The metaphor that competing in mixed martial arts is similar to a game of cards has been used plenty of times in the past, but each use hasn’t made it any less true. You win some, you lose some, and no matter how hard you try, there’s always an element of chance involved.

Colorado’s Chase Hackett has experienced this first hand over the last year. While the lightweight was expecting to ride The Ultimate Fighter to big things, Hackett’s cast mates left him on the outside looking in at a full house.

The Factory X product hoped to bounce back with an impressive showing against Bellator veteran Adam Schindler in May, but Schindler suffered a gruesome knee injury just two minutes into the fight that left Hackett with anything but a feeling of recaptured confidence.

“After not having a great performance on TUF, I was looking for a big performance. I was looking for a finish,” Hackett told The MMA Corner. “Having the ‘W’ on my record helps, but that wasn’t the type of fight we wanted. It didn’t give my career the boost we had hoped for. It definitely took a little bit of wind out of the sails.”

One of the biggest reasons the fight didn’t do much for Hackett’s standing in the sport was that the fight was initially ruled a no-contest by referee Tom Johnson. As Schindler’s knee buckled like a house of cards under the weight of Hackett, most in attendance—including this writer—believed Hackett had won by TKO. As it turns out, the Colorado commission agreed.

“The commissioner looked at it and determined that it should have been a TKO due to injury,” explained the fighter. “That’s not how I want to win—that’s probably not how anybody wants to win. But, at the same time, it was a fight, somebody got hurt and it wasn’t because of a foul. If the other person can’t continue, there should be a winner. If that was me, and I got hurt, I would want the other guy to win. A lot of us are doing this as a living and trying to make money. That’s money out of someone’s pocket.”

The corrected result not only earned Hackett his appropriate share of the pot, he also was crowned the Fight to Win lightweight champion. And while he is wishing Schindler back to health, Hackett couldn’t help but call what may have been Schindler’s bluff.

“I said right after the fight that he may have already been injured and taken the fight anyway,” Hackett declared. “I don’t want to speak badly about him, but it’s definitely possible. Doing what we do, you never go into a fight at 100 percent. Whether he had the full injury when we stepped into the cage or not, he could’ve sprained it in training or something like that. As someone that had a similar, devastating knee injury, it took a lot to tear my ACL. After looking back at the tape, it was just a weird and awkward position, but it definitely crossed my mind that he may have been hurt beforehand.”

Now, as Hackett prepares to defend his title for the first time on Friday, Sept. 14, at Fight to Win: Warriors, he’s again been forced to double down. Original opponent—and UFC veteran—Alvin “Kid” Robinson was forced to withdraw with an injury just a few weeks before the fight.

“It’s been like pulling teeth trying to get a fight,” said the Lakewood native. “We’ve basically been looking since the last debacle. I was bummed that Robinson got hurt. It was a big letdown.”

The reason for Hackett’s disappointment? He looked up to the submission ace as a young fighter. After all, Robinson is yet another Colorado product that had a stint in the UFC, competing against the likes of Nate Diaz and Mark Bocek.

“I was really looking forward to fighting Robinson,” admitted Hackett. “He’s been where I want to be. He fought Kenny Florian when I was first getting into MMA. I wanted to test my ground game against him. It would’ve been a big step in my career.

“[But as fighters] we fight every day in our training and injuries happen. Now I have to move on and refocus. At least I have a fight.”

That fight will come against Texas-based Gilbert Jimenez, a Bellator veteran that has been in the cage with UFC fighters Dustin Poirier and Daniel Pineda. While Jimenez may not have the drawing power of Robinson, Hackett believes the veteran may be the wild card needed for a great fight.

“He’s fun to watch,” said Hackett of his opponent. “His record’s not stellar, but he’s fought tough guys. He brings the fight and it’s going to make for an exciting fight.”

Although the deck has been shuffled a bit leading up to the fight, the 6-foot-1 Hackett feels that not only the stylistic match-up, but also his size will be the difference when he steps into the cage against the 5-foot-7 Jimenez on Friday night.

“Stylistically, Jimenez is way different than Robinson. He’s not afraid to throw, stand in front of you, and try to wrestle or grapple with you. He’s comfortable everywhere,” Hackett postulated. “At the same time, I don’t have to worry as much about the takedown or submissions. I will have a pretty good size and reach advantage. That’s going to be huge.”

Having already gotten a taste of the spotlight on TUF, Hackett hopes that Jimenez will be another step toward his goals of competing in the UFC. Or at least a bump up to the high-stakes room of the regional circuit.

“I need to get the ball rolling again with this fight,” said Hackett. “I definitely think I deserve to be on a bigger show [like Titan or Resurrection Fighting Alliance]. I know it’s going to happen eventually. I think a win over Gilbert will put me on one of those shows.

“I know I need a little bit more than this win to get back to the UFC. Hopefully I get a finish, get on a bigger card, score another win, and get back to the big show.”

Whether Hackett earns another trip to the sport’s pinnacle is yet to play out, but one thing’s for certain, on Friday, he’ll go all-in trying to get there.

Chase would like to thank his friends and family, his coaches and teammates at Factory X Muay Thai/MMA, Performance MMA, Performance Labs, Colorado Fight Shop and OG Extreme. Follow him on Twitter: @PrisonStare