"A superb effort . . . this is not a tale of UFC gloryit is the account of one individual who has been to hell and back. . . . Unlike most of the pablum we see in this genre, here is one athlete who REALLY has a story to tell." MMAMemories.com
Little Evil: One Ultimate Fighter's Rise to the Topby Jens Pulver
At ten years of age, lined up alongside his two brothers in the living room of their Seattle home, Jens Pulver stared down the length of a shotgun into his father’s haggard face. Because Jens was the oldest, the one constantly running upstairs to protect his mother in the middle of the night, his father placed the barrel into his mouth first. Fear taught
At ten years of age, lined up alongside his two brothers in the living room of their Seattle home, Jens Pulver stared down the length of a shotgun into his father’s haggard face. Because Jens was the oldest, the one constantly running upstairs to protect his mother in the middle of the night, his father placed the barrel into his mouth first. Fear taught Jens how to attack with his fists. Fear taught him how to get what he wanted, by any means necessary. Fear put him on the path toward becoming a world champion fighter, to prove wrong all those who claimed he wouldn’t amount to any more than his drunk old man. It was this path the one that would make him the most intimidating pound-for-pound fighter in the ring that eventually let him put his childhood demons to rest and find an inner peace. But it was a long and painful battle. Little Evil is a gripping and true tale of father and son, of what betrayal does to the young and drives them to do, and of how one determined man shattered the chains of his childhood and rose to the top, becoming the lightweight champion of the UFC.
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One Ultimate Fighter's Rise to the Top
By Jens Pulver, Erich Krauss
ECW PRESSCopyright © 2003 Erich Krauss and Jens Pulver
All rights reserved.
Day of the Gun
When I was seven years old, my father decided that he no longer wanted children. On a cloudy Seattle afternoon, he grabbed my two younger brothers and me by the collars of our shirts and hauled us into the living room. After lining us up in a little row by the fireplace, he stumbled into the kitchen to fetch his shotgun.
Dustin, Abel, and I knew what our father was planning to do, even though he hadn't spoken a word. Hearing him clatter through the broom closet in search of his misplaced weapon, I felt energy dancing in my fingertips and groin. This was the end of my life, the end of this pathetic excuse for a family. In just a few moments, there would be no more pain.
Never again would I have to listen to the man who called himself my father grunt and groan as he beat on my mother with his fists and feet in the middle of the night. Never again would I piss my pants when I came home from school and saw his car parked in the driveway. I wouldn't have to listen to his drunken speeches anymore, or feel his knuckles tear into me, creating wounds so deep they pulled me screaming from my dreams. The fear that inhabited every chamber of my mind was finally going to be silenced by its creator.
When my father stormed back into the living room, his eyes burned with a fury that I have not seen since, not in all the battles I've waged against opponents who tried to beat me within an inch of my life. He uttered not a single apology or explanation for the sin he was about to commit. He simply said, "I'm going to execute you all," with a coldness that can only come from a man too afraid to venture inside his own tortured soul.
Because I was the eldest, the one who always ran to defend our mother, he crammed the barrel into my mouth first. As urine soaked my jeans, I stared down the length of steel into my father's haggard face. What I would remember more clearly than my brothers' soft weeping or my mother's hysterical pleas was the reek of my father's breath. It stank of liquor and anger and failed dreams.
The father-son showdown seemed to last for hours. Although my eyes were as wide as the barrel pressing against the back of my throat, I tried not to focus on his callused finger slowly tightening on the trigger. I looked straight ahead, into his squinty eyes, and as I watched his fear of life contort his face and raise the veins in his neck, I knew he was attempting to summon one final ounce of drunken courage to get rid of his last responsibilities. I could feel the conflict that raged inside him radiating from his pores. He craved freedom from being a man—freedom from all things that could cause him to fail. All he really wanted to do was crawl into a hole in the ground and die, a bottle in his hand.
But my father proved to be a failure even at taking the lives of his boys. Perhaps he found a shred of love that hadn't been crushed out of him by his own violent father or destroyed through years of pissing away his talent as a jockey. Perhaps he saw a little bit of himself in me and remembered how free he'd felt as a child. But, looking back on that afternoon, I think that my father was just too afraid to finish something he'd started. When I close my eyes and recall the loathing on his face, I have no doubt that he simply wanted us gone, lying on the carpet with the color draining from our bodies. He just couldn't finish what he'd started, and back then it made me hate him even more.
