Steve Lopez's UFC aspirations were derailed when he was injured last fall trying out for Season 9 of "The Ultimate Fighter."
"Kind of bad luck," Lopez recalled. "That kind of put me on the shelf for like five months."
The Indiana lightweight was grappling with someone during the Chicago tryouts when he injured his shoulder. "A freak accident," he said.
Injured in October, he resumed training in March. And his UFC dream was unexpectedly revived when he got a call last month to replace the injured Thiago Tavares against Jim Miller at UFC 103 on Sept. 19 in Dallas.
Sometimes it seems things happen for a reason. "That's the way I look at it," said Lopez.
Lopez (12-1) was a fighting machine prior to the injury, fighting nine times in 2008. At times, he took only one month between mixed martial arts bouts and his last two - both wins by decision - were a mere 14 days apart last October.
In fact, Lopez flew in to Chicago from Costa Rica - where he had beaten Alejandro Villalobos - on a Sunday night and took part in the TUF tryouts the next morning along with a bunch of fellow fighters from his gym.
His shoulder repaired, Lopez now sees a positive in the injury.
"I fought quite a bit before then, so it kind of let my body heal," he explained. "It was good to have a rest. I was going pretty strong for two, two and half years every day. Not really taking any time off.
Lopez, a 25-year-old native of South Bend, Ind., combines fighting with his job as program director of Midwest Martial Arts in nearby Osceola.
"It works perfect. I'm up here training all day anyway. It just makes sense. ... It's pretty easy to balance the two of them."
Lopez was wrestling at Bethel College, a NAIA school in Indiana, when he was approached by a fight promoter and asked if he had ever thought about fighting. The answer was yes. Lopez had been intrigued by the sport after watching a documentary "The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr."
The five-foot-11 fighter wrestled at college at 165 pounds and normally walks around at between 170 and 175 pounds.
He was helping out a local high school in wrestling when he had his first pro fight in February 2007. He started training full time after that and hasn't looked back.
His lone loss was via a split decision to Billy Stamp in July 2008. He still thinks he won the fight, but says he made mistakes.
"I don't take anything away from him," Lopez said. "It was definitely a learning experience. I just got back from a vacation. I took it lightly."
After his disastrous tryout for "The Ultimate Fighter," Lopez watched the Team U.S. vs. U.K. season and was not impressed.
"I feel like I just would have dog-walked everybody on the show, just walked through it," he said. "I don't think they picked the best fighters from America. I don't think they did America justice."
But he has plenty of respect for Miller, who bounced back with a win over former TUF winner Mac Danzig after losing to Gray Maynard.
"I expect him to be real well-rounded, come out and try to take me down and try and do a lot of jiu-jitsu," said Lopez, who has focused on his jiu jitsu and striking since turning pro.