At Bellator 222, prospect and new Jackson-Wink MMA member Aaron Pico will look to bounce back from the first knockout of his career. Heading in, he’s learned to ignore the critics, and listen to those who matter.
New York, NY — Bellator MMA is back this Friday with one of their tentpole events. Bellator 222 features the next outing in the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix. A couple of veterans will face off when Lyoto Machida meets Chael Sonnen. And earlier in the night, fans will see the return of top prospect Aaron Pico.
Pico (4-2) has had his ups and downs thus far as a professional mixed martial artist. The talented wrestler, however, has taken the hard road to this point, dismissing easy fights, it seems. That led to a knockout loss against Henry Corrales earlier this year — but Pico told Cageside Press at the Bellator 222 media day that it’s not hard to stay confident.
“For me it’s not that big of a deal,” Pico said of the knockout loss in January at Bellator 214, “because I got caught with that right hand. If you look at the first 30 seconds, I knocked him down, and I just got greedy with the left hand. Didn’t use my wrestling. So if you look at it from that aspect, it was not like I got dominated for five rounds or three rounds or got the sh*t beat out of me.” That would be a different story, in Pico’s estimation. “That would kill somebody’s confidence.”
It’s easy to look at Pico, just 22 years old, as a green kid learning to cope with the ups and downs of the sport. But as he pointed out Wednesday, “I’m a wrestler, I’ve taken hard losses before, I’ve bounced back from tough battles. Just another day for me. I’ll be fine.”
Sharks and Wolves
Still, it’s worth noting that to date, it seems like Pico has fought nothing but sharks and wolves.
“Yeah I mean it’s kind of funny,” Pico admitted of his career trajectory to date. “It is what it is, I’m not a matchmaker. Ask the matchmakers, they’re the ones that propose the fights to me.” He’s not a pick and choose sort of guy, Pico explained. “I don’t go and say ‘I want to fight this guy, I want to fight this guy.’ A lot of guys turn down the fights, four guys on the roster turn down the fight with me. It’s difficult.”
And so he simply takes what comes. “All I can do is fight. That’s my job. People look at us like we’re crazy, but bring us a name, let’s do it.”
Let’s be clear, though. Leandro Higo and Henry Corrales among your first six pro fights is a tough task for any fighter.
The next shark/wolf on the menu is Adam Borics, a fellow prospect with a perfect 8-0 record.
“He’s a very strong fighter, he’s very very kick-boxing like, he’s very good on the ground, but he’s never faced a wrestler like me,” said Pico of the Bellator 222 pairing. A wrestler “who’s going to grind and grind and grind. I’ve seen glimpses of him and when guys get to his leg or get around him, he kind of panics a little bit. One thing about me is, I’ve been wrestling since I was four years old. Just gotta go in there, use my wrestling, make it a freakin’ dirty fight.”
“We’ll see how he does. He’s never fought a guy my caliber,” added Pico. Rest assured, the California native is confident.
Aaron Pico has long been associated with Team Bodyshop, led by head coach Antonio McKee. A rising star when it comes to MMA camps. It was a bit of a shock, then, to learn he’d moved teams, to the legendary Jackson-Wink MMA.
Asked what the biggest improvement in his game had been since the move, Pico told us that it was “just relaxing, using all my skills, and implementing a great game plan, for what works for me.”
“Being with Greg [Jackson] and Six Gun [Brandon Gibson] and [Mike] Winkeljohn, it’s really changed my mind as far as how I look at fighting, the way I watch film, the way I break things down for specific guys,” Pico explained. “For me, just blending my skills together, using my wrestling, using my boxing, when I have to, and my grappling.” That’s right, we may see a new wrinkle to Pico’s game. At least one we haven’t seen before, even if he’s always worked on it. “I roll with a lot of high level black belts, so I’m excited to show what I can do. Because I have a lot more in me, I haven’t been able to show it, obviously my losses have come in devastating fashion, which kind of sucks, but I’m excited to show what I can do.”
There’s no hard feelings with Team Bodyshop, either. “No bad blood there at all,” Pico said of his old camp. And he’s not gunning for a fight with pal A.J. McKee now that they’re no longer teammates. In fact, Pico doesn’t really see it as necessary.
“I don’t think AJ’s going to be at 145 very long, to be honest with you. I don’t think he is, he’s pretty big,” Pico stated. “I’m going to be at 145 for a very long time. It’s the perfect weight for me.”
As for his critics, Pico tunes them out. He admits to hitting some bumps in the road, but “What could I do? I can’t change what people say about me. At the end of the day I don’t give a sh*t. All I care about is the people that are in my household, my coaches, I care what they think about my performances, obviously.”
“But other people? I don’t give a sh*t. What can I do?” Pico questioned again. He goes out there, takes the risk, comes up short, sometimes. “At least I’m not at home watching on TV. I’m out there putting it on the line. There’s always going to be people that say stupid sh*t about you, but what can I possibly do?”
Bellator 222 takes place Friday, June 14 at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.