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November 13, 2012

Jeffrey, O’Neil eagerly await challenge in battle of top-ranked regional welterweights

[CES Press Release]

LINCOLN, R.I. (Nov. 13, 2012) – These are the fights up-and-comers need to take in order to get to the next level.

“If you can’t beat top regional talent,” Chuck O’Neil said, “you don’t belong in the [Ultimate Fighting Championships].”

On Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, O’Neil and his opponent, Keith Jeffrey, will test that theory at Twin River Casino when they face one another in the main event of “Battle Tested,” presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports.

O’Neil (9-5, 2 KOs), a native of Bourne, Mass., and Jeffrey (8-2), a native of Pawtucket, R.I., are two of the top-ranked welterweights in the northeast; O’Neil is No. 2, one spot behind former UFC veteran Marcus Davis, whom he beat in 2011, while Jeffrey has risen to No. 5 following three consecutive wins.

Next month’s card also features the return of regional stars Todd “The Hulk” Chattelle (10-9, 8 KOs) of Pawtucket, Dinis Paiva Jr. (2-3, 1 KO) of nearby East Providence, R.I., Tyler King (5-1, 2 KOs) of Boston and Providence’s Thomas Evans (2-1), but the O’Neil-Jeffrey showdown is one of the most highly-anticipated bouts of the night, and perhaps the year, given the implications for both fighters.

“I want to test myself against the best,” Jeffrey said. “I want to be in the big show. A win over Chuck will put me right where I need to be.”

For O’Neil, the goal is to get back to the sport’s biggest stage. He had a small taste last year as a cast member on Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter reality series. O’Neil didn’t make the final cut at first; he was originally an alternate, but got his chance to join the show in the first episode when Myles Jury was forced out of the competition due to an injury.

After losing his first bout to Zach Davis, O’Neil made it back onto the show as one of UFC president Dana White’s two wild-card selections. He eventually beat Javier Torresto advance to the quarterfinals and defeated Davis in a rematch before losing to teammate Tony Ferguson in the semifinals. O’Neil made the most of his opportunity on the show, but his run with the UFC didn’t last long; the promotion released him from his contract after he lost to fellow semifinalist Chris Cope on The Ultimate Fighter 13 finale in Nevada.

“I got that far just by being tough,” O’Neil said. “My talent was my toughness.

“Now I’ve switched up camps, got a new boxing coach [Muhammad Brooks of Nashua, N.H.], and now I have an actual skill set. I’m more than just tough. I’m ready now. I’m in a much better position to make a serious run.”

O’Neil got his start training with the Lauzon brothers, Joe and Dany, both of whom have ample UFC experience. He now works with Nate Ryan, a second-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, also from Massachusetts, and Jimmy Quinlan of New Hampshire, a former Division III college wrestling standout who is now 2-0 in mixed martial arts.

“Everyday I learn something new, and I’m loving it,” O’Neil said. “I’ve fallen in love with jiu-jitsu, boxing, wrestling – they’re now passions of mine. I used to be a really good wrestler, but I was never really technical about it, and my boxing wasn’t tight, but if you hit me in the face I’d just fight back.

“Now I’ve got it, and it’s a whole different process being able to add those elements to your game.”

Following his loss to Cope in June of 2011, O’Neil jumped right back into the mix, agreeing to fight Davis, who had starred in the second season of The Ultimate Fighter and subsequently fought on 15 UFC undercards in a six-year span. What seemed like a risk turned out to be a wise decision as O’Neil beat Davis by split decision.

“I could have felt sorry for myself after The Ultimate Fighter, but I jumped at the opportunity to fight Davis,” O’Neil said. “My corner and I were probably the only ones who knew we’d win that fight. It was a huge win for us.”

O’Neil recently lost his last fight in June to Kevin Nowaczyk, an 11-2 welterweight from Chicago. His success on The Ultimate Fighter has made it difficult for him to find opponents over the past two years (he’s only fought twice since losing to Cope), but Jeffrey willingly accepted the challenge, hoping a win on Dec. 7 will ultimately get him the same opportunity to fight on the biggest stage.

“This is what will get my name out there,” Jeffrey said. “[O’Neil] is very well-rounded. He’s long on his feet and has pretty good stand-up. He likes the ground and doesn’t stay away from the ground. I imagine he’ll try to take me down at some point.

“He’s a great competitor and a worthy opponent. I’m expecting a really tough fight.”

Like O’Neil, Jeffrey has also made adjustments to his camp in recent years, most notably the addition of boxing coach David Keefe, which has helped translate into three consecutive wins since Jeffrey returned from a knee injury last November. His preparation for next month’s fight has gone relatively smooth, unlike past camps where minor issues popped up along the way.

“Just trials and tribulations,” Jeffrey said. “That right there is what makes you a better fighter. If you still come out on top, that’s what grows you as a person and fighter. I’ve had my share of things go wrong at the last minute, but I’ve been fortunate enough to come out on top. Now I’m looking forward to facing Chuck.

“You don’t ever expect to go in there 100 percent,” he continued. “No one is ever 100 percent, but if you can make it through and be 90 percent, that’s the best you can hope for. It’s about training smart, knowing when to taper off – that’s why having the right coaches and people around you is so important. That stuff adds up for you.”

Fighting in the main event is no small task, but Jeffrey is up to the challenge after his last fight against Harley Beekman at Twin River in June wound up as the last-minute headliner.

“That threw me for a loop a little bit, but it helped me to be on that stage,” said Jeffrey, who forced Beekman to submit via guillotine midway through the second round. “CES has helped me grow as a fighter. Before I came to them, I was injury prone and wasn’t sure if I’d ever fight again. I was young enough and wanted to make another run at it, and CES was the perfect fit.

“None of these fights have been easy, but they’ve helped me grow. I want to be the main event. I’m comfortable in front of the fans again. I’m more myself. Once you get more confident in there, you can show your true colors.”

Added O’Neil: “This is the type of fight I like. I know he’ll come to fight. I like tough fights. Those are the fights that will get you somewhere. Easy fights won’t get you anywhere.”

Tickets for “Battle Tested” are $35.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 and can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254, online at, at the Players Club booth at Twin River, or through any TicketMaster location. Doors open 6 p.m. with the first bout scheduled for 7.

On the undercard, Chattelle will face Robby Roberts (8-14, 1 KO) of Orange, Mass., in a middleweight bout; Paiva Jr. will battle bantamweight Evan Parker (3-2) of Leominster, Mass.; and Evans will face featherweight Chris Foster (5-2, 4 KOs) of Meriden, Conn. King, the No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the northeast and a former NFL defensive lineman from Norwood, Mass., will also be featured on the undercard along with an interstate bantamweight showdown between newcomer Matt Doherty of Salem, Mass., and Terrin Swanson (2-1) of Danbury, Conn. Middleweight Joe Palazio of Providence will make his professional debut against Joe Cronin of Mansfield, Mass.; andEric Bedard (3-1, 1 KO) of Providence will battle Pat Walsh (1-0, 1 KO) of West Bridgewater, Mass., in a heavyweight bout.

(Twin River has waived its 18+ rule for “Battle Tested.” Anybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and must enter through the West entrance).

– CES –

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