This is Tom Michel from BuddyTV, and I’m here with MMA fighter and the Ultimate Fighter 5 reality TV show coach, Jens Pulver. Jens, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.
Hey thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Cool so let’s talk a little bit about The Ultimate Fighter. The series is in its fifth generation currently and really has attracted a solid following. What do you think has made the UFC so popular?
I think it answers that age old question, you know in boxing we’re coming around or when those other stand-up sports maybe some kickboxing or even some wrestling. What could happen if you threw in extra? And you know I think, me wrestling through high school, wrestling in college, there was a couple of guys who know that I like to value say, “Boy, if I could punch though things would be different.” Or you get the boxers out there to do wonderful things with just their hands but you add in, what could happen if they had kicks or if they had take downs. I think MMA and the UFC was just that question and answered that. It was leave everything out there, and it was really no question after an MMA fight because you could do anything. So it kinda just really brought everything together and said “Alright who’s the best fighters are no matter what their style.”
Very good, yeah. And I think it sort of appeals to the primal sets of a lot of people see inside. Everyone wants to believe that they are fighters at some point in their life. So I’m sure that the Ultimate Fighter 5 was quite an experience for you as a coach. What did you like most and least about the experience?
You know I think least…was the fact that it was a reality show. I think everything happens so fast, we’re talking six weeks. You know and we had sixteen people in there and we had eight on our side, eight on their side, we had to get a whole tournament done so every three days or two days we had people fighting, we had…So we had to adjust to that. Definitely that would be the least, that would be you know the drama, people stuck in these houses you know, not knowing I’m just glad we cut the hammer whole first round so we got to cut weight when we need to cut weight and we got to really decide who fights who and when, but you know the reality series part of it made it tough to be a coach. But the fun side, definitely the up side was the team that I had to coach was unbelievable. We all got along so well and had such a good time if they would’ve focused more on the training they probably wouldn’t have would’ve focused on that because really there wasn’t too much drama, we just did what we did, and we had a good time and everybody that was fired up they were all hungry, they were excited to be there and I mean that was definitely the positive side of it. I mean seeing all these guys ready to go make their mark and it was just a lot of fun.
So was there one thing that happened in the house that the general public isn’t supposed to know about or anything you can share with us that happened in the house that wasn’t televised?
No I think they pretty much televised everything right down to the food fights, the horse that stumbled out there on the granite. I mean, it pretty much showed it all. I mean there was nothing that they didn’t show. Even the fight was showed, though against some people you know didn’t really wanna go out there and publicize the fight but you know, it happened, they got the fight now and even the drinking or whatever you know Cole getting his head shaved, They showed everything. The writing on the wall, you know…I mean I think they showed everything.
Cool. So given your experience, would you do it all over again if you were asked to?
I’d do in a heartbeat. I had so much fun with that team, and I enjoyed it immensely. It snapped me out of this funk that I was in. I had a lot of fun, I could do it again, anytime.
Very cool. So did…gotta ask you this, did Joe Lauzon trash you in the house since he was your last real defeat back in September?
Never. And that was one of those things, you know. I wasn’t so much…I wasn’t worried about Joe talking the trash. I was worried about other people talking it for him. So one thing I got to notice when I got to know Joe, is that he was a sincere guy, and my like for him during the show was genuine. It wasn’t made just for the camera, but I liked him. The more I watched him fight, the more I didn’t hear about him, the more he just trained and worked hard, the better the loss was for me. It wasn’t so embarrassing like you know what, this kid is for real. And he wants to make a legitimate shot at fighting and he does take it seriously so actually it helped me and it was more rehabilitating because he was such a nice guy and he was down to earth that it definitely made things a lot easier and I proved a lot to this guy. I helped him a lot. I thinked the world to him and I hope the best for him in fighting and his fighting career.
We all liked him as well. We all expect to see a different Jens Pulver in the upcoming Penn fight for sure what we saw on the Lauzon fight. Now that you’ve beat BJ once before approaching this fight—is this upcoming fight with him any differently than when you beat him back in 2002?
Oh absolutely. I mean I mess around people ask me you know I got to state the fact. The fact is I was an underdog the first time and I came out, I beat him. In my fight in the same BJ, no way. If he’s gonna fight the same Jens Pulver, absolutely not. For me it’s a kinetic. I got the game plan, I’ve been training extremely hard. There are no excuses. I’m ready, I’ve already had my embarrassing little bump in the UFC road so I got no excuses there. I’m ready to get after it, I know BJ is gonna come and break shape, I’m definitely gonna be fighting the toughest BJ Penn anyone’s ever seen because one, he’s gotta run just to make 155. He’s gonna be in better shape just cause of the running he has to do to make the weight. And we’ve come so far from five years ago, we fought the first time you know he’s got a lot of great fights. He’s been to different weight classes and won a world title he’s always been gaining for, you know this is just something else. We were pitted against each other from the beginning, we were rivals from the minute he stepped on the scene and that just never died. It never went away, and now we get to turn around and we get to fight again. Do I sit and go “Oh I’m winning. I’ve got the upper hand.” No. But at the same token, the reality is that I was the underdog the first time you know going into this one, BJ’s got a little bit you know… Favorite, underdog, to hell with that. I was the favorite last time and I lost so he looks at himself as being the underdog and I don’t necessarily really want to fight underdog feeling BJ Penn. That’s gonna be tough so I just always put myself on the same spot. I’m an underdog, you know, I’m counted out, and I just need to prove people wrong and that’s what I enjoy doing.
