The first UFC lightweight champion, Jens Pulver spoke recently with Richard Anderson for the Rapid City Journal about his motivational speaking on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota this week. The Pine Ridge Reservation is the poorest location of the United States, with terribly high rates of alcoholism, suicide, and crime. Pulver grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father, and lost a cousin to suicide.
“It’s my turn to give back,” said Pulver. “I was raised by mentors, I was raised by coaches. I was raised by people who cared. I want them (the youth) to never close the door on the person they are going to be in five years, six years, 10 years. Don’t give up on that person because you don’t know them yet.”
“I always think about my cousin because when I was 16, 17, the world is the love of your life. That is as good as life gets, your senior year in high school. When I won that world title at the age of 25, I looked down at this idiot stamp (tattoo on his hand) and I thought I was an idiot (when he got the tattoo). Life hadn’t even begun. I didn’t meet my wife until I was 32. Then I had my kids. I won a world title, life was good.”
“I am the guy who started 155 pounds in MMA. I had to fight 235-pound guys. I had to fight guys with no time limits. I had to fight all of these things until it was cleaned up. “
“Had I been a calculating individual, I would have never left my job as a resources officer, straight out of college, working at a high school as a head wrestling coach. I had all of these things right out of college, but yet I wanted to be a world champion in a weight class that hadn’t even existed yet in a sport that has no rules.”
“I have had a shotgun shoved in my mouth by my father; I have been abused. I have won titles, I have seen people pass away. I have a brother locked away for 55 years. I have a brother who has a Master’s in literature. I have a sister who has beautiful kids. I get to be a father now.
“I’ve seen it all.”
“I am going to be the one who gives my family something positive to talk about. I’m going to give them a reason to smile and I’m going to give them a reason to hold their head up.”
Pulver’s powerful book about his upbringing Little Evil: One Ultimate Fighter’s Rise to the Top is available on Amazon.
The documentary film done about his life Jens Pulver: Driven is available on the advertising-supported documentary and Independent film streaming service SnagFilms.