"You aren't worth the bullets," he eventually said. Then he slowly pulled the barrel from my mouth. Out of that whole chaotic afternoon, those words were the one thing I never forget, even in my happiest moments. I, Jens Pulver, just wasn't worth the bullets.
A rusty taste lingering on my tongue, I watched my father turn away from us and head for the backyard, mumbling that he was going to kill himself. My mother, who died a million deaths that day, pulled us to the floor, and there we huddled, listening for the blast that would end the terror. But although I wanted him gone, I did not wish him dead. He was still my father—the man who built up kingdoms then smashed them down with a swipe of his hand. In my small world, I still thought he had the right.
Waiting for the gunshot that would end the unbearable silence and my father's reign of terror was somehow more horrifying than waiting for him to put a bullet in my own skull. Even though I so young, I sensed that once he was out of our lives for good the true horror of what I'd been living though would set in. All the energy I'd harnessed for survival would be redirected into healing. I would have to look inside myself for the first time, and, scarred by years of abuse, I was afraid of what I might see.
When the shot finally rang out, it sounded like two trains colliding. It sounded like thunder. My mother's arms tightened around Dustin, Abel, and me, and she pulled our heads together until they were touching. At that moment, I was too exhausted to think about what this meant. I was too numb to contemplate our next move. For years I had been floundering in a stormy sea, and now the sea was suddenly calm. And although there were even darker clouds brewing on the horizon, I didn't attempt to swim to shore. If it had been up to me, I would have stayed on the living room floor for an eternity, curled up in my mother's arms.
But my father ruined that plan, just as he ruined everything else. Ten minutes after that liberating shot echoed through the house, I heard his boots scuffing across the kitchen floor. For a moment I thought it was just my mind refusing to accept that he was dead, but then I felt my mother trembling, and I knew that she'd heard him too.
When his swaying silhouette appeared before us, my eyes ran up and down his body, searching for a hole, a trail of blood. But he was as intact as ever, the same drunk father I had always known. And now he was even more furious than he'd been when he lined me and my brothers up in front of the fireplace. He was pissed because we hadn't gone out and checked on him, and he vented his anger on my mother the only way he knew how.
That's just how things were. My brothers and I grew up in a home where every day was a battle. We tasted fear every morning, afternoon, and night. We became so used to it that it became an addiction, and its influence was stronger than any drug sold on the streets.
Fear taught me how to fight with my fists. Fear taught me how to take charge and get what I wanted by whatever means necessary. Fear put me on the path to becoming a world-champion athlete, to proving wrong all those people who said I wouldn't amount to anything. And this path—which led me to become one of the most feared pound-for-pound cage fighters in the world—eventually enabled me to put childhood demons to rest and find inner peace.
But, as you will see, it was a long path to travel.CHAPTER 2
Let me go back a little. I grew up in a five-bedroom, two-story rambler in Maple Valley, Washington, half an hour from Seattle. Our property was the kind most kids would kill to grow up on. We had horses running on an acre and a half of land that was so green you couldn't walk ten feet without hitting a tree. I knew there were plenty of neighborhood kids who envied the hell out of me, sitting up on that big old porch with my two younger brothers and baby sister. But if those kids had come closer—close enough to see what went on behind our closed doors—they'd probably have avoided the entire block, just like those kids in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Just down the street from our house was the Long Acres racetrack, which is where my father made most of his money—and for a while he made quite a bit of it. His only ambition growing up had been to ride horses competitively, and so the day he turned sixteen he became a licensed jockey. For eleven years he rode at Bay Meadows, Long Acres, Portland Meadows, and a dozen other West Coast tracks. He became known for his athleticism and his natural talent, and for a time he was considered one of the best jockeys in the business. Despite his flaws, I have to admit the man knew how to ride.
Horsemanship was in my father's blood. The men in his family tended to be small, and three generations of them had been riders. But along with inheriting the build of a champion racer, my father had inherited a talent for tipping the bottle. In the end, he turned out to be better at sitting on a bar stool than he ever was at sitting on a horse. And it was his undying love of alcohol that ended his riding career. To be a jockey, you not only have to be fit and nimble, but you also have to be light. A man who consumes five thousand calories' worth of booze every night before bed doesn't remain a lightweight for long. So when his weight became a problem, my father did everything he could—aside from sobering up—to shed those extra pounds. When starvation dieting didn't do the trick, he resorted to drugs. As you might imagine, that didn't add much joy to the family unit. How happy can an overweight jockey be when he's drunk, high on drugs, and dying for a burger—all the while watching his career spiraling down the drain?
