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Pico: Path of the Phenom


           Phenom: A person who is outstandingly talented or admired, especially an up-and-comer. That’s the definition in the dictionary when you look it up. See, to everyone’s naked eye, being a phenom is based purely on talent. But to the rare few, there’s more to it than that. Phenom is a title that carries a heavy cross. Just ask Bryce Harper, Lebron James, and hell even The Undertaker. The moment you get branded with that title, your path to glory went from “0 to a 100-real quick”, in the words of the music phenom, Drake.

            Hailing from Whittier, California, Aaron Pico’s life was always destined to be one filled with greatness. But every man knows, the path to greatness is never easy. Pico was born into one of the most respected family legacies in California history. His ancestor, Pio Pico was a wealthy first-generation Californio and was the last Mexican Governor of California under the Providence of Mexico.

Pico, at just a ripe young age of 17, signed with Nike in April 2014. Fast forward 6 months later, Bellator announced that they and Viacom (Bellator’s parent company) signed the phenom, who had 0 fights in his professional career, to a long-term, unprecedented contract as a blue-chip prospect. Pico qualified for the Olympic trials in 2016 at 19 years of age.

          What’s even crazier was that no teenager had made the freestyle wrestling Olympic team for 40 years. In addition to his exceptional wrestling accolades, Pico also competed in boxing and Pankration (the hybrid sport of boxing and wrestling). Pico won the national PAL championship in 2008 and was the National Junior Golden Gloves champion in 2009. Pico would go on to win ‘Most Outstanding Boxer’ at both tournaments. In Pankration, Pico also was a national champion in 2008. Furthermore, Pico went to Ukraine in 2010, winning the golden cup European Pankration championship. Topping everything off, he won the California state championships in both sports.

Aaron Pico, shown at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, will compete in his home community at the 2016 Freestyle World Cup in Inglewood, Calif. Photo by John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com.

            Coming into Bellator, the hype and praises from both media and fellow martial artists couldn’t be high enough for the debuting Pico. He made his debut in the Lightweight Division against Zach Freeman. It lasted 17 seconds. Now, if this is your first-time hearing about Aaron Pico, your gonna assume, that he starched his opponent. But I was there to see my pick to be the future pound-for-pound best fighter tap out in 17 seconds. Shocked? Actually, I was devastated, Going home, I was wondering if I watched a fluke or was it a tell-tale sign of his future. Normally, after suffering such a heartbreaking loss (especially a debut), no one’s gonna force you to go face the media.  Watching the Bellator NYC post-fight press conference, he proved to the world why he is a world-class athlete.

          Emulating his Post-UFC 196 McGregor, he was humble and honest, but still yet determined. And, boy did he prove that. 3 months later, Pico bounced back and starched Justin Linn with a divine left hook, resulting in the #30 Best MMA Knockout of the Year 2017. 4 months later, Pico showcased his nasty boxing with a nasty left hook body-shot Knockout of Shane Kruchten. The Left-Hook Express didn’t stop there. Continuing his streak, The next stop was Lee Morrison. Who he knocked down with a perfectly placed left hook to the body, which sent Morrison somersaulting thru the cage, and Pico finishing the fight with heavy ground and pound. Continuing his string of quick turnarounds, he fought current #2 Bantamweight contender Leandro Higo in a featherweight bout.

          The fight started competitively, but Pico caught Higo clean and continued to rain damage. Higo somehow managed to get up after looking clearly out of it. Pico then finished the job, stunning and making him stumble down to the ground with a nasty elbow and finishing him off with ground and pound.

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Pico goes in for the ground-and-pound finish on Lee Morrison.

            Aaron Pico was now officially on a roll. With highlight finishes in his 4 straight wins, he was literally a hype train. Now, what stops a hype train? What about a 1-minute Round 1 slug-fest, resulting in Pico getting his lights shut off, after he knocked down his opponent, Henry Corrales, to start the fight off? This kid, even when he loses, is a highlight machine. 5 months later, he steps up to the plate to face the undefeated Adam Borics. Pico, having switched camps to Jackson-Winks MMA, showcased in the first round his top-notch wrestling.

          He took down Borics at will and dominated the round. In the second round, Pico continued his wrestling domination. For a split second and with nearly a minute left in the round, Borics managed to get up and separate. He then threw a flying knee out of the blue as Pico ducked down for the takedown a la Ben Askren-style (even though that would happen a month later). For the first time in his professional career, he took more than 4 months off.

          After a 7 month hiatus, he came back to face Daniel Carey. Wanting to bounce back with a much needed strong performance, Pico stuck with a great gameplan to start the fight off. In the first round, he managed to gauge the distance and be patient with his striking. As usual, he was able to take his opponent down with ease. In the second round, Pico reminded everyone why he was a threat not to be taken lightly. 15 seconds in, Carey had his soul taken by Pico’s patented left hook. Post-fight, he humbly said he was in no spot to be calling anyone out even though he wanted to. He said he was prepared to face anyone who his super-agent, Ali Abdelaziz, and Bellator agreed upon.

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Aaron Pico, red, defeats Daniel Carey, blue, via knockout during Bellator 238 at The Forum in Inglewood, CA., Saturday, January 25, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

            Now Pico is returning in Bellator’s first fight card since the ongoing pandemic, Bellator 242. He faces Chris “Solo” Hatley Jr., and hopes to continue his rise. Aaron Pico has yet to even fully tap into his potential. Unlike most fighters, we are lucky to witness an MMA career from the literal start to whenever he finishes his career. Bellator 242 takes place Saturday, July 24, 2020. It will be located at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut with the Prelims on Youtube at 8:45 PM ET and Main Card on the Paramount Network as well as DAZN at 10 PM ET.

Bellator 242 Main Card (10 p.m. ET):

135 lbs.: Ricky Bandejas (13-3) vs. Sergio Pettis (19-5)

170 lbs.: Jason Jackson (11-4) vs. Jordan Mein (31-12)
145 lbs.: Tywan Claxton (6-1) vs. Jay Jay Wilson (5-0)
145 lbs.: Aaron Pico (5-3) vs. Chris Hatley Jr. (8-2)

Bellator 242 “Prelims” Card (8:45 p.m. ET):

170 lbs.: Logan Storley (11-0) vs. Mark Lemminger (10-1)
135 lbs.: Raufeon Stots (13-1) vs. Cass Bell (5-0)

Follow me on Twitter at @K_Shaj98 and follow us @OT_Heroics for more great content!

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