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MMA Star Jens Pulver Opens Up About His Abusive Childhood

Jens Pulver, the former UFC lightweight champion who's preparing for a June 7 fight in World Extreme Cagefighting, chatted with FanHouse readers Monday and discussed more than just his career in MMA. He also discussed growing up with an abusive father, and how his own tough childhood has motivated him to be a good father to his kids, and a good role model to children in his community.

"Anger is what motivated me in the beginning, absolutely," Pulver said. "When I was a world champion I set out to prove that my dad was wrong, set out to prove things because of the abusive family I came from. I could train nine hours a day because I was so angry. But now that I have two kids, and have a phenomenal career in this sport, the anger isn't there anymore. I let that go when I won a world title. Now I am trying to sit back and use a different kind of motivation. I'm putting 'Lil Evil' to rest and just trying to be Jens Pulver, and be the best fighter I can be, without anger."

Author Timothy J. McKinnon wrote a book, Never, about Pulver's childhood, and how he overcame it. Pulver, who is one of four children, said that it wasn't easy, and that his three siblings took three different paths.

"People who knew me growing up are shocked that now I'm a nice guy who goes to church," Pulver said. "I lived in a nightmare. My brother is serving 55 years in prison, my sister has been in and out of trouble. But then my other brother has a master's in literature and is teaching junior high, and then there's me. So it's kind of weird how we grew up, who ended up like my mom and who ended up like my dad. I don't regret anything that I've been through because it got me where I am today. I don't like it when people use it as an excuse, say they're drug addicts because they were beaten. My goal with what I do is to go back and help kids, and let them know that even if you grow up in a home with domestic violence, the door isn't closed to you."

Pulver said he uses his own past as motivation for helping others.

"I have aspirations to help people, and I want to be able to use my name to help, to open up doors for kids," Pulver said. "Someone has to pay attention to kids, the people who are going to be running our society in the future. I'm not worried about money, about being rich, but I am worried about making sure kids are taken care of in the future."

Asked to name the toughest person he knows, Pulver didn't name a fellow fighter.

"My mother," Pulver said. "That might sound like a cliche, but really, she was tough, raising her kids while taking beatings from her husband. She worked around horses, and those horses never took a day off, so she never took a day off. I've seen her break her leg and cut her own cast off a week later because she had to go back to work to feed us. I will never, ever forget what she did for me. She's hands down the toughest person I've been around."