Professionally we all aspire for the chance to leave on our own terms. For the athletes the desire to demonstrate that the old warhorse can compete at a top level is insatiable. Who can blame them for clinging on to past glories and trying to prove to the fans that they are still the legendary athletes we identify.
Sadly for professional athletes this is rarely the case. More often than not they end their careers washed up, riding the bench or costing their organization the chance to move on either schematically or financially.
For Jens Pulver his swan song sounded long ago but for whatever reason he has yet to hear the fat lady sing.
At WEC 41 Jens Pulver was caught in guillotine choke by Josh Grispi just thirty seconds into the first round. In Pulver’s post-fight comments he seemed resigned to the fact that retirement was imminent though he has recently backtracked from those statements.
The slide for Jens began in 2006 when Pulver was KO’d by an unknown Joe Lauzon. Lauzon would later go on to fight in The Ultimate Fighter season five. Since the loss to Lauzon Pulver is 1-7 with his only win coming against Cub Swanson at WEC 31. Clearly it is time for Pulver to hang up the gloves and move on.
For any athlete staying too long can damage their long-term health. For combat sports this question is of the utmost importance. No one wants to end up punch-drunk, a shell of their former selves. Look at Joe Louis, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. At the twilight of their years they were or are barely recognizable from they’re past selves.
Yet it is hard for an athlete to walk away from the one thing they have know all their lives.
Just look at the Brett Farve. His never-ending saga and annual waffling has become a better indicator of the arrival of summer then the equinox.
Despite the difficulty it doesn’t change the fundamental fact that Pulver has gotten old. His abilities are no longer what they used to be and continued exposure to punches, kicks and knockouts could have long lasting negative effects.
Pulver’s recent return to Miletich Fighting Systems is even more troubling. There have been rumblings that the camp has failed to keep up with the times as former champions fled the camp to start their own institutions. The recent and messy divorce with Drew McFedries is just the latest chapter in the stagnation of the Miletich camp, a camp that Jens Pulver was apart of for WEC 41.
Pulver may decide to make a Faustian bargain and remain an active fighter. The reasons for such a decision would clearly be financial, Pulver made more money than any other fighter at WEC 41. But that decision could also cost him dearly in the latter years of his life.
Hopefully the UFC and WEC have a safety net in place for this courageous fighter and can gently nudge him aside. If money is really the issue there could be a place for Jens to contribute to the sport that he has given so much sweat, blood and tears to. We just don’t want that physical sacrifice to become irreversible.
Zak Woods is the founder of the mixed martial arts blog WatchKalibRun.com.