Before Signing with PFL, Chelsea Hackett Struggled to Find Fights in Australia

Chelsea Hackett is essentially in win-or-go-home mode heading into her PFL 4 co-main event matchup with Dakota Ditcheva.

However, Hackett is simply thankful to be competing on a regular basis after sitting on the sidelines for nearly three years on the heels of a loss to Victoria Leonardo on Dana White's Contender Series in November 2020. Thursday’s bout will mark Hackett’s third fight in approximately 10 months under the Professional Fighters League banner — a welcome change for the Australian muay thai specialist.

“The PFL has been a huge part of my career,” Hackett said during a recent media call. “I’m still only [24]. I’ve got more learning and growing to do as I get older and as I rack up fights. I’m a female fighter out of Australia. There is such a shallow pool of females — competitive and professional — in my neck of the woods. So I went almost three years without being able to get a matchup after I fought on Dana White’s Contender Series. I literally went home and could not find a matchup.

“The PFL came to me at a point in my life where I was literally stuck. I couldn’t progress as a fighter. I was in the gym training every day getting better, but I didn’t have the opportunity to show that. The PFL signed me off the back of being inactive for that long. In those terms, I’m forever grateful for the PFL …. The PFL are doing amazing things for women’s MMA. They’re definitely leveling up with the men. To be honest, I’d be stuck in Australia with no fights, and that’s the truth.”

Hackett was victorious against Ky Bennett in a PFL showcase bout last August, but her season debut did not go as planned, as she was submitted by Jena Bishop inside of a round on April 4. For “Hammer,” it was a matter of fighting to her adversary’s strengths instead of her own.

“Jena, she did fly under the radar. When we got her as an opponent, I knew she was dangerous,” Hackett said. “She’s a fourth-degree jiu-jitsu black belt; she’s an ADCC world champion … The thing with Jena was her strength was a different area than mine. I obviously am a muay thai fighter. I want to strike and keep it on the feet. But I do, as you saw in my PFL debut, I do love to wrestle and I do love the ground game as well. We just knew going into the Jena fight that I can’t play that game. She’s got the experience, she’s got the strength there.

“… The biggest disappointment I had with that fight was I didn’t start quick enough, and I didn’t implement my game plan quick enough. She got to my back within 60 seconds or whatever it was. That’s the biggest thing that hurt from that fight was I know when I’m on, and I just wasn’t on that night.”

If Hackett is to progress to the postseason, she will likely need a first-round finish of the highly-touted Ditcheva, who is undefeated and the reigning PFL Europe flyweight champion. With that in mind, Hackett plans to enter the fight with the appropriate sense of urgency.

“The intent and the mindset has to be there from the get-go. It’s pretty much in this tournament, it’s 0 to 100. If you’re not the one to finish it, you are gonna get finished,” Hackett said. “That’s how I’m going into this fight. Obviously I want to be the hammer. I was the nail in the last fight. I’m more than ready to be the hammer in this fight … Either way, I’m looking for the win. I need that win over her. That’s what I’m focused on. If it doesn’t come in the first round, that’s it, I’ll say patient. But I need that win.”

If she can upset Ditcheva — especially on a co-headlining stage — Hackett will be able to erase the sting of her previous defeat. Again, she praises the PFL for providing her with such a high-profile opportunity.

“Giving me this fight — not just a fight but the co-main spot — it’s massive for me,” Hackett said. “It just shows that the PFL doesn’t hold you to your losses. They don’t judge you as a fighter based on your loss. My last fight, I couldn’t show anything. I couldn’t show what I know I’m capable of. That was the biggest thing that has driven me, made me more hungry coming into this fight — especially in the co-main event spot. I take that really seriously. I want to put on a show. I want to win. I want to repay the PFL for giving me this opportunity, and to do that, I need to get the win.”

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Oumar Kane