PAWTUCKET — The past 15 months have felt like 15 years to Pete Jeffrey.
It’s been 15 long months since the veteran lightweight and the co-owner of Tri-Force MMA in Pawtucket has stepped into the octagon for a fight, and the last time fans saw him in action, on Sept. 17, 2010, he electrified a sellout crowd at the Twin River Event Center by recording a huge third-round TKO of previously-undefeated Saul “The Spider” Almeida.
Since then, luck has not been on Jeffrey’s side. He saw three fights during the first half of 2011 fall through as a result of last-minute cancellations, and while training for a fight in mid-September, he tore a meniscus in his left knee that eventually needed arthroscopic surgery and sidelined him for the rest of the year.
But now, Jeffrey has a clean bill of health and he’s anxious to fight again. And he’s not going to have to wait very long, because tonight, he will be featured on the undercard of Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.’s “Extreme Measures” show at Twin River.
“It seems like forever since I fought,” added the 34-year-old Jeffrey, who will take a 4-4 (20 KOs) record into his fight with Boston’s Lionel Young (6-9, 1 KO). “But I feel great, I really do. I’m 100 percent and I’m ready to go.”
Jeffrey’s fight comes a little more than five months after getting surgery to take out 55 percent of the meniscus he damaged while working on takedowns in preparation for an autumn fight with John Ortolani.
“At first, I felt a little twinge in there,” recalled Jeffrey. “I thought it would be okay. I took a week off, and after that, it ended up getting worse. I got it checked out, had an MRI, and right away, the doctor said I needed surgery. After I got it, it took some time to build up scar tissue and make it stronger, so I had to deal with the waiting period after that and then rehab.”
During his time away from competition, Jeffrey served as a cornerman on the Nov, 18 “Undisputed” card at Twin River for his brother and fellow Tri-Force MMA co-owner, Keith Jeffrey, but tonight, the roles will be reversed and Keith will work Pete’s corner for his long-awaited return against a worthy veteran opponent in Young.
“He’s a scrappy guy,” Jeffrey said. “He appears to be a good wrestler. He’s fought at a bunch of different weight classes, so I don’t know how much weight he’s going to have to recover, but he’s fought guys all the way from 185 [middleweight] to 145 [featherweight]. He’s a guy who likes to fight and he’s always dangerous, so I’ll be on my ‘A’ game for this one.”
Jeffrey has consistently brought his ‘A’ game to the octagon since the day he was introduced to the sport by his brother more than a decade ago and long before the sport was legalized.
“It was about 2000, 2001, and Keith did some personal training and a little bit of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which nobody had really heard about at the time,” said Jeffrey. “He was doing sort of demonstration and he asked me to come down and check it out, and from there on out, I was hooked on the whole Jiu-Jitsu thing.
“Then we started training at Mat Santos Fighting Academy in Cranston, and Mat had a lot of guys who were training for MMA fights. I have a background and my degrees are in music, so I was like, ‘I don’t mind doing the grappling stuff, but I don’t want to hurt my hands. I don’t want to punch.’ But one thing led to the next while training, and I found myself in there fighting.
“I play the drums and percussion, and it’s tough. I can’t say that I haven’t hurt my hands, but I have found ways to make it work.”
A few years later, the Jeffrey brothers joined the pro ranks, and in 2008, they ended up opening Tri-Force MMA -- which is located in the back of Manfredo’s Gym on Conant Street -- after a conversation Keith had with the gym’s owner, Peter Manfredo Sr. Since then, Tri-Force MMA has been a home to some of the state’s top fighters, such as local products Todd Chattelle, Rigo Dominicci, Mike Campbell, and Andre Soukhamthath.
“Peter just happened to mention to him, ‘I got this huge space in the back of my gym that nobody uses. Would you know anybody interested in it?' ” Pete recalled. “(Manfredo) said, ‘I don’t want any clowns in here just doing their MMA thing and beating each other up. I want some people that are interested in doing a legitimate school.'
“At the time, we didn’t have any expectations of doing this, but after we saw how big the space was -- it came with a ring -- we were like, ‘Wow.’ We decided to give it a shot and see how it went, and we’ve pretty much done everything here out of pocket, so all the money that we made from the school, we put back into it. Everything we have, we have so far, and over the last three years, it’s really started to grow.”
While the future of Tri-Force MMA looks very bright, so does Jeffrey’s future in fighting, despite the fact that’s he in his mid-30s, which is considered by some as middle-aged in MMA years.
“For me, I don’t feel 34,” said Jeffrey. “I’m not quite sure what 34 is supposed to feel like. I see people that I went to high school with that are 34, and they kind of look like hell. I don’t really feel like that at all. I actually feel better at 34 than I did at 24, with the shape that I’m in and getting to train all the time. For me, I see myself going at least another four or five years and we’ll see what happens.”
There will be two co-main event on tonight’s “Extreme Measures” card, a heavyweight clash between Josh Hendricks (18-8, 5 KOs) of Mansfield, Ohio and Josh Diekmann (12-3, 8 KOs) of Westerly, and another heavyweight battle between Eric Bedard (3-0, 1 KO) of Providence and Tyler King (3-1, 1 KO) of Norwood, Mass.
There will also be a couple of other Blackstone Valley fighters appearing on the undercard. Pawtucket’s Jeff Anderson (10-5, 2 KOs) will fight the top-ranked featherweight in New England in Almeida (11-1), a native of Framingham, Mass., and Woonsocket’s Andre Soukhamthath (0-1), a bantamweight and prized MMA prospect, will duel another Framingham fighter in Gilvan Santos (0-2).
Two other fights of local interest include a featherweight battle between unbeaten Providence fighter Sean Soriano (4-0) and Lee Metcalf (5-5, 2 KOs) of Rockland, Mass., and Providence’s Greg Rebello, who is 13-3 (7 KOs) and the top-ranked light heavyweight in New England, will take on Mike Stewart (5-3, 2 KOs) of White Plains, N.Y.
Only $100 and $30 standing-room-only seats are available for the show and can be purchased by calling CES at 724-2253/2254, going online at www.cesmma.com  or www.twinriver.com , or visiting the Players Club booth at Twin River or any TicketMaster location.
Doors open at 6 p.m., and the first bout is scheduled for 7. Twin River has also waived its 18-plus rule for the show, and anybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and enter through the West entrance.