Las Vegas NV.– UFC® today announced that former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver will be inducted into the 2023 Class of the UFC Hall of Fame as a Pioneer. The 2023 UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by Toyo Tires®, will take place during the 11th Annual UFC International Fight WeekÔ this summer in Las Vegas and will be streamed live on UFC FIGHT PASS®.
“Jens Pulver is a pioneer of the sport who was not only the first lightweight champion in UFC history, but someone who delivered some of the sport’s most memorable moments,” said UFC President Dana White. “No one will ever forget his knockout of John Lewis or his win over BJ Penn in their first fight, and his fight against Urijah Faber in 2008 was the biggest fight in WEC history at the time. Jens could do it all in the Octagon, and it will be an honor to induct him into the UFC Hall of Fame this summer.”
Pulver will enter the UFC Hall of Fame as the 18th member of the Pioneer Era Wing. The Pioneers Era category includes athletes who turned professional before November 17, 2000 (when the unified rules of mixed martial arts were adopted), are a minimum age of 35, or who have been retired for one year or more.
A veteran of 47 fights during his 14-year professional MMA career, Pulver registered a record of 27-19-1 Draw (11-9-1, – UFC / PRIDE / Shooto / WEC), securing victories over UFC Hall of Famers BJ Penn and Cub Swanson, former Shooto lightweight champion Caol Uno, The Ultimate Fighter® Season 2 tournament winner Joe Stevenson, and former WEC® featherweight champion Cole Escovedo.
Pulver made his professional MMA debut by competing as part of two Bas Rutten Invitationals on April 24 and June 1, 1999. Produced by UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten, the invitational was an MMA tournament, where Pulver recorded a 3-1 record over two events before joining UFC.
Jens made his UFC debut as part of UFC® 22: ONLY ONE CAN BE CHAMPION, which took place on September 24, 1999, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Pulver faced Alfonso Alcarez, fighting to a draw. After his UFC debut, he would bounce back from his fight against Alcarez, winning five of his next six fights, which included a 2-0 record inside UFC.
Jens returned to the Octagon for his fourth UFC bout against John Lewis at UFC® 28: HIGH STAKES, which took place on November 17, 2000. Pulver defeated Lewis via knockout 15 seconds into the first round and earned his first title shot at UFC 30. His quick knockout of Lewis ranks as the fifth fastest in the history of the lightweight division.
UFC® 30: BATTLE ON THE BOARDWALK took place on February 23, 2001, in Atlantic City, New Jersey and served as the first UFC event under the Zuffa banner.
Jens faced Caol Uno in the co-main event with the inaugural UFC 155-pound (then called bantamweight) title on the line. Pulver would earn a unanimous decision victory over Uno and become the organization’s first bantamweight champion. After the event, the division was renamed to lightweight, making Jens UFC’s first lightweight champion.
Pulver returned to the Octagon on September 28, 2001, in the co-main event of UFC® 33: VICTORY IN VEGAS. This event would serve as the first UFC event sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Jens would defeat Dennis Hallman via unanimous decision and become the first UFC lightweight champion to defend their title.
His next title defense would take place on January 11, 2002, against future UFC Hall of Famer BJ Penn in the main event of UFC® 35: THROWDOWN. Still regarded as one of the most exciting fights in UFC history, Jens defeated Penn via majority decision in an event that would also make history as the first UFC event headlined by athletes competing in the lightweight division.
Pulver would vacate his title and leave UFC after this event. During his first tenure inside the Octagon (1999 – 2002), he set lightweight division records for total (482) and significant (222) strikes landed.
Jens would compete 13 times across a number of MMA promotions over the next four years, most notably PRIDE and Shooto, before returning to UFC to face Joe Lauzon at UFC® 63: HUGHES vs. PENN 2. Pulver would lose his return bout against Lauzon and his next fight, a rematch against Penn as the main event of The Ultimate Fighter® Season 5 Finale. He would leave UFC for a second and final time following this event.
During the final six years of his career, Pulver would continue to face the best of the best across numerous MMA promotions, such as WEC and Titan FC, before retiring on November 23, 2013.
A native of Sunnyside, Washington, Pulver joined a youth wrestling program in the sixth grade and competed through high school, earning two state titles as a member of Tahoma Senior High School in Maple Valley. He also began boxing during his time in high school.
Jens began his collegiate wrestling career at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington, where he became an NJCAA All-American. He then transferred to Boise State University, where he competed before an injury ended his collegiate wrestling career. Pulver would continue his education at Boise State and earn his degree in criminal justice.
Following his graduation, Jens transitioned from wrestling to mixed martial arts, training with various camps before joining UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich at the Miletich Fighting Systems Academy. He currently resides in Iowa with his wife and two kids.