Jens Pulver's win this weekend was met with celebration worthy of a Super Bowl championship. It was trumpeted on Twitter, liked on Facebook, and written about on websites far and near. Even the top broadcaster on the web, MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, included Pulver on his MMA Hour this week.
With due respect, what the hell are these people thinking about?
Jens Pulver's return to the cage isn't something to be celebrated. It was a disgrace and a farce. It was bad enough when the UFC brought in an unknown Joe Lauzon to help prop Pulver up for a return match with B.J. Penn a few years ago. Even way back when people knew Pulver wasn't a match for the best competition in the world, and Lauzon sent the entire company reeling with a surprise knockout win. But to bring in a can with a 6-19 record to fight the former world champion? And then crow about it like it was a worthy accomplishment? That's just sad.
I like Jens Pulver. I've enjoyed talking to him and think he's got a roguish charm. It's a shame that the UFC decided it couldn't use him as a broadcaster, cutting him loose in favor of Stephan Bonnar, just another way to get back at Pulver for his decision to part ways with the company nine years ago. I understand, too, that a man has to make a living. But Jens Pulver shouldn't be anywhere near the cage right now. It's unconscionable.
Before beating Mike Lindquist at XFO: 38, a fighter apparently on the Shannon Ritch path to MMA success, Pulver had lost six in a row. And we're not talking hard fought and competitive losses like his WEC 34 fight with Urijah Faber. He hadn't even made out of the first round in two years. Jens Pulver doesn't belong in the cage in 2011. He's either going to fight in mock competitions like the one with Lindquist or else he's going to get hurt. No one wants to see that.
It's been a hard time for Pulver. His gym in Idaho struggled to get off the ground and his obsession with World of Warcraft, an online multiplayer video game, became something friends described as more of an addiction than a pleasure. They would describe seeing a Pulver who looked more like a ghost than a man, pale as the fallen snow, unable to pull himself from his computer.
His support system, like his career, also crumbled from beneath him in recent years. His relationship with UFC President Dana White hasn't been the same since his return. He threw long time mentor Pat Miletich under the bus, claiming Miletich wasn't responsible for the success of his top fighters in the dawn of the Zuffa age. A return to the Miletich gym in Iowa didn't go well and Pulver ended up with Jeff Curran in Illinois.
If it was any other sport, except for boxing, I would have no problem with Pulver continuing on the regional level. But this is MMA: the brain trauma and wear on your body happens whether you are in the Octagon in front of ten thousand people or in Woodstock, Illinois. Pulver is at risk every time he fights. Even against Lindquist, a fighter no one had heard of before and will likely never hear of again, Pulver looked strangely vulnerable. Former boxing great Evander Holyfield was involved in a similar fight this weekend in West Virginia. It didn't look like a world champion in with a bum. It looked like two struggling local fighters going at it.
Cheering Pulver's win, encouraging him to continue, helping him perpetrate this fraud: it's not doing him any good. The man is 36 years old. It's time to move on and find a new way to get through life. Delaying the inevitable, scrambling his brain a little more before moving back into the real world - that's not the answer. Let's celebrate Jens Pulver for all the memories he's given us in the cage and the ring. But let's make it clear it isn't where he belongs anymore. If you posted praise, congratulated him on Twitter, if you watched on YouTube, you were a part of his continued sad demise. Let's not do it anymore. It's time for us to move on - and it's time for Jens Pulver as well.