LAS VEGAS — The money — the truly big money — for fighters in the UFC comes after winning a championship. It’s why fighters plead so desperately for a shot at the title, and why Tyron Woodley sat out 18 months awaiting a crack at the welterweight belt.
UFC lightweight James Krause is an ambitious guy, but he’s not particularly interested in the belt.
“I think my best is still to come,” said Krause, who is 5-3 and on a two-fight winning streak. “But I don’t give a [expletive] about the title; not two [expletive]. I’m not looking to retire off the UFC. I’m looking to use the UFC as a catapult to create bigger and better things with residual income.
“The UFC has no residual. I’m only as rich as I work. I don’t want that. I want to wake up and know I’ve made money while I was sleeping. I want security and I can’t get that in the UFC.”
Krause is already a successful businessman. He owns two Metro PCS stores, a gym and is a fight promoter. Given that and what is going on in his personal life, there is literally no reason for Krause to be where he is right now, a member of the cast of Season 25 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” separated from his family for two months.
Krause and his wife, Shyntel, have a year-plus-old daughter, Lyncoln, and are acting as surrogate parents for his 11-year-old half-sister, Lily.
Lily is the daughter of Krause’s mother, Mindy, and her late husband, Tom Scott. Scott died of cancer and Mindy is in the middle of a jail sentence. Krause took his sister in because she had nowhere to go, and got a crash course in parenting.
“I didn’t realize until I had my own daughter what good parenting was like, and that was not from me but from my wife,” Krause said. “My wife … the one thing I know for certain about her is that she is a phenomenal, phenomenal parent, a phenomenal mother. She’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know what good parenting looked like until I saw her parent.”
That’s in part because of the strange life he led as a child. His parents divorced when he was two and, as often happens in a divorce, the children suffer.
Krause, 30, went with his mother, who was dirt poor, because he said his father, Doug Krause, didn’t know how to be a father. Krause said he has a good relationship with his father now and insists he doesn’t want to mess that up, but he’s blunt about his father’s failings.
“He was never given the opportunity slash he never took the opportunity to really know how to be a dad and a father and what that means,” Krause said.
Krause said his father is well-off and comes from a wealthy family. His mother, though, was pretty much the exact opposite.
“My dad’s side of the family has always been very wealthy and they’ve had very good jobs, high-paying positions, stuff like that,” Krause said. “My mom’s side is the exact opposite. They were very poor, and not just financially. They had the victim’s mentality. It was just that mindset. Poor me kind of stuff, and I grew up around that.”
And so as a child, he faced this odd circumstance. He would go for an annual weekly visit with his father and see a life he couldn’t imagine at home.
He could have pretty much everything he wanted. He ate what he wanted. He did what he wanted. He’d return to his mother and step-father and then live very much on the edge, he said.
“I’d go for that week with my father and I had a life that I really enjoyed,” he said. “They spent a lot of money on me. It was like paradise, a great vacation. Then I would come home and it was like, ‘Ugh.’ But that dynamic I think was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“I had glimpses off what I wanted in life, so I could see what the end of the tunnel looked like. It taught me what I could have if I worked hard. When I got home, we were poor; super poor. I can remember living on $400 a month. I can remember times where we went hunting for deer, and if we didn’t kill anything, we didn’t have anything for dinner.”
His mother struggled with drug and alcohol dependence and it put his family in bad places very frequently. It came to a head finally several years ago.
Throughout his life, Krause said his mother took no accountability for her problems. He said he was fortunate to find a mentor who helped him and taught him to be a good person, but said his mother was always in the midst of one crisis or another.
It finally all caught up to her. According to Krause, his mother was driving drunk and ran another car off the road. He said she fled the scene and was caught later with drug paraphernalia in the car. Krause said she received a four-year jail sentence.
As a result, he and his wife became responsible for his young sister.
It was a sobering experience having to suddenly become a parent, particularly for a guy who had such an unstable upbringing.
“Let’s rewind to eight months ago when I had a daughter who was a year old,” Krause said. “What do you do with a 1-year-old? Nothing! You feed them a bottle. They sleep. I wasn’t really a dad yet. I hadn’t experienced any of it and then all of a sudden my sister was with us.
“And not only that, but I skipped 11 years. It’s a tough thing, but I’m learning. We’re learning. We weren’t going to let her go to the state. It’s my sister. So we’re doing the best we can.”
And that’s why Krause, who didn’t need to, decided to try TUF again. He felt it could advance his career and help him make even more money to be able to take care of his young family.
He’s done well in the UFC already and expects to do better with the experience and the visibility he gains from the reality series.
“I’ve never made more money in my life than I have since joining the UFC,” Krause said. “The UFC was the catapult for me to change my life. … It’s given me a great opportunity once, and now I am here with an even greater opportunity that can help push me even further. It’s a sacrifice being here and away from my family, but it was one that made sense when I looked at it in the context of what it could do for me.”