James Krause seems to have found a perfect balance in life after more than a decade in mixed martial arts, as he has successfully blended his responsibilities as a fighter with his duties as a head coach and entrepreneur on his own terms. With his latest assignment in the Ultimate Fighting Championship upon him, the Missouri native may soon find out that further success in the cage may bring unwanted alterations to a unique winning formula.
“I got a lot of criticism for running the gym instead of going to a big camp like [American Top Team] or [the American Kickboxing Academy],” Krause told Sherdog.com. “Frank Trigg used to always bust my ass about this. He was the worst one [and] the main one just because I think he cared. We would always do this interview, and after [it ended], he would always say, ‘I just want to see you go to a big gym.’ And I’d always say, ‘Frank, I can’t do it. I want to be the guy that puts Kansas City on the map. I’m not going anywhere else. I’m not doing that. Somebody’s got to do it. I want to be the one.’”
Armed with a 26-7 record that includes five straight victories in the UFC, Krause has indeed done all he can do to put Kansas City on the map. The 33-year-old’s recent hot streak has been predicated on his continued growth as a fighter, and the Glory MMA frontman admits the last few years have resulted in some of his greatest leaps forward as a martial artist. That includes a knockout of Warlley Alves at UFC Fight Night 135 in August 2018 -- the first fight he had ended with strikes in over six years.
“I’m not known for a ton of power in my hands, but I do have probably four or five head kick knockouts [before the UFC],” Krause said, “and I have quite a few where I’ve hurt people and subbed them. At the high level, those guys are really good. They’re tough to put away. One thing that I’ve done in the past two or three years is I think I’ve really upped my danger factor [with] just a lot of trickery and heat in the striking, especially with the knees. It’s something I’ve worked on heavily. I had a good opportunity to show that this last time.”
The knees he used to dispatch Alves were also useful in stunning previous opponents Sam Stout and Daron Cruickshank. Krause believes it was an element he needed to sharpen while maintaining his reputation as an elusive fighter who avoids unnecessary damage.
“I don’t have a lot of power in my hands because I move my feet a lot,” Krause said. “I’m a very elusive fighter. My feet are always moving. Therefore, they aren’t always planted on the ground. If your feet aren’t planted on the ground, you don’t hit as hard. I think every fight you need to [add something new], because if a guy is watching video on you and you go into the fight the same person, I think that’s a problem. You always have to be adding to your skills. You have to be a different fighter every time you step [into the cage]. Different tools and tricks, at least to some degree.”
Krause’s progress involved physical and mental adjustments, too. On a physical level, he credits his move to the welterweight division as a core reason for his recent surge. The former lightweight weighed as much as 186 pounds on fight night. While he admits it made him a sizable threat to opponents in the division, it also forced him to clock watch as a means to conserve energy during rounds. He has no such worries ay 170 pounds.
“I would get tired, but at 170, I can just work,” Krause said. “I can put my head down [and] not look at the clock. I can just work for 15 minutes. I really like that.”
Another key factor in his surge: his work as a coach at Glory MMA in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Krause concedes that the skills needed to teach others required him to see many facets of the sport in a different light.
“Anytime that you have to teach someone something, you’re forced to break it down to a technical level,” he said. “It can no longer be ‘do this because.’ If you’re doing things, you can do the what, but if you’re teaching things, you have to do the why, so it definitely forces you to think about why you’re doing things and when you do them. I think it’s going to force people to be more technical.”
In ways, his job as a coach has had an impact on his Octagon time and played a role in his 15-month hiatus from competition. However, Krause does not view this as a problem, as he gets a level of fulfillment from coaching that fighting cannot provide.
“If you read all the books on success, they say if you want to accomplish all your dreams, you must first help someone else accomplish theirs,” he said. “I’ve been coaching since way before I should have been. I am super passionate about finding young kids who have that hunger like I once did and helping them accomplish their goals. I get much more fulfillment out of that then I do myself. I love being a winning factor in a fight. I love being a part of that journey, that progress. It’s something special to watch somebody come from an amateur, go pro, work their way up and, at some point, get signed by the UFC. It’s a feeling unlike anything else.”
Even so, coaching has not been the lone factor in his limited fighting schedule. A long career in combat sports has taken a toll on his body. With his competitive fires stoked by coaching and his finances in order due to smart business and investment decisions, Krause can be far more selective about when he fights.
“There’s days when I walk in the gym like, ‘S---, I don’t want to do this,’” he said, “and then there are days where I’m a damn savage. There are days when I love it and days when the grind catches up with you. With coaching, the fulfillment is always there every day.”
