The COVID pandemic left Aaron Jeffrey wondering if his time would ever come. At CFFC 93, he gets the chance to make it happen.
One of the most highly-touted prospect middleweight fighters out of Canada today, Aaron Jeffrey is yearning for his chance to break into the UFC. To get to that point, he’ll look for a great start on his 2021 season when he meets Collin Huckbody for the CFFC middleweight title in the main event of CFFC 93.
Jeffrey originally had the chance to get into the UFC back in season three of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), when he took on current UFC middleweight up-and-comer Brendan Allen. Despite being a heavy underdog, Jeffrey felt good inside the cage until he was stunned by a knee and the grappling of Allen became too much, forcing Jeffrey to submit to a choke in the first.
CFFC 93 title challenger Aaron Jeffrey: I feel like I deserve to be in the UFC
In an exclusive interview with FanSided MMA, Jeffrey says he was given the UFC treatment while at the UFC Apex for DWCS. And combine that with his abilities and how the Allen fight played out, Jeffrey feels he does deserve to be in the UFC.
Jeffrey feels that he’s better than how the loss may have displayed him, and that simply lights a bigger fire under him.
“I guess it was a motivator because you get the UFC treatment at Contender Series,” Jeffrey told FanSided MMA. “It’s essentially run just like a UFC event. So you kind of get the feel for that. You see Dana, you get all the paperwork that’s like UFC stuff, everything is so professional and so well done. So you kind of get that taste and that’s taken away.
“So I think it’s just an extra motivator. And aside from that, I felt like I deserved to be there. I know I got finished in the first round. I got clipped by that knee, but up until that point, I felt good in there with Brendan. And I think I’m on that level. So it made me feel deserving to be there.”
Lack of MMA due to COVID left Aaron Jeffrey questioning fighting future
Following the loss on DWCS, Jeffrey got back to work, competing in a fight the next month and scoring a second-round finish of Dennis Olson.
“My plan originally going into the Contender Series was [to] take a little bit of a vacation,” Jeffrey said. “I had a super long training camp for that fight; it was like four months, super consistent and I was a little bit burnt out. And I was looking forward to fighting and winning and maybe getting a UFC contract, then taking a little break. And I lost and I just had a bad taste in my mouth and I just wanted to get back in there.”
But then, he wouldn’t fight again for another year, and Jeffrey would be left questioning his fighting future. Jeffrey was booked to compete during November 2019 for the BTC Fights promotion he held the middleweight title in at the time, but a pair of fights against Leo Pla and Bellator and PFL veteran Jason Butcher fell through. He then looked to fight in January 2020 against Bellator vet Tim Caron, but that also ended up scrapped.
Then, the global coronavirus pandemic forced MMA — along with other sports — to a screeching halt, and it especially rocked the lower-level and regional MMA promotions.
After being out for longer than he liked, and with the sport essentially at a standstill, Jeffrey wondered if this was a sign a career in the fight game wasn’t for him.
“It’s brutal. That’s one of those times where you’re really questioning like ‘Why the f*** am I doing this?’” Jeffrey said. “I had two fights fall through back-to-back, like three or four opponents. I even had registered for a jiu-jitsu tournament, and I was gearing up to do that, and then that got canceled for COVID and I was like, ‘F***, man. I think God is trying to send me a message. I think I shouldn’t be in this sport anymore.’ But yeah, always ups-and-downs, so you got to roll with the punches.”
The pandemic — as well as a coach departure — also resulted in one of his gyms, Para Bellum MMA, closing for good. Jeffrey says he still works with the other two coaches, Lyndon Whitlock and Lucas Chaston, on his striking and kickboxing, respectively. Jeffrey is also a member of Niagara Top Team, where he works his wrestling under Chris Prickett.
But his training with Whitlock and Chaston requires some different measures under the current circumstances.
“I have to park in the back of the gym and sneak through a back door so that we don’t get caught by by-law officers because, apparently, it’s not legal to train right now,” Jeffrey said. “I’ve been driving more for sure, like I’ve been going to some other gyms. We don’t always really run full practice…sometimes I get to travel to get working with other guys. Yeah, man, that kind of just sucks.”
Aaron Jeffrey ready to take a hold of CFFC gold, his UFC dreams
Jeffrey was able to return to action in August, scoring a third-round finish of Brave CF and Jungle Fight vet Bruno Assis. He then competed at LFA 93 in October, ending the undefeated run of Andre Petroski.
Now, with his dreams of competing in the UFC seemingly in sights, Jeffrey has a chance to acquire more regional gold and further increase his stock when he meets defending CFFC middleweight champ and fellow DWCS alumnus Collin Huckbody.
Huckbody submitted Kyron Bowen with an arm-triangle in 88 seconds on last year’s DWCS season, but he declined his UFC offer, feeling he wasn’t ready just yet.
“Smart on his part if he doesn’t want to be there with UFC-level guys, I guess it’s a good choice,” Jeffrey said. “You don’t play fighting and there are some serious consequences. So, if he feels like maybe he’s going to get hurt going against high-level guys, yeah, maybe he needs some more experience. So good on him for being humble and making that decision.”
Huckbody claimed the then-vacant CFFC middleweight title at CFFC 90 in December, getting a late second-round finish of Aaron Phillips. This fight with Jeffrey will mark Huckbody’s first title defense.
On paper, the fight looks like your prototypical striker (Jeffrey) vs. grappler (Huckbody) battle, but Jeffrey says to not be deceived by their finish methods and his submission loss — he’s just as comfortable with this fight going to the ground if it has to.
“It’s funny because actually, I started most at a jiu-jitsu gym, and now I’m not mostly wrestling gym,” Jeffrey said. “And I train with like Olympic-level wrestlers and national champs and whatnot. So I’m very comfortable there, too. But yeah, I think he’ll probably try to take it to the ground, but again, I’m comfortable.”
Of course, the ultimate goal for Jeffrey is to finally break into the UFC, which he hopes will happen following a win.
Jeffrey confirmed that he did apply to be on the revival season of The Ultimate Fighter (there were no in-person auditions due to COVID-19), which is reportedly going to feature men’s bantamweight and middleweight fighters. Jeffrey, however, did not confirm whether or not he heard back from the UFC, stating “sounds like COVID squished that, too.”
Regardless, Jeffrey could always earn a trip back to DWCS, but he hopes he might be able to sneak onto a UFC card in this time where younger, more up-and-coming fighters are getting their chance to break through and make a statement — like FanSided MMA’s 2020 Fighter of the Year, Kevin Holland.
“If I get a finish in this fight, that’s four finishes in a row,” Jeffrey said. “So the Contender Series, my last fight was main event for LFA on Fight Pass, this is going to be the main event of CFFC on Fight Pass and another professional title. I hope [to bypass DWCS]. To me, it seems like it should be enough.”
CFFC 93 takes place on Friday, March 12, 2021, live from the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, PA. The event, along with CFFC 92 on March 11, will be available to watch on UFC Fight Pass.