Jens Pulver said that he was likely done fighting on Saturday night. His emotional speech didn't leave a dry eye in Nationwide Arena. The man that helped build the sport, especially at the lighter weights, said thank you to the 8,345 in attendance and the viewers watching at home.
His touching show of appreciation moved both fighters and media to say thank you back to "L'il Evil."
Thomas Gerbasi of UFC.com wrote a moving tribute:
For me and so many others, Jens Pulver will always be the kid knocking out John Lewis, defeating BJ Penn, and going to war with Takanori Gomi. He is a pioneer for the lighter weight classes in mixed martial arts, an inspiration to a generation of fighters 155 pounds and below, and that’s just based on what he did in competition.
Outside the cage or ring, Pulver continues to inspire, and will do so long after his gloves are hung up. Surviving what he has over the years is impressive enough; being open and talking about it lifts it to a new level, and despite all the great things he’s done as a fighter that may be his greatest legacy.
So for us on the other side of the cage, I think I can speak for all my colleagues in saying that it’s been an honor to cover Jens Pulver all these years. There hasn’t been one like him in this sport, and probably never will be again.
Javier Vazquez, Pulver's opponent on Saturday night, found his win to be bittersweet:
I'm not one of those guys that's a bully or anything. I mean, I'm glad I won, but I didn't want to hurt him either. I don't want to hurt anybody, so it was very bittersweet ... For many, many years, I was the biggest Jens Pulver fan. Coming up through the ranks, that was the pinnacle of where I wanted to be.
Bloody Elbow's Leland Rolling pointed out that Pulver leaving the door cracked open to fighting again ensures that he will leave on his own terms.
Nobody can deny that Jens Pulver is one of the classiest individuals in any sport today. He's gracious in defeat for all of the fans who supported him, and following his loss on Saturday night -- he hinted at the possibility that this may be the last time we see him battle in the sport. Smartly however, he left the door open for a possible return as Jens is a legend of the sport who shouldn't have to listen to writers, analysts, or fans tell him when he should leave. He'll leave on his own terms.
L.C. Davis, who trained with Jens Pulver for years at Miletich Fighting Systems, chimed in on how Pulver helped him.
I had the pleasure of training with Jens for a couple years in Bettendorf...I learned so much for him, he's really paved the way for the light guys. It really hurts me to see him not get the victories and doing things I know he's capable of doing. But I'm just really thankful to be able to come across him and train with him and be with him.
Fanhouse's Michael Chiappetta said that the final losses for Pulver hadly matter when looking at his legacy.
Pulver might not have gone quietly or in the blaze of glory that his fans had hoped. Instead, he went out the same way he came in, fighting fiercely. At 35 years old, with a record of 22-13-1 and losses in seven of his last eight fights after losing to Javier Vazquez, Pulver might be forever done in the cage, but the numbers hardly matter. What matters is what he gave us, and what he gave us was generous; he was a pioneer, a building block, an ambassador, a champion.
For me, Pulver was the first person I ever wrote about back when I first started writing about MMA, well before I was with Cagewriter. I was always impressed with his honesty and toughness. I was fortunate to get to interview him briefly at WEC 47, and he was the funny, self-deprecating fighter I had always read about. For that, I must echo the words of Gerbasi.