Time is perhaps the most interesting of all indicators.
We use it to track our journeys, mark connections and stamp occurrences in our minds for the purpose of memory. While the idea of time is simple in nature, the variety of ways it is used makes it ultimately complex. Rather than just numbers on a clock we point to when the moment draws near to do that thing we are supposed to do, it is the instrument we use for examination. Whether we are the same person who arrives this time around or if we are somehow improved with the latter being proof that lessons were learned along the way.
Where much is said about first impressions and second chances, James Krause accomplished a rare feat by making his second chance the best impression. And if he continues to perform at the level he has been, there is a good chance his first run at the UFC will become a distant memory.
In all fairness to the Virginia native, his first attempt at a UFC contract came with unique conditions. The 27-year-old was in the midst of a three-fight winning streak on the regional circuit when he made his bid to become a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter Live, which was the 15th installment of the reality-based fighting program. As was the case in many years before it, the "live" season featured an elimination round where the competitors had to fight their way into the house.
For his bout, the Grindhouse MMA fighter would draw heavy-handed slugger Justin Lawrence and suffered an upset via first round TKO. With the loss, Krause saw his bid for the UFC come to an abrupt halt. But in the essence of not wasting time, he was back in the cage—and the win column—three months later when he edged out Amir Khillah via split-decision under the Resurrection Fighting Alliance banner.
"Having a win in the UFC had been one of my lifetime goals and after losing on the show, I thought that was it," Krause told Bleacher Report. "It really sucked and I went into a depression for a couple of weeks. But then I picked myself up and realized I'm not going to accomplish my life's goals sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I started training again, went right back to work, and started fighting as much as I could."
While failing to secure a spot on TUF and chase the six-figure contract left a bad taste in his mouth, Krause couldn't allow that one misstep to derail everything he had been working for. In his mind, he knew the UFC would come to call. It was a matter that came down to his ability to continue winning fights. If he was able to keep doing so and looking impressive in the process, the calendar and the numbers on it would have little to nothing to do with his fate.
In fact, time—it's widely accepted definition—had absolutely zero to do with his arrival in the UFC. When the biggest promotion in MMA came to call, it was because injury had struck gritty veteran Ike Vallie-Flagg and the organization needed a replacement to fight Sam Stout at UFC 161 in Winnipeg.
In that moment, the door to the UFC was open, and Krause didn't just seize the opportunity, he blew it off the hinges. Despite being a short-notice replacement to face the savvy Canadian veteran, Krause rolled out an A+ performance as he battered Stout at every turn before ending the tilt with a guillotine choke in the final round.
On the strength of his showing and finish in the fight, Krause walked away from UFC 161 as a double-bonus winner as he pulled down Submission of the Night and Fight of the Night honors and garnered acclaim for the skills he displayed on fight night.
"I don't know if it could have worked out any better," Krause said. "It really was awesome and changed my life. And not in just the money sense either. I feel like my life has done a 180 since then and it was a really cool experience. It is something I really wanted to accomplish and I worked very hard to get there. My team really pushed me and helped me prove I can compete at this level. I proved I do belong there and I'm not just some guy who shows up on The Ultimate Fighter, gets beat, then you never hear from him again.
"It was great to finally get in there and be able to show everybody what I'm all about. I had a good fair shot with a good weight cut. I was offered a couple of UFC fights and the time for cutting weight just wasn't there and I just wanted a legitimate opportunity to show people what I'm all about. I finally got that against Stout. I knew if I got that chance I would do very well and I think I showed that."
Going into Winnipeg he was that talented fighter people think they've heard of who was killing it in smaller promotions but wasn't quite ready for prime time. In wrecking Stout, Krause not only proved he was more than ready for the biggest stage in MMA, but he also provided validation for the buzz and hype that surrounded him.
While those factors are great feelings to have, Krause believes they are better served tucked away than rested upon. He has championship aspirations, and while the battle to make it to the UFC was hard-fought and trying, it was just another step on the journey. Granted, it was a big step to get past, but far from the destination he's locked his sights upon.
"I'm a self-motivated individual but it does fuel me in the sense that I know I can make it," Krause described about the aftermath of UFC 161. "People aren't looking at me as a TUF guy anymore. They see me as the guy who beat Sam Stout. I just want to be known as a serious competitor who can fight at any level. My performance the last fight went a long way to solidify that and that's exactly what I want.
"With my last fight, it's going to be hard to live up to that same expectation because everybody was talking about it for awhile after. But I really to be that guy people talk about, not just the night of the event, but for weeks after. I want to be that guy and a fighter the fans love to watch."
Krause is gunning for UFC gold and he's prepared to cut down anyone Joe Silva puts in his path, with the next challenge coming from Strikeforce convert Bobby Green. "The King" also looked impressive in his official UFC debut at UFC 156 back in February where he submitted Jacob Volkmann in the third round of their bout in Las Vegas.
Much like Krause, the 27-year-old also pulled down some extra cash in the form of a fight night bonus and both men will be shooting for additional honors when they square off at Fight for the Troops 3 in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In addition to the manner in which both fighters made their promotional debuts, the similarities between Krause and Green spill over into the intangible category as well.
Both are on a quest to show and prove. Both are looking to make good on the expectation they've set for themselves. But perhaps most importantly, both are determined to make the most of their time in the spotlight and take a step toward the next level in the lightweight division. While Green is undoubtedly shooting for the same goal, Krause believes he's the hungrier fighter and has every intention of showing just how much more on fight night.
"[Green] is a tough guy and a very good competitor. We are very similar in a lot of ways. I'm very excited to get in there and kind of figure him out and see what he's all about. I think it's going to be another fight for the fans. This could very well be Fight of the Night. We both like to strike and we are both very good at it. I want to go out and perform for those fans because I want them to want to watch me fight and be excited when my name is on the card.
"I think the think with Bobby and I is that we are both able to compete at this level, people just don't know who we are yet. The average fan doesn't know who we are yet and we are both trying to go after the same thing. I think it is going to come down to who wants it more. I've been training really hard and I'm not taking Bobby lightly at all. I look at him as a very serious competitor. I'm going to come in 100 percent ready and injury free. No excuses and I'm ready to go.
"In this fight, people are going to see two guys who really want it," he added. "They are putting two dogs in the cage who want that bone and they are going to do whatever it takes to get there. It's going to be a very exciting fight between two guys who love to get after it and I think it's going to look a lot like the Stout fight—I really do. We both want this bad and it's going to boil down to who is hungrier that day. I believe it will be Fight of the Night and be a fight people talk about."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.