There are hundreds of fighters in the UFC, the vast majority of which did not make it to the promotion through The Ultimate Fighter. The reality show is considered a fast-track to the big show, but as Colorado’s Chase Hackett can attest, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. The lightweight was one of 32 fighters selected for the current season of the show, but like 15 others, Hackett was sent home on the first episode.

Although things did not go as planned for the Factory X Muay Thai product, he is taking what he can from the experience. Hackett hopes to get back on track on May 19 against Bellator and Strikeforce veteran Adam Schindler when the two headline Fight to Win’s “Super Heroes” card in Denver.

“I’m ready for redemption,” Hackett told The MMA Corner. “The TUF experience was awesome, but I learned that you’ve got to leave it all out there, no matter what. Going forward, win or lose, I want to know that I put everything I could into it; that I fought my heart out. It’s not that I didn’t fight hard, I just feel like I could’ve done more. That’s the most frustrating thing.”

Hackett (L) (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

One component of his brief reality show career that bothered Hackett was the new format for the elimination fights. In seasons past, the reality show featured two five-minute rounds to get into the house. However, for the debut season on FX, it was reduced to a single round. Hackett was one of eight fighters that came up short on the scorecards in their five minutes in the Octagon.

“We all knew (the format) going in, but I think a lot of the fights that weren’t finished would’ve had a different outcome if they had gone longer than one round,” said Hackett. “If they’re worried about TV time, they should break it up into two nights. You don’t want to look back and say if there was another round I would’ve done this, or done that, but it’s hard not to.”

Hackett was defeated by Chris Saunders in his elimination round bout to get on the reality show. While it would be easy for Hackett to hold a grudge, that’s anything but the case as Saunders now competes for a spot in the semifinals this week.

“I was rooting for Saunders to begin with,” explained Hackett. “There were a couple of guys that I got to know throughout the whole process and Chris was one of those guys. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to fight him to get into the house, but I did. Regardless of the fact that he beat me, I’m still rooting for him.”

Although he has no animosity toward his opponent, the loss was certainly disappointing for the fighter. Yet, the experience is something Hackett plans to use as motivation going forward in the sport.

“It was heartbreaking,” admitted Hackett. “But there is still good stuff that came out of it. The fights were on Friday, I flew home Saturday, and I was back in the gym on Monday. I’ve been training six days a week, 2-3 times a day ever since. I quit my job before the show and I know this is what I really want to do. Getting a little taste of the big show was great, I just have to go a different route now.”

Hackett (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

That different route could have started with an easy opponent to get Hackett back on track, rather than an experienced veteran like Schindler. But like Hackett’s teammates—either already in the big show, or just on the cusp of it—easy fights are not an option.

“Everybody is asking why I took this fight because it’s so tough,” said Hackett. “Everybody here (at Factory X) fights the toughest guys that we can. Besides, after being on The Ultimate Fighter, and getting that exposure, I need to make a statement.”

Making that statement is no easy task against a fighter of Schindler’s caliber. Schindler will enter the cage with more than twice as many fights as Hackett, as well as two state wrestling titles and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. However, Hackett believes the two will put on a show.

“Adam Schindler is a tough dude and he’s fought in some big shows,” said Hackett. “The biggest thing for me is that he comes to fight. I’m looking forward to getting hit and hitting him. We’re going to have an explosive fight.”

As if facing Schindler wasn’t a difficult enough task, Hackett must deal with the added pressure of headlining a card in his hometown. But the lightweight wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This is the biggest fight of my career,” Hackett declared. “I’ve got some exposure and people know who I am now. They’re bringing in a guy from out of state, but people are expecting me to win. That’s a lot of pressure on me, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Chase would like to thank everyone at Factory X Muay Thai, Crossfit Littleton, Performance MMA, Performance Labs, Headrush, Ingrained Media, and Brian Keene at National Sports M.A.P. Follow Chase on Twitter: @PrisonStare

Top Photo: Chase Hackett (The Ultimate Fighter/Facebook)