Eventually my father was forced to stop riding competitively, and, like many athletes whose glory days have passed, he became a trainer. He expected his boys to help out, so while we were growing up, Dustin, Abel, and I practically lived in a Long Acres shed row.
Luckily for us, Long Acres was one of the most majestic racetracks in the country. It was built during an era when people were willing to spend a lot of money to create something beautiful. Stepping through its gates was like entering a magical kingdom, steeped in history. Sometimes, in the early morning hours, long before the crowds arrived, I'd climb into the bleachers to do some thinking. On more than one occasion, I swear that I could hear the hooves of long-dead race-horses pounding down the track.
My family rented one of the dozens of barns located in the back side of Long Acres, and for the first ten years of my life I considered Barn 23 to be my home. And what a home it was! We ran free in our own little wonderland. Every Sunday morning, the pastor would come around with his wagon to collect us for bible school. In October, my mother would decorate our place with carved pumpkins and plastic spiders, and for the month of December a holiday wreath would be nailed to the barn door. Every night, I went to bed with straw in my hair and dirt under my nails, my head full of the little adventures I'd had that day.
We worked as hard as we played. In the beginning, my father ran a tight ship. At four years old, I already had a feed bucket in my hand, and as I got older I started taking on more and more responsibilities. I lined the horses' stalls with straw, hooked the horses up to the exercise walker, and washed them. And when I was big enough, nine or ten years old, I began galloping horses. According to my father, we were going to be jockeys, and sometimes he'd make sure I was the first one on top of a new thoroughbred. I'd get bucked off and land with my face in the dirt, but I'd hop right back into the saddle. Despite smashing my head on a couple of occasions, I loved that part of living at Long Acres—being out there in the dirt and waking up every morning to the smell of horse shit.
There was a downside to being raised on the Backside, however: the seasonal workers. Just as there were winners and losers in the stands every night, there were winners and losers working behind the scenes. The winners, of course, were the trainers and the insanely rich racehorse owners who stopped by occasionally to see how things were going. The losers were the laborers who shoveled shit by my side each day for hours on end.
They weren't bad people; they were just totally uneducated. Most of them would likely have become carnies if they hadn't been raised around horses. They constantly came and went, in and out of jail, driven by their most primal instincts, telling tall tales about life on the road. Many of them blew every last cent of their hard-earned pay on alcohol and drugs, and when worst came to worst, they bedded down in the stalls, sleeping in the shit they would have to shovel out the next morning.
Now, I don't look down on these people, because I believe that each person has the right to choose his or her own path. But if you spend a lot of time around folks like this when you're just four years old, then you start to believe that their way of life is the only way of life.
I saw it happen a hundred times to kids just like me, kids being raised in the Backside. It wasn't uncommon for a twelve-year-old boy to walk around slinging a bottle of beer, talking like he was thirty-five. It wasn't uncommon to see a group of kids smoking cigarettes and playing poker in a dark corner. At nine years old, I chatted with ex-felons and watched illegal Mexican laborers scurry away every time they caught wind of a deportation raid. The Backside was a world of its own, a place where you grew up hard and fast. If you were a racetrack kid, you either loved it or hated it.
In my family, Dustin was the one who loved it, and he probably loved it even more than our father. He loved the horses, the betting, the drinking, the drugs—all of it. At school, he couldn't sit still for more than five minutes, and he didn't think he had any reason to. The track was where he received his education.
Some of Dustin's favorite times growing up were when my father dumped us off on a few of the older racetrack kids. At ten years old, Dustin would follow those boys around as if they were gods, sipping from a bottle of whiskey. He'd throw an arm around one guy's shoulders and talk about how he was going to conquer the world. He didn't weigh more than eighty pounds—he was just a hotheaded little scrapper, all skin and bones, but in his own mind he was larger than the troublemakers he revered. From them he learned marijuana, he learned cocaine, and he learned alcohol. As far as Dustin was concerned, the track was paradise.
Having such negative role models, Dustin headed down a bad road at a very young age. Before he had even reached his teens, he'd made up his mind that he wanted to be a gangster when he grew up. He told our mother this one day when he was in the eighth grade, and he even demonstrated to her on paper how he was going to make a profit selling drugs. Although he was convinced he couldn't do math, if you asked him how many ounces were in a kilo he'd tell you right off.
