Are your gloves on yet? In this installment of To The Point, we get down to business with one of the toughest S.O.B.’s on the planet. That’s right, in this episode we have a chat with former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens “Lil Evil” Pulver to talk about his incredible life, and learn what the trades and being punched in the face for a living have in common. It may come as no surprise to anyone in the industry, but the two professions have quite a bit of crossover.
For an annual executive retreat, Chris and the RYNO execs traveled to a BYLR camp, and had the opportunity to hear Jens speak about his life and experiences as an MMA world champ. Chris and Jens quickly hit it off as two men who know what it’s like to be up against the ropes.
Jens came from a rough upbringing, with an extremely physically abusive father. His memories of defending his mother from his father as a child were some of his greatest motivators, and he dreamed of becoming so successful he could call his dad out in front of the world. As a teenager, school and home life were difficult, but he discovered that wrestling was a place where he immediately found success. He didn’t have to rely on anyone but himself and devoted his energy into becoming the best he could be, eventually working his way up to becoming a state champion for his school.
Jens was hellbent on being so famous people would line up to meet him, and his anger towards his father was what he calls his inner “middle finger”, or what he used to channel his energy towards becoming successful. This middle finger took him all the way through a celebrated MMA career, notably becoming the first ever UFC Lightweight Champion and defending his title for almost a decade.
You need that “middle finger”, that thing you have inside you that drives you on the days you want to give up. Some days, it’s easy to find the motivation to work hard. It’s those days where you feel like you don’t have it in you where you need a little something extra, that fire in you that you can rely on to push you when you think you can’t go any further.
Jens didn’t become a world champion by just learning how to punch hard, and he credits the countless hours of drills, conditioning, and the boring repetition as being the foundation that made him truly great. Are you willing to do all the little mundane things that it takes to build something great? After all, the guy at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.
To further explain, Jens reimagines the old “three little pigs” analogy to relate to focusing on the mundane. The first pig, or the house of straw, is like the prospective fighter who watches a few YouTube tutorials about the exciting stuff like chokeholds and spinning kicks, but never practices or puts in the necessary hours at the gym. The second pig, the house of sticks, learns the exciting stuff and maybe even does a little conditioning and sparring here and there. The third pig, however, does the mundane. He does the boring legwork, the daily running and drills, and builds his auto-pilot to the point where when it’s time to kick into full gear, he can succeed without even thinking about it. When the wolf comes to town, which pig’s house are you staying in?
By putting in the long hours, we can establish a concrete foundation for ourselves that will serve us regardless of whether we’re training to be an MMA expert or running the best HVAC business in the world. Get up early, bust your ass, and execute the small details that will enable you to be successful no matter what.
After winning a title bout and becoming a household name as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter TV show, Jens finally achieved that level of success he had dreamed about. His father eventually couldn’t go anywhere without his past catching up to him, and confronted Jens. Instead of retaliating with anger, Jens was thankful for his upbringing and credits his father for giving him that middle finger to make him so successful. Jens and his father repaired their relationship, and while Jens kept a very healthy boundary from his father, they had regular conversations until the day his father passed away.
This response wasn’t by accident. Jens understands that real success isn’t just hard work, it’s being able to love yourself. After a childhood where smiling could mean being smacked in the face, he’s had to recondition himself to be able to appreciate how far he’s come. He’s thankful for his hardships, as it gave him an edge and motivated him to be the best he could be. By taking the necessary steps to become his own best friend, Jens can truly enjoy his lifetime of incredible achievements and his family.
When life hits you, you gotta learn how to hit back. Sometimes it’s something small, like a technician quitting and having to replace them, but no matter what it is, if you’ve taken those small steps to build a concrete foundation—you’ll find a way to win. Whether you’re a mixed martial artist, a business owner, or just starting a new career, success comes from a fighter’s mentality. Do the mundane, find your middle finger to further your success as a contractor, and when life knocks you out, pick yourself up and figure out how to punch back harder.
You can find Jens on most nights streaming on Twitch. He loves being able to have an audience outside of the ring, connecting with fans both new and old to discuss fighting, life, and just plain enjoy himself. Be sure to also check out his documentary, Driven, on Amazon Prime, for a more intimate look at his life story.