Aaron Pico is both the best prospect in the sport and not a prospect at all.
On the one hand, the 22-year-old has only 19 months and five struggles for his professional career in the cage. The Bellator MMA featherweight, meanwhile, has won four straight victories in the first round and completed its 2018 campaign by putting former title rival Leandro Higo in a little over three minutes.
Join DAZN and watch more than 100 combat nights a year
Announced as the future of the sport when he signed with the mixed martial arts promotion in November 2014, expectations were high for Pico when he finally switched from the wrestling mat to the cage. But as promising as he was on paper and his coaches and team-mates sang his praises, few people could have anticipated that this resident of Whittier, California, would be as good, so quickly, especially after the start of his career.
A bad start leads to a fantastic race
In his first five appearances, Pico still did not attend the second round, and although he quickly mastered his last four opponents, the shortest match of his brief career was his defeat against Zach Freeman.
Positioned on the main map of the Bellator 180 at Madison Square Garden in New York and opposed to the Freeman at 10 fights, the fight was supposed to be the big arrival of the first-rate prospect that everyone had been waiting for for almost three years – a chance for Pico to validate the hype, start his career with a quality win over a strong competitor and embark on the road to the title of gold champion and celebrity.
Instead, he had a few flickering seconds in the first round of his career and was quickly submitted.
It was a disastrous start, but it is one of the foundations of Pico's current success.
"It was not the end of the world for me," Pico said of the defeat against Freeman. "Child, I won a lot and I won championships. But what would always remain is when I lost a match in some of the biggest tournaments of my life, it was devastating. But my dad always said, "The most important thing is to know how it comes back." And I always came back to do a show, so it was not new to me.
"It's not that I did not have my stuff in order before the fight," continued the featherweight, who returned three months later and stunned Justin Linn to record his first professional win. "I did my best to prepare for the fight, but after that defeat, we really sat down with the family to determine what the best things were for me in terms of training, what we needed to do we had to go and that's what we did. "
Four months after stopping Linn, he defeated Shane Krutchen from a vicious body shot in just 37 seconds. Four months later, he needed 70 seconds to settle Lee Morrison. Four months later, the victory over Higo was victorious – the one that clearly showed that the first-rate prospect whose career began with a defeat in height had already become a legitimate title contender.
"It was a big step for me," said Pico of victory over Higo. "He fought for a world title at 135 and he was riding in weight, so it was good, especially in San Jose. It was a big step forward – it was the first fight against DAZN, a lot of people were watching it and that's how I wanted it to end. [But] I like the term prospect because I am still trying to prove myself and I still want to hear it. Even when I'm in my thirties, I still want to try to prove myself, so I'll consider myself a prospect until the day of my retirement. "
Next stop: the forum
This weekend, Pico will resume the fight against Henry Corrales at the co-hosted main event of Bellator 214 at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
After leaving each of his first three appearances in the Bellator's cage – to Daniel Straus, Emmanuel Sanchez and Patricio Pitbull, note it -, Corrales, 32, has accumulated four consecutive victories. After winning two consecutive victories against Noad Lahat and Georgi Karakhanyan, De La O Jiu Jitsu's representative prevented Alun, former king of Pancrase and former king of Pancrase, from winning his winning streak up to four.
Although it is not the most prominent name of the division and a lateral move more important than that of a victory over Pico after his victory over Higo, the young Man knows that the man he faces this weekend is tough to cook and is happy to be competing. for the fourth time in the last 53 weeks.
"I knew it was going to happen and I knew the match was going to come," Pico said of the reunion with Corrales, who will be in the cage before the Heavyweight Grand Prix final between Fedor Emelianenko and Ryan Bader on Saturday. evening. "I knew that he was on a run of four wins and that he was knocking on the door for a world title.
"He's a very, very tough guy," he added. "I do not stop saying that when everyone asks me," Who's the guy you're fighting against? "He's very tough. He is a veteran of the sport. He has been in some wars, but being tough can not lead you so far. The skills pay the bills and I feel like I have better skills and I know what I can do. "
L & # 39; s future
If Pico added another win to his resume on Saturday and pushed his winning streak to five, Bellator's leaders would make some interesting decisions about the burgeoning superstar.
Beating Corrales would be another clear sign that Pico has become too big for his prospect label and has officially consolidated his status as a legitimate title threat. And there is little fighting that the promotion could do that would go well beyond the twinning of the booming phenomenon, the two-time featherweight champion, Patricio "Pitbull" Freire.
Although this is certainly something that Pico has envisioned, his greatest concentration at the moment continues to gain experience and stay active, while climbing the ladder of the division.
"God willing, everything goes as planned and I am without injury, I want to stay as active as possible," he said. "I'm young, I'm hungry, I'm looking for big fights and I want to be world champion, so it does not make me feel good to sit in. The more I can stay active and progress, the better I can be." is for me.There is no name, but I know someone who is above me or who brings me closer to this title, I'm all for it.
And if a fight with Freire occurs, the 22-year-old knows he will be ready for the challenge, even if he is aiming higher.
Join DAZN and watch more than 100 combat nights a year
He wants to be the best fighter in the world.
"I think I'm very close to the world champion title at Bellator, but being the best fighter in the world, pound-to-pound, I still have a lot of work to do," Pico said. "I have many, many years ahead of me in this game, so it's a work in progress, but that's what wakes me up every day."