Dustin knew what he wanted, and what he wanted was cars and guns and women. He wanted to wear medallions around his neck and to be respected like Al Capone. And the racetrack, a community filled with other boys who had similar aspirations, was a place where Dustin felt free to imagine a life of criminal splendor. Soon, the merest mention of the track would bring a sinister smile to his face, and even though I was still trying to make sense of the world myself, I knew that the Backside would be his demise. With every hour he spent there, I could see his ambitions burning brighter in his eyes, and I knew that he was searching for a way to make them a reality.
Each year, I saw Dustin slip further away from me, and it made me search even harder for a way out of the Backside. Although I loved the horses, loved the feeling of being out in the sun, it was all too easy for me to picture myself at thirty-five, a bottle in one hand and a horse brush in the other, searching the barns for an empty stall to rest my head. I was realistic enough to know that while some can make a life out of it, others get pushed under. They give in to darker temptations, and soon every day is a battle. At that point, I'd already battled enough. I just wanted to move towards a future that wasn't filled with pain.
For a time—I can't remember how old I was, maybe nine or ten—I'd gaze out my bedroom window every night at the Washington sky and pray for a miracle. Sometimes, my mother, Marlene, would come and sit by my side. She was a small lady, she didn't even weigh a hundred pounds, yet she carried a thousand pounds of pride. Her roots were Native American, and her hair was long and black and as smooth and thick as a thoroughbred's tail. When she looked at me with her loving brown eyes, I'd find myself wondering if she too was praying for the same miracle.
Excerpted from Little Evil by Jens Pulver, Erich Krauss. Copyright © 2003 Erich Krauss and Jens Pulver. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Jens Pulver is the undefeated Ultimate Fighting Champion in the lightweight belt category. He lives in Bettendorf, Iowa. Erich Krauss is the author of "Brawl: A Behind the Scenes Look at Mixed Martial Arts Competition." He lives in San Diego, California.
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Tremendous story of overcoming adversity. I could not put the book down & read it sll in one day. Jens has a vulnerability rarely seen in sports biographies. He details horrific abuse but also has the courage to detail the perpetual self doubt so commonly associated with parental abuse. I have profound respect for Jens Pulver & wish him the best. I wish he would have gotten paid the way Frank Edgar is today. Best of luck Little Evil!
A very good, quick read on one of MMA's best! This was the original MMA fighter autobiography. Jens's was the 1st MMA fighter to tell his story. When "Little Evil" was written, it was shortly after Jens Pulver defended his championship belt against then up and coming fighter(& future champion) B.J. Penn! Jens went through hell as a kid. He had every reason to become just another punk kid, with no direction in life dealing drugs and drinking. But lucky for him, he found wrestling and had alot of great coaches & mentors direct him to a life worth living for. Since this book was written however Jens Pulver lost his belt, as do all champions eventually. He will always be one of the original UFC fighters and always a legend. Jens is now training again and fighting in the WEC! As an avid fan of MMA, I think Jens still has alot of fight in him and he will be around for awhile and his legendary left hand is as strong as ever! Good short book for any MMA fans!
¿When my father stormed back into the living room, his eyes burned with a fury that I have not seen since, not in all the battle I¿ve waged against opponents who tried to beat me within an inch of my life. He uttered not a single apology or explanation for the sin he was about to commit. He simply said, ¿I¿m going to execute you all,¿ with a coldness that can only come from a man too afraid to venture inside his own tortured soul.' ¿Little Evil,¿ an autobiography written by Jens Pulver with Erich Krauss, isn¿t a story about the UFC or MMA, it¿s a story about an individual that will not give up on his goals no matter what obstacles appear. Jens would grow up with one of the toughest lives and childhoods I have ever heard of in my life. This fighters rise to the op is truely amazing. After reading this book it is hard to dislike much of anything in the story, I would highly recomend this book to anyone that would like to learn more on what a uman being can really go through.
This was one of the most incredible books I have ever read and I read alot. From the very first chapter I was in awe. I couldn't put the book down and I finished it in a day! Jens Pulver is truly an insperation to everyone, not just martial arts fans. It was amazing to follow him on a journey where he had so much hardship and adversity in his life and still found the inner strength to become an incredible man and MMA champion. Jens Pulver is the stuff heros are made of.
This book goes into Jens' tragic childhood. He found solice by wrestling which eventually led him on his path to mixed martial arts and glory. This was a very inspriational book and Jens, if you are reading this, thank you for giving me inspiration for both my pursuit of mma and the way I react to my life. I enjoyed reading about 'Lil Evil', the toughest man I've ever heard of, not only for his fighting skill, but for his incredible amount of inner strength.