The path to the UFC is a long and arduous one for most fighters. It involves sacrifice, hard work and overcoming adversity. Current Fight to Win lightweight champion Chase Hackett knows this from experience.

The 26-year-old had a chance to fast track his way to the world’s biggest stage on The Ultimate Fighter: Live, but after falling short, he’s looking to do it the hard way: by winning.

After a devastating first-round spinning back fist TKO victory over Bellator vet Gilbert Jimenez in September, the Colorado native will look to continue notching wins when he meets Tony Sims at Paramount Prize Fighting on Jan. 25 in Denver.

Hackett (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

“It’s a little bit of a dangerous fight because there’s so much unknown about Tony Sims,” Hackett told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I’ve found very little information on him and there’s no video on him. [I know] he’s 5-1 and he’s fought some tough guys in the Midwest.”

Thus far in Hackett’s career, he has finished five out of his six wins in the first round, including his last four straight bouts. His opponent has a similarly impressive resume that also includes four first-round stoppages. However, Sims has been out of action since April of 2010, which could play a key role in the outcome of their match-up.

“I like fights to go a little bit longer because I train for it and I have the conditioning, but whatever happens, happens,” explained the Factory X product. “If it goes into the latter rounds, it’s going to benefit me because he’s had such a long layoff. Whether there’s ring rust or not, he’s definitely going to have some adrenaline getting back into the cage for the first time. But I could care less, if I go out and get a knockout in the first minute, that’s just as good.”

What keeps Hackett motivated in the sport is twofold: a desire to reach the biggest stage once more and paying his bills. After blowing out his ACL in 2010, the fighter decided to focus on fighting full-time, and thus far, it has paid dividends.

“I had a couple of fights, things were going really well, and that’s when I took the plunge to do it full-time,” Hackett recalled. “When you’re doing it full-time, it’s how you pay your bills, how you eat; it adds that little bit more motivation when you’re in the gym and you’re tired. I don’t have a choice anymore. This is what I chose to do.”

One thing that may have hurt Hackett’s odds of getting to the famed Octagon was the closure of Strikeforce earlier this month. Not only did the lightweight lose a potential employer, but Zuffa absorbed a number of fighters into the UFC.

Hackett (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

“The main goal is to get to the UFC,” he declared. “It’s all about getting wins and putting on good fights.

“But Strikeforce was a great show too. Now they’re bringing all those additional lightweights to the UFC’s roster. Not only did we lose the show, but it makes it that much more difficult to get into the UFC. It’s disheartening.”

Another option for the fighter may be the upstart Resurrection Fighting Alliance. The fighter and his management have struggled to find opponents, but there have been talks with RFA brass.

“I’ve had a heck of a time [finding fights],” admitted Hackett. “We had a fight offer in the fall with RFA, but it didn’t pan out. I’m still on their radar, but they signed a lot of guys. We’re still in contact with them. Who knows? It’s something that’s possible in the future, and I’m hopeful that it happens.

“I’m ready to be fighting on bigger shows. I’ve been watching my buddies, the ‘TUF Rejects’ (Dakota Cochrane and James Krause) build a nice career in RFA. Part of me is jealous about it; I’d like to join them.”

Even with other goals in mind, Hackett’s attention is on his upcoming bout with Sims. Just don’t be surprised to see him on a bigger show in the near future.

Chase would like to thank everyone at Factory X Muay Thai/MMA, his coaches Marc Montoya, J.J. Pugsley, Wade Brinkman, Malcolm Havens, Ingrained Media, Performance MMA, Performance Labs and OG Extreme. Follow him on Twitter: @PrisonStare

Top Photo: Chase Hackett (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

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