Released twice by the UFC, Edmonton heavyweight Tim (The Thashing Machine) Hague hopes to stick Saturday night with a good showing against Matt Mitrione.
Hague (12-4) has posted two quickfire knockouts outside the UFC since dropping a decision to Joey (The Mexicutioner) Beltran at UFC 113 in Montreal in May. That followed losses to Chris (The Crowbar) Tuchscherer and Todd Duffee.
On Saturday, the six-foot-four 265-pound former kindergarten teacher faces former NFL lineman Matt Mitrione (3-0) in the UFC's "Fight for the Troops 2" card at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas (Rogers Sportsnet and Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET).
Cage fighting comes with little job security, but Hague sees the glass half-full when it comes to his past UFC pink slips.
"It's definitely shown me what I need to do to stay at this level," Hague said. "But MMA is such a crazy sport. A guy can lose a fight at any time so you never know what's going to happen.
"I don't feel too much pressure that I have to win or anything. It's not the end of the world if I end up losing, knock on wood. I'm just going to go out there and fight as hard as I can and be proud of myself for what I've accomplished. I only started training four or five years ago so I'm just happy to be where I am and I'm living the dream man."
If the 27-year-old Hague wanted any further proof of the snakes and ladders world of MMA, he need only look at Duffee.
A slab of muscle, Duffee was the talk of the sport after his UFC debut when he knocked out Hague in seven seconds. Duffee dominated his next fight until Chicago policeman Mike Russow -- out of nowhere -- knocked him out in third round.
Duffee and the UFC eventually fell out and the fighter was KO'd in just 17 seconds by Alistair Overeem in a K-1 contest in December.
"It's crazy the way things worked out," said Hague. "Now I'm back in the UFC and he's so going to be plugging away trying to work his way back."
Hague's 1-3 UFC record is better than it looks.
He opened his UFC account with an impressive submission victory over Pat Barry, rolling the dangerous kickboxer into a guillotine choke in one minute 42 seconds.
Hague endeared himself to fans with his down-to-earth delight at the win.
"One thing about me is you'll never see me quit," Hague said in the cage afterwards. "You can turn my face into mashed potatoes and I'll keep going."
Hague didn't seem to care his nose was broken.
"It's all good," he said. "Ready to drink some beers."
"Great effing fight," was UFC president Dana White's post-fight assessment.
Then came the Duffee debacle at UFC 102. The horn sounded and Hague walked forward and threw a wild left. Duffee connected first with a stiff jab, dropping the big man and then directing eight more punches at the fallen Canadian to tie the UFC record for fastest KO.
"Don't go for knockout of the night on the first punch of the night," was Hague's post-fight assessment.
Hague left it too late against Tuchscherer at UFC 109.
"I thought I did enough to neutralize his strengths. He's an NCAA Division 2 all-American champion wrestler," he said. "He was obviously trying to take me down and put me on the cage and wear me out, but he only got one takedown in the fight I believe and I got right back up.
"Then the third round I thought it was possibly a 10-8 round for me, so I thought I got the decision there but (you) can't leave it in the judges' hands."
After being cut, Hague got a second chance as a late replacement for Chad Corvin against Beltran at UFC 113. The downside was he wasn't ready and a bloody Hague looked slow and sluggish at the Bell Centre, unable to capitalize on his opportunities in the fight despite a late flurry.
"I lost basically due to my cardio in that one," he explained. "I just had to come home and re-evaluate things.
"For the last couple of fights, I've been in top-notch shape and I am again for the Mitrione fight. So if it goes into deep water, we'll see how my cardio holds up."
Hague has resumed working with strength and conditioning coach Shara Vigeant.
"She's really made a huge difference in my conditioning, big time," he said.
After losing to Beltran, Hague made short work of Zak Jensen (TKO in 2:11) and Travis Wiuff (KO in 1:50).
UFC matchmaker Joe Silva offered him a contract soon after the Wiuff win in October. There was talk of meeting Mitrione at UFC 124 in Montreal in December but the fight was pushed back because of Mitrione's new baby.
Hague is back to fighting full time, having shelved a job drilling wells on old oil leases, testing the ground to check for contamination.
He looks to make the most of his third chance in the Octagon, pointing to the words he lives by: "Prove yourself to yourself." They are tattooed on his rib cage.
"I've got myself in as good as shape as possible and I've pushed my training hard every day," Hague said. "I'm just going to go and leave it all in the cage and hope for the best. At the end of the day, what more can a guy hope for?"