Once you step into the Octagon with BJ how do you see this fight playing out?
You know I think right of the bat I’m pretty sure I’m expecting take downs. I expecting him to shoot, I’m expecting him to shoot from away, I don’t know. I’m not saying I got the greatest hands in the world, but the reality is my win ratio has been a lot of fights by knock out, I do a lot of damage standing up, I’ve been working on my hands, I’m not going to go armbar for armbar with this guy. I’m gonna go in there and I’m just gonna do a fight. I’m gonna fight, and that’s all there is to it. Everything pretty is going out the window and I’m gonna go in and I’m gonna roughhouse. I’m gonna make everything he does hard. I’m expecting him to shoot, I know he wants to get me down on the ground and he wants to get me out in that first round. He’s very strong in the first round and if he can, he wants to apply the submission you know. Getting BJ to stay on top of you that’s a nightmare. You do not want that guy on top of you. He is too good. And the reality is, I just get out there and push the pace. Get the sweat going, and start getting up the fatigue so that my hands are still on the same bombs that I plan on showing on the first place. So I’m just really going out there open face. When they say go, I wanna be first, I wanna be last, I wanna be everything in the middle.
I can’t wait to watch that. What’s in store for Jens Pulver following the BJ fight? I think there has been some rumors that you have potentially dropped down?
It wouldn’t be much of a drop cause I’m a little guy, I walk around, I mean I’m already on weight now, when I fatten up sit around playing my computer games, I can Pepsi drink myself up to 183 no problem. But the reality is when I’m in shape, and I’m in good top conditioned shape, I’ll be a hundred and fifty pounds. I had a great time fighting at 145, I won all my fights by knockout, down there I’ve had some great wars. 155 pounds I was starting to get big. Real big. And I think for me, going down and building another weight class. I mean, I get to be the proud father of the 155 pounds. I’m the godfather, I was the first one in there, and I get to watch it grow and flourish, and I’m extremely happy about that. One day when I’m done fighting, I can always tell my grandkids, yeah your grandpa started that weight. You know, when this is the biggest sport on the planet, I can say yeah I was the first ever world champion at that weight. So I got my pride there but I think ultimately I’ll go where the UFC tells me to go, but the reality is, 145 was the weight I would go if given the choice. If they tell me to go 155, absolutely. I’m staying at 155.
I think a lot of people would be secretly clamoring for the match between you and Uriah Faber.
Yeah and I think it would work well and it would be a lot of fun. There’s a couple of other guys down there at 145 and the biggest thing for me is that I’ve always been an advocate of the little guy. I wanna see…you know there’s a hundred and ten, hundred and fifteen guys, hundred and twenty pound guys that you know, they gotta basically write off the sport. I can’t be an MMA fighter cause the weight class is 155 and I’m too small. I know some dangerous thirty-five pounder. It will be up to them to take the opportunity to make the most out of it, but I remember back in the day when people told me they had a hundred and seventy pounds. “Oh, so you are gonna go out and fight in the UFC cause they don’t have a hundred and fifty pound.” and I said “No, they’ll make a hundred and fifty five pounds.” I’m gonna go out there and be so damned exciting, that they’re gonna make a hundred and fifty five pounds just to put me on the show. So I mean, we’re still building. We got a long way to go as far as with all the weight classes but we’re in the right direction, and I think you know 145 there’s a lot of great fighters and I would really love to be in the middle of all that and have fun doing it.
Well sure. Regardless of whatever you decide to do for a weight class perspective, you will be successful. Your heart, your attitude and your passion for the sport will ensure that. Jens, I wanna thank you for taking the time today and from all of us at BuddyTV, we wish you nothing but good luck and continued success on June 23rd and beyond.
Thank you very much, I really appreciate it and thank you for the support. It means a lot to me and you know like I said it’s just been a fun ride and one thing about this show, I’m glad that people actually got to see me. You know they didn’t…there was no. you know you got a perception on some people but that’s me. That was me on that show and I’m just glad people got to look at it not too many are making fun of me.
Well again thank you so much for your time and we’ll let you get back to doing what you’re doing and can’t wait to watch the fight.
Thank you, I really appreciate it.
(Interview conducted by Tom Michel)