When Jens Pulver was submitted in 33 seconds by Josh Grispi back at WEC 41 in Sacramento, the fan favorite known as "Lil' Evil" tearfully thanked the fans for years of support and hinted that the last fight of his career may have just taken place.
Thankfully, that doesn't look like it is going to be the case, as the first lightweight champion in UFC history plans on returning to the cage in 2010.
Candid as ever, Pulver discussed the time between the Grispi loss and now with Mike Chiappetta of AOL Fanhouse, divulging that moving back to Idaho and medication prescribed following visits to a psychiatrist have helped Pulver deal with feelings of anxiety and depression that have plagued him for a number of years.
While the news is certainly welcomed by the legions of Lil' Evil fans that includes this writer, many will ask a variation of the question posed to Pulver by WEC analyst Todd Hummer following his second loss to Urijah Faber: is he still relevant?
Having lost four straight and six of his last seven, his recent track record certainly would make it hard for anyone to argue in his favor. After a strong showing in a five round war with then Featherweight champ Faber in June 2008, Pulver has spent a combined 3:19 seconds in the cage over his last three losses.
But you shouldn't count out a guy with Pulver's track record, both inside the cage and outside.
In addition to racking up wins over the likes of B.J. Penn, Caol Uno, Dennis Hallman and Cub Swanson, Pulver has overcome the abusive childhood detailed in his book Little Evil, the sudden death of close friend Justin Eilers and the aforementioned struggles with anxiety and depression.
If Lil' Evil says he's feeling better than ever and he's ready to go again, this writer is inclined to believe him.
In an era where more and more athletes offer nothing but robotic answers and show as little emotion as possible, Jens Pulver has always been candid and worn his hear on his sleeve. He's as likable a fighter as their is in the sport.
Just don't let the smiles and emotions fool you; a motivated and committed Pulver could be a dangerous opponent and stirring story once he gets back into the cage in 2010.
Welcome back Lil' Evil...
(Photo courtesy of Evan Shoman. Visit Shoman Art for more details.)