When Jens Pulver finally retires (and with a fight next month in California, retirement seems the furthest thing from his mind) much will be written about his tumultuous relationship with Zuffa. We'll discuss how he left the promotion while sitting firmly on top, unable to accept that lesser fighters were making bigger paychecks. We'll talk about how he returned to the fold, the disastrous loss to Joe Lauzon and the awkward season of The Ultimate Fighter that followed. We'll remember fondly his role in remaking the WEC in his own image, lending his credibility to young fighters like Urijah Faber who took the ball and ran with it. Some might even talk about his legendary battle with B.J. Penn at UFC 35. But no one will talk about his fight with Stephen Palling. And that's a shame.
If ever two fighters came to stand and bang these were those two men. In a 2004 Shooto bout from Hawaii, Pulver and local boy Palling stood toe-to-toe, throwing unbelievably hard and reckless combinations for the better part of 12 minutes. Palling was knocked out by a right hand in the third round, and left the ring with his face cut all over and battered beyond recognition. Pulver limped to the back, victim of a leg injury and some third round leg kicks. After the fight, as so often happens in this sport, the two formed a life long bond, something special Pulver says you can only share with someone you went to battle with:
"Best, greatest, most fun, memorable fight of my career. And not because I won in the end. Palling is an incredible guy. I sat down with him and his kids last time I was there and talked about the fight. It was about where we were at. You don't walk into Hawaii fake man. You won't survive in that place as a fake fighter. You've got to earn your stripes out there. To go out there and lay it out like that man: I had knuckle bumps on my head. I was beat up. We talked afterwards and became soul brothers because of that. It's one of my favorites to this day. I laid in that salty water for two days after that, man. Just laid there. It was my Epsom salt, man. I was tore up. I felt my head and had bumps from his knuckles. It was a tough fight and I've had some."
After the jump: the fight.
Jens Pulver vs. Stephen Palling part 1 (via newmexicoone)
Jens Pulver vs. Stephen Palling part 2 (via newmexicoone)