Bellator 183: Aaron Pico says he could go 0-5 but 'will become world champion or die trying'
Aaron Pico began his professional mixed martial arts career on the highest platform with arguably the greatest hype ever seen for a debut in the sport. But his first impression was not the best. An uppercut from hell - or at least from veteran Zach Freeman - put paid to a dream debut. In fact, it was seen as disastrous. Not by the wrestling phenom, though. Pico, the talented kid from California, who has prepared for MMA by travelling the world to augment his boxing, wrestling and Muay Thai, told The Telegraph on Thursday, ahead of his second outing at Bellator 183 on Saturday night here at the SAP Center, that he could go zero and five in his first five contests, but he will still become a world champion. "That's right. I could lose my first five, but I will still get there," said Pico, who trains at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, under 'Crazy' Bob Cook as his head coach. "I will do whatever I possibly can to become champion of the world. I will die trying. I think about becoming champion every day. I train and I love what I do. I will be world champion. I am 100% confident about that." He added: "For some it takes longer than others. Everybody has a different path. My journey is just a little different but that's not to say I won't get there. Once I get my feet wet and get composed in there, I will be world champion. There's no doubt in my mind." .@AaronPicoUSA isn't the first top fighter to lose his MMA debut, but needs a win Saturday. How good can he be? https://t.co/4MkB6R58fx— Fighters Only (@FightersOnly) September 19, 2017 What had he learnt since that first defeat at Madison Square Garden, New York, at Bellator 180, on June 24? "I've learnt a lot about myself. I have all the skill set in the world but I need the time in the cage. I really wanted to fight at Madison Square Garden." "He caught me with that uppercut and got the choke. It is what it is. You've got to take the good with the good and the bad with the bad. As far as training camp and the media stuff, all that went well. It just wasn't my night. But I will have the last laugh. I will be back." Pico and Cook went back to the drawing board, and the 20-year-old dusted himself off. "The people around me know what I'm capable of doing ad I know what I'm capable of doing. It just comes down to one thing – experience in the cage," he told The Telegraph. Very important second pro fight for @AaronPicoUSA this weekend @BellatorMMA 183 pic.twitter.com/okIBWCbnfx— Gareth A Davies (@GarethADaviesDT) September 21, 2017 "And that's what I need to accumulate. I need to rack up those hours in the cage. I'm still very young in my MMA career and I have a lot to learn. That's what it's all about. The whole objective to me is to be world champion. It's my goal to win fights and eventually become champion." "That's why I am in this sport, that's why I am doing it. I'm not doing it to show people I want to get back and stuff. Everybody has got a different journey and a path and some have more bumps than others. At the end of the day we're all trying to become world champion and that's what I'm focusing on." Pico drops to featherweight from lightweight for his second outing, facing Justin Linn (7-3), who, similarly to Freeman, has far more experience. 'The Mortal Sinn' Linn has recently fought in some of USA feeder leagues. Honored to be working out with @RealMiguelCotto thank you for the help! pic.twitter.com/9VFBGDZ9gE— Aaron Pico (@AaronPicoUSA) July 25, 2017 "He's got more fights and experience than me. I've mad some changes in my camp and I feel good. I've done some work with Freddie Roach and Bob Cook and I feel good," Pico told me. "I have the game plan to beat this guy. I'm excited and I feel ready to go in there and show people what I can do. I know he's going to be a tough guy but that's what MMA is all about. Bellator 183 is headlined by a fascinating lightweight bout between former UFC/WEC champion Benson Henderson and Patricky Pitbull Friere, while the event also marks the Bellator debut of heavyweight veteran Roy Nelson, who has made the beard and belly a feature of fight sports. The card also has a potentially thrilling welterweight striking clash between exciting British fighter Paul Daley and Lorenz Larkin.