Chelsea Hackett remembers winning her last fight, walking from the cage and then being told she would be challenge for a UFC contract.
That was in March.
“Or 10 days,” she recalls, “before the coronavirus hit”.
Which has made for some wait.
Yet eight months on from being given the biggest news of her promising fight career, 21-year-old Hackett is finally set to enter the Octagon in Las Vegas on Wednesday (Australian time) as part of Dana White’s Contender Series.
Despite her unforced hiatus between fights, the rising Gold Coaster insists she is simply now better prepared for her bout against American Victoria Leonardo.
As part of the White’s Contender Series process, the UFC president hands out contracts to a certain number of winning fighters on each card — with the paperwork largely decided by the appeal of individual wins.
“My plan was always been to have a UFC contract by the end of 2020,” said Hackett, whose Contender Series spot was initially confirmed following her win over Rhiannon Thompson at Eternal MMA 52.
“Going into that fight, only myself and my team knew that a win could get me the shot. Then afterwards, I was so excited.
“I couldn’t wait.”
Nor could COVID-19.
“Initially, everything got so hectic I thought the series would be off,” Hackett said.
“They were cancelling sporting events everywhere and, of course, I was super upset.
“But I knew this was a global thing and there were a lot of people worse off.
“So I just kept training, kept working … and crossed my fingers.”
Then in June, it was announced the Contender Series was definitely on.
“But we still didn’t know if I could even travel to America because of the restrictions,” she said. “Almost all the fighters on that show are from the United States.
“So it’s taken a big effort for me to get here.
“When I eventually found out it was still going ahead, I was jumping out and down I was so excited.”
Despite only boasting a 3-0-1 MMA career, Hackett’s relationship with combat sports goes all the way back to the age of eight, when she took up taekwondo.
She continued into the professional ranks, becoming a Muay Thai world champion, before switching to MMA and her current push for a UFC contract.