Krause will return to the cage at UFC Fight Night 164 on Saturday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for a chance to confront a challenge he has not yet faced since he joined the promotion: a tried-and-true grappler who offers a world of danger on the mat. A scheduled match with Sergio Moraes was offered to Krause in 2018, but visa issues forced the Brazilian to withdraw and cleared the way for a short-notice battle with Alves. He was not happy at the time.
“I can remember saying, ‘Man, this is bulls---. I went from a grappler to a striker, and this matchup is considerably different,’” Krause said. “They basically told me to [expletive] off: ‘No, you’re taking this fight.’ So I was like, ‘Cool, no problem.’ I feel like this is the first grapple-heavy guy they’ve matched me up with since I’ve been in the UFC. It’s kind of like a new danger for me like, ‘Oh, s----. I’ve got this new element that I’ve got to worry about.’ I think his style is an interesting matchup for me. He brings things to the table I have not seen for a long time. It’s something that I’m really looking forward to.”
Krause sees the similarities between the two Brazilians, but there are also stark differences that have him much more interested in facing Moraes.
“This is going to sound really dumb, but they are the same fighter, only opposites,” he said with a laugh. “I do feel like both of those guys get tired. I feel like after five minutes they drastically fade. I feel like they’re going to get tired and do get frustrated when the fight doesn’t go their way. Sergio is a three-time jiu-jitsu world champion. It’s not someone I want on top of me, but I feel like his danger factor in the striking department is far less than Warlley. He hasn’t stopped anybody in a long time from hands.”
Despite the fact that Moraes enters their match on a two-fight losing streak, Krause views him as a far greater threat due to his high-level jiu-jitsu and the desperation of his situation. Moraes could find himself on the chopping block with another setback.
“I’ll be completely honest with you, I personally think that Sergio is a tougher matchup for me stylistically than Warlley is,” Krause said. “With Sergio, if he gets you on the ground, there’s a problem. He’s submitted some very high-level black belts. Anytime you’re on the chopping block, you have to bring your best s---. He’s going to bring his best stuff and go to what got him in the UFC in the first place. He’s going to try and take me down, get on top of me and sub me. I am almost 100-percent [certain] that’s what he’s going to do.”
Another victory could move Krause into the Top 15 rankings at 170 pounds and lead to more notable fights. However, with increased visibility comes a greater demand to compete. Although Krause would relish the opportunity to test himself against the best welterweights in the sport, he does not sound to keen on moving away from his comfort zone of two fights per year.
“When you get into that Top 15, they want you to fight three or four times a year,” Krause said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been fighting for 13 years. I have over 60 fights, pro and amateur. Just thinking about the idea of fighting four times a year is just like, ‘Holy [expletive], man.’ My body can’t do it. I’m 33 years old, [but] it’s not the year of the car, it’s the miles. I’ve got a lot of miles on me. It doesn’t interest me to fight four times a year. Honestly, three doesn’t even sound fun. Two is where I need to be. So let’s assume I beat Sergio. I think what we’ll have to do is talk to the UFC and see if there’s a happy medium in there.”
In the meantime, the business owner and real estate investor will continue to train and secure his future through various ventures. During his long career, Krause has watched as friends -- some of them the best fighters in the sport at a given time -- end up with nothing left to show for all of their hard work after poor decisions with their winnings, including not paying their taxes.
“I’ve seen it so many times -- and man it breaks my heart to see -- at the end of your career, the guys that made hundreds of thousands of dollars have nothing,” Krause said. “No assets, nothing to show for it; and taxes. [Expletive], that’s another thing. I know too many of these guys -- and I’m talking high-level guys, Top 5 guys -- that owe hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they don’t have it to pay. You have to know that because I’m telling you, Uncle Sam is getting his.”
With that in mind, Krause has made known his willingness to offer advice on how to best make a fighter’s tenure in the UFC pay off, now and in the future.
“The problem is when those guys get signed to the UFC, they quit their job and then they live off the UFC money,” Krause said. “Well, you were [working part-time] before. It was hard, but you were doing it, so my suggestion is to keep working that part-time job. Fight three times. Get that money saved up, because we all want to save. We don’t save to save; we save to invest. You keep living off that part-time job money, and you use that UFC money as extra money. [Then] you take that money and you invest. Still live frugally, still live off the part-time job and then, after three or four fights [where] you’ve invested money, then buy the Rolex. Then you can buy the Gucci shoes.”