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MMA movie review – Jens Pulver: Driven


The by-line for Jens Pulver‘s documentary entitled “Driven” reads: “The story of a man who fought to change a name”.

If there was such a thing as a “typical MMA movie” this would not be it, that’s for sure.

The movie finds Jens during his stint with the WEC, which began in 2007 with a first round submission win over Cub Swanson. After that win though, Jens lost his next four fights and that is where the movie picks up.

Jens is preparing for his March 2010 bout against fellow featherweight, Javier Vazquez, a BJJ black belt who was also in dire need of a win after losing his previous two bouts.

The movie delves deeply into the psyche of Jens Pulver, who he is, where he came from and why he is the way he is.

Driven takes a raw unflinching look at abuse, physically and mentally, specifically the abuse Jens himself took at the hands of his father, Jens Pulver Sr.

If Jens is “Lil’ Evil”, no doubt his father was “Big Evil”.

Stories of a horrible childhood are told by Jens himself as he is preparing for one of the most important fights of his life, a fight he would ultimately lose and which led to him being released from the WEC and the Zuffa family.

Viewers learn to understand what has driven Jens over the years, what drove him to become the very first UFC lightweight champion, what drove him to keep fighting when the world was telling him to retire, and what continues to drive him.

We meet Jens’ family, his wife Kannika and son Karson; his beautiful family that he fights to provide for and allows him to be the father and husband his own father never was.

Jens is a champion of life because he broke the cycle of abuse. Yet still, Driven shows us that Jens continues to fight a war within himself, inside his own mind — no doubt, they are the demons of his past who want him to fail.

It is the demon of his father who stuck the cold steel barrel of a gun in his five-year-old mouth and told his mother to choose which son she wanted to die.

Driven is not a happy story. It is not going to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. But it is a truthful, raw and honest look at a young American boy who could have very well ended up where his brother is, serving a life sentence in prison.

But through a love of wrestling and eventually MMA, Jens found his path out of the nightmare. Jens has had a hell of a ride; two state championships, All-American, UFC champion and he is known and loved all over the world.

Ultimately Driven shows us a professional athlete trying to hold on to the one thing that has defined him for so long. It was the one thing Jens was really good at. And it’s slipping away.

It would have been a beautiful fairy-tale ending if Jens had won his fight with Vasquez. But he didn’t. He was submitted in the first round and was then released from the WEC. In fact, he went on to lose his next fight via first round submission too.

However, he did bounce back and win two in a row earlier this year, before losing to Brian Davidson at Titan FC 18 in May (via another first round submission). An interesting note; Jens’ last five losses have all been first round submissions.

Maybe he just needs a new grappling coach.

One thing Driven does is let you know who Jens Pulver is inside and out. He holds nothing back and displays his emotions like a badge of honor (there’s a lot of crying). In that sense, as a documentary, it does it’s job perfectly.

Some people found it inspirational, at least that’s what it says on the box. I guess in a sense it is inspirational, but for me, I found it mostly depressing.

Some of my favorite parts were Jens full contact sparring with Scott Jorgensen, seeing Jens interact with his coach Tony Fryklund and his brother Abel as he cut weight and prepared for his fight with Vazquez.

Jens Pulver: Driven can be rented for online viewing at Amazon.com and on Itunes. Here is a link to the Driven Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jenspulverdriven) and fans can follow on Twitter @drivenfilm.

Here is the trailer:

Jens Pulver: Driven is directed by Gregory Bayne and written by J. Reuben Appelman.

  • David

    This is awesome jens deserves it. Real bad childhood story to inspire others with similar fates

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