Although only 23, flyweight Jeff Molina has really hit his stride as of late. After starting his pro career just 1-2, Molina has rattled off seven straight wins culminating with a win at the Contender Series and a UFC contract. Molina attributes a lot of that success and growth as a fighter to the tutelage of James Krause.
Krause continues to pop up in discussions of the best coaches in MMA. His corner advice in between rounds in addition to the fast development of young fighters are a testament to his abilities – and Molina continued to sing those praises.
“James Krause is an extraordinary coach and, coaching aside, he’s just an awesome person. I look up to him as a role model, mentor, big brother type figure,” Molina said. “As a coach, the way he creates an environment in the gym that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
That environment is largely created by the fact that Krause is still an active UFC fighter. Molina likens getting advice from those who don’t, or haven’t fought, to getting dietary advice from someone overweight – it just never made sense to him. So naturally, a pairing with Kruase has made it easier for him to develop as a fighter.
“He just doesn’t lead from the sidelines. This guy is in the trenches with us every day. He’s doing practices with us. He’s teaching the practices. He’s doing the live rounds,” he shared. “He’s not only doing those, but he’s taking fights – taking fights on a week’s notice, going up in weight.”
Although his leadership style and the way that he breaks down techniques has really helped aid Molina’s maturation process, Molina also feels a kinship with Krause. Growing up in Kansas City, Molina looked up to Krause as one of the big names in the area. Their first run in actually came long before he was a student of Krause’s.
“I made the switch over to Glory about three and a half, maybe four, years ago. Prior to that I had done cross training at Glory and I had always been a big fan of Krause growing up in Kansas City,” he remembered. “There’s a picture [way before that] of me after my very first kickboxing fight – I think I was 15 or maybe just turned 16. I still have braces on my face and I saw Krause at the event, I think he was cornering someone. I had just won and I asked for a picture.”
But it’s not just random run-ins that gave Molina a connection to his future head coach. He also feels that the style Krause brought to all of his bouts is similar to his own natural style. This may be due to chance, but it also could come from a second chance run-in at a kickboxing event.
“Krause was actually the ref for one of my kickboxing fights when I was like 16 or 17. Before the fight, I noticed Krause is about to be the ref – I think the promoter had asked him since it was an exhibition bout,” he recalled. “I was like ‘dude, I have to throw a cartwheel kick’. That used to be his thing… so in the first round I threw a cartwheel kick as a homage to Krause.”
Molina will not look to use not just what he has seen Krause use as a fan, but all that he has learned in his four years under the UFC welterweight, to tackle his UFC debut. That debut will take place on the ESPN2/ESPN+ undercard of UFC 261 this Saturday against Qileng Aori.
You can hear the entire audio of this interview at